The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Photography

Photo Friday: Terrifically uncooperative jumping spider

Ever since falling madly in love with the gorgeous big jumping spiders in Florida, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a native Phidippus to photograph.

Yesterday, during a lab that took our students to the outdoor horticultural center on our campus, a student collected a lovely immature male jumping spider from a row of peppers, popped it in his sandwich bag, and brought it to the instructor.

I was like, YOINK.

Ever since, I have been taking breaks from my work about every hour, trying desperately to get a decent shot of this incredibly bold and active little guy, who had no interest whatsoever in being cooperative.

I finally got one that works for me:

Phidippus sp.

Handsome little devil, no?


Oh, what the heck, here’s one more:

Phidippus sp. 2

(This lovely specimen was collected by Joseph Perreault).


I have to apologize for the lack of posting lately. I am feeling rather guilty about it, but, as my advisor (who, ironically, is blogging/tweeting like a boss right now) says, “you’re doing a PhD”. Yeah, I am, and sometimes the work has to come first.  😦


ESO Bug Eye Photo Contest!

The results of the Entomological Society of Ontario Bug Eye photo contest were announced last night!  We were treated to a slide show of the 130ish entries; there was some spectacular work!

Also this:

I took 2nd place in the “Ontario Insect” category for

Mine foot is tasty (omnomnom) - a green Katydid

2nd in “Photo by an Ontario Resident” category for

Anisomorpha buprestoides (Southern Two-Striped Walkingstick, Devil Rider, or Musk Mare)

and 1st in the “Open Category” for

Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans [Explored]

It was a good night! <—massive understatement. I’ll be one of the judges for next year’s contest 😀

I don’t think I mentioned this either: one of my photos was one of seven selected in the Entomological Society of Canada photo contest to be on the cover of the journal, The Canadian Entomologist, for 2013!

Stratiomys badia (soldier fly, Stratiomyidae)

Other than simply being ridonculously thrilled over these results, I think what I’m most pleased about is that all four of these photos use different techniques (natural setting/outdoors and studio), lighting (ambient light and flash), use of backgrounds (white box, coloured, black) and subjects (spider, phasmid, fly, katydid).  I’m happy to be producing decent AND diverse images! 🙂

Photo Friday: Devil-riders

This male Devil-rider is dwarfed by the massive bulk of the female to which he clings, hooking his tiny tarsal claws under a ridge along the side of her thorax. Stubbornly remaining in copula even after I removed the pair from a shrub at the Archbold Biological Station in Florida, his determination will ultimately result in the persistence of his genes in their offspring.

Anisomorpha buprestoides (Southern Two-Striped Walkingstick, Devil Rider, or Musk Mare)

Anisomorpha buprestoides (Southern Two-Striped Walkingstick, Devil Rider, or Musk Mare)

A beautiful example of sexual dimorphism, as well as aposematic coloration (the bold orange and black stripes warn potential predators of their formidable chemical defenses), this pair of  Anisomorpha buprestoides (also called Southern Two-striped Walkingsticks or Musk Mares) are the only Phasmids I’ve ever encountered in the wild!


Photo details:

f-8, 11mm (top)/16mm(bottom), 1/200sec, ISO 80, Raynox clip-on, on-camera flash with snoot diffuser in a white box.

Photo Friday: My fave photos from BugShot 2012!

I took about 800 photos over the course of the three-day BugShot workshop. I didn’t have as much success with every subject as I would have liked, but I did come away with some definite keepers.

One of my goals was to play with colour a bit; I’ve really gotten into using a white background because I love how it makes the insect the absolute focal point for the image, but I don’t want to get into a “white box” rut! I found inspiration in the strikingly colourful imagery produced by instructor Thomas Shahan, and decided to roll with it.

Oddly enough, my favorite photos were all of…wait for it… SPIDERS! This may be the start of a serious life change for little ol’ arachnophobic me!

Anyways, without further ado, may I present my top three pics!

I hope you all have enjoyed and benefited from my BugShot posts, especially those of you who made the trip possible for me!


From top to bottom:

1. Regal Jumper, Phidippus regius

f/8, 1/125th sec., ISO-100, 67mm focal length, flash manually set at about – 2 2/3

2.  Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans

f/8, 1/125th sec., ISO-100, 61mm focal length, flash manually set

3.  Workman’s Jumper, Phidippus workmani

f/8, 1/200th sec, ISO-80, 43mm focal length, flash manually set


Note: I nearly always shoot at f/8 (my camera’s lowest f-stop), at ISO 80 or 100 (almost never more than 200 or I get terrible noise). I’ve been told that some of the results I get with these setting are pretty wonky (DOF, for example), but it’s probably because I have a PAS, not a DSLR.

BugShot 2012: Composition

Every evening after our final session we would gather in the meeting room and share some photographs for a friendly critique. While it can be unnerving to put your work on display, it can also be an incredibly useful practice. It’s easy to be overly critical of your own work, and having a bunch of objective eyes and opinions can help reveal the things you did well – and those you did not-so-well.

I particularly benefited from hearing the other photographers’ takes on their own pictures: what they liked about the image, why they set it up the way they did, what techniques they used. It made me wish that there was a photography club near where I live, because it would be awesome to have these kinds of exchanges with other people on a regular basis!

Before our first critique session, we were treated to a talk that covered some considerations that we can keep in mind when composing the image. On some level, most of us can recognize a “good” photo when we see one; very often these photos are following a few well-known rules for creating aesthetically pleasing images that tend to resonate with viewers.

Here they are:

1. Photos are often easier or nicer to look at if the point of interest is not dead-center. Try the Rule of Thirds! This is a simple technique that you can apply either when taking the photo or later on when you crop during post-processing.  Here’s a nice example to illustrate how this works.

An example of a photo that follows the rule of thirds. Image from Wikimedia Commons, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Basically, you imagine that your image has a grid overlaid on top of it that divides the image into three equal parts both horizontally and vertically (the image above is square, but in a rectangular photo, each “section” would appear more rectangular). You then try align points of interest with those grid lines. In the example above, the horizon lies along the lowest horizontal third, and the tree is aligned with the vertical third on the right.  Now, that’s not to say that a dead-centre image can’t be arresting and visually beautiful, but do give this little trick a try and see how you like the results!

2. Keep the background simple/uncluttered. Whether or not you apply this tip is going to be dependent on the type of story you want to convey. If you’re photographing a cryptic insect on a substrate that helps illustrate its mastery of camouflage, then an uncluttered background isn’t necessarily going to work well. If, however, a busy background is not part of your story, try to simplify it so that the main focus of the image is pronounced. One way to check whether your focal point stands out is to convert your image to grey scale; after this, is the subject still very obvious?  Consider, for example, these two photos I took of the same subject: two very different objectives are achieved here.

3. Pick your perspective! Different heights or angles can convey different stories. For example, try getting below the bug and pointing the camera up at it! 99% of photos of insects tell the story of “large human looks down on tiny bug”. Getting down to or below the insect’s level instead changes the way you think about the subject.

4.  Don’t forget the human element!  Show people interacting with insects. It can put the image in context, add a little whimsy and playfulness, and might even help demystify our little insect friends for the viewers.


That wraps up my BugShot tips! Other great summaries have been posted here, here, and here, if you’d like to get some other participants’ perspectives on the event!

Tomorrow is Photo Friday, which means that I’ll finally be sharing some of my favourite shots from the workshop!

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