The Bug Geek

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BugShot 2012 – Top Five Tips from the pros

Early this morning, the sun was peeking over the horizon, casting a soft, rosy glow on the morning mist and illuminating the spanish moss hanging from the trees in the vast oak scrub of this region. I went to bed waaaaaay too late after running around  for hours in the dark, catching and photographing bugs (GIANT ANGRY BITEY LONGHORNS), snakes (BABY CORN SNAKE), spiders (WOLF SPIDER THE SIZE OF MY HEAD) and scorpions (HOLY CRAP THEY GLOW UNDER UV LIGHT). I am running on zero sleep, but it is so awesome here and the day holds so much promise, I can’t be grumpy about it.

Extraordinarily p-o’ed Cerambycid beetle, intent on gnawing my fingers off. Thanks to Lee for angry-beetle-wrangling (this was not a one-person job).

The BugShot participants rolled into the Archbold Biological Station yesterday evening. After getting settled in and enjoying a great dinner, we were treated to the instructors’ “Top Five Tips” for macro photography.  I thought this would be a great way to start off my series of posts from this incredible workshop!
John Abbott:

  1. Tripod, tripod, tripod. Stabilization is a relatively inexpensive way to greatly improve the quality of your photographs.
  2. Try 400 ISO and natural light. With today’s cameras, noise is not such a significant factor.
  3. Use don’t be afraid to use autofocus, rather than manual focus.  Use your settings to focus on the bug’s eye.
  4. Know your equipment – learn the different features available to you and experiment.
  5. Set your custom white balance using a gray card. It will save you post-processing time.

Thomas Shahan:

  1. If you post your images online, tag your images with a location – this will help you get an ID and is also more scientifically useful.
  2. Be persistent. Take tons of pictures, and don’t worry if your keep:toss ratio is really low. Better to keep at it and get one or two really spectacular keepers.
  3. Lighting is important. Aim for soft, well-diffused light for more aesthetically pleasing results. You don’t want light to be a distracting feature in the photograph.
  4. Use the surroundings to enhance your subject. Think about using complimentary colours and  colour temperatures in your subject and background.  temps of the background vs the subject).
  5. Sometimes it’s best to make your own equipment – it is usually inexpensive, can be adapted to your particular needs, and the results are often more desirable. Also, there’s something to be said for struggling to create beautiful art.

Alex Wild:

  1. Know your subject: tell a story with the photo, think about the natural history of your subject. This is where entomologists have an advantage.
  2. Simplify: keep the photo simpler than real life. Too much “stuff” going on in the image (e.g., background distractions) can detract from the image.
  3. Understand lighting. Think about the colour, quality, direction, intensity of light when framing a photo.
  4. Know your equipment and have a comfort zone with certain default settings. Have fun experimenting but have a reliable fall-back you can use if you need to get that ONE photo RIGHT NOW.
  5. Use your equipment for the photographic purpose for which it was designed (don’t use a screwdriver as a pry bar). Different cameras have different strengths – they’ll all take beautiful pictures, but not the same KIND of pictures.

Next up: Maxing out your magnification, with Thomas Shahan.

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