June 10, 2010
Hello fellow bugnuts!
Many of the photos you post are positively breathtaking. Have you ever considering posting a section on hints for those of us with a bug-photo addiction?
Just for fun, I’m including a shot of a male sedge sprite damselfy and a rose chafer doing a “handstand”.
Thanks so much for your wonderful site!
Don D, St. Augusta, MN
Thanks for sending your photo of a Sedge Sprite Damselfly, Nehalennia irene. BugGuide has quite a few nice examples of this Northern species. We agree that many of the photos that are submitted to our site are gorgeous, including your own. Since we teach photography, and What’s That Bug? is a nice retreat from the demands of our day job, we try not to critique the images submitted by our readership too severely, but trust us when we tell you that many of the images that cross our path are not pretty pictures. Advances in digital camera technology make it easy for amateur photographers and insect enthusiasts to take wonderful photographs, though like your own photo, we often take creative license with cropping, and though your image did not require any additional post production manipulation, we also adjust levels in photoshop to both color correct and to improve density. We also sharpen blurry images, and again, this was not required with your photograph. Many photographs do not need cropping, but in the interest of maximizing the size of the insect subject while keeping the file at a manageable size for web posting, we crop tightly to the subject. Since insects cannot be posed very effectively, there is much luck involved with capturing the perfect balance of camera position, perspective of insect, and lighting. For the most part, soft subdued lighting like the lighting in your Sedge Sprite photo is ideal. Open shade or overcast days provide the requisite soft lighting. Carefully focusing the camera is critical, and with the autofocus feature, this generally involved either centering the subject in the frame, or keeping the finger depressed halfway on the shutter button after the autofocus, and then recomposing the photo before completely depressing the shutter button. Shallow depth of field like that of your photo keeps the subject sharp and in focus while the background is blurry. This helps to differentiate the subject from the background, and you achieve this shallow depth of field through the selection of a large aperture, generally 5.6 or greater. The macro feature on some cameras also contributes to the shallow depth of field. Selecting a faster shutter speed, like 125 or faster, will keep the insect subject sharp by preventing movement of both the subject and the camera. For identification purposes, we would encourage our readership to keep away from angles that are too creative, and to stick to dorsal views when appropriate, and lateral views, like the one in your Sedge Sprite, when that view is most appropriate for the subject.
P.S. We will be posting your Scarab image separately, but we are not convinced that it is a Rose Chafer.