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Insect Macro Photography Techniques - subtlety or otherwise?

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petebfrance
25 Aug 2014 - 3:28 PM

I find photographing insects, particularly butterflies, fascinating, but sometimes wonder if I'm taking to too seriously by attempting to be unnoticeable.
Out walking the other day with my wife and daughter we came across an old chapel with a well, nice little 'niche' with statue and damsel flies. There were two girls photographing the damsel flies - first the girl with a DSLR and long lens from a distance whilst the insects played hard to get - sort of flirting that is, and then the other girl took over with a compact which she held a few inches from the things and they just stood posing for their photos as the camera got closer. Mmm
My old Fuji bridge camera has died and I'm trying out the Canon SX50thing. A blue butterfly landed close by, so with camera set on program and a long lens I stalked it in my best jungle fashion. The photos looked fuzzy, so I got a chair and sat down in front of it now not in the best of moods, but even then I wasn't that happy with the results (subsequent checking on the computer suggests this second lot were OK). The butterfly stayed and waited. Most odd.
So I gave up subtlety, turned macro on and photographed from a few inches away using the fold-out LCD. No problems - OK the approach was gradual, but the butterfly stayed until I'd finished. It flew off a bit later, no doubt because it was fed-up that nobody was taking any notice of it.
I wonder - is somebody holding the camera close but with their head back less intimidating than them looking closely through the viewfinder? I've seen lots of excellent macros from compact cameras....

Yes, I know it isn't the most exciting subject but its raining out thereWink

Last Modified By petebfrance at 25 Aug 2014 - 3:31 PM
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25 Aug 2014 - 3:28 PM

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themak
themak  157 forum posts Scotland
25 Aug 2014 - 4:16 PM

The other day I was taking a photo of a buddleia flower with viewfinderless camera on wide angle, so only about 300mm away, when a red admiral landed on the flower. Other times, as you say, they can be very nervous. Have you tried whistling nonchalently?

petebfrance
25 Aug 2014 - 4:20 PM

I'll give that a go - might be more effective than looking the other way or pretending to read a bookWink

brian1208
brian1208 e2 Member 1110273 forum postsbrian1208 vcard United Kingdom12 Constructive Critique Points
25 Aug 2014 - 4:25 PM

I find that I can consistently approach my macro subjects, often close enough that they are inside the minimum focal distance of my macro lens, by the simple technique of coming in low, either from the side or the front

The key, from my experience, is to stop my shadow (or that of the camera) falling on the subjects head and to make the approach fairly steady

That seems to be all there is too it Grin

some examples shot using this technique can be seen here,

with examples such as this

fly-face-3.jpg

Last Modified By brian1208 at 25 Aug 2014 - 4:31 PM
chris.maddock
25 Aug 2014 - 4:28 PM


Quote: Have you tried whistling nonchalently?

Isn't that the technique when there's no lock on the tree?
Blush

petebfrance
25 Aug 2014 - 4:31 PM


Quote: Have you tried whistling nonchalently?

Isn't that the technique when there's no lock on the tree?
Blush

it took me a while to get that one Grin

themak
themak  157 forum posts Scotland
25 Aug 2014 - 4:33 PM


Quote: Isn't that the technique when there's no lock on the tree?


It has many applications. You may wish to put the camera down at that point.

petebfrance
25 Aug 2014 - 4:42 PM


Quote: I find that I can consistently approach my macro subjects, often close enough that they are inside the minimum focal distance of my macro lens, by the simple technique of coming in low, either from the side or the front

The key, from my experience, is to stop my shadow (or that of the camera) falling on the subjects head and to make the approach fairly steady

That seems to be all there is too it Grin

some examples shot using this technique can be seen here,

with examples such as this

Nice.
That's pretty-much how I try to do it, although I did have problems in what was a grey area between what was macro and what was normal focus on the old camera. Still, the difference in insects' behaviour when confronted with the different types of camera did stand out to me - it was almost as if they were trying to maintain a steady distance from the photographers head regardless of where the camera was......

Last Modified By petebfrance at 25 Aug 2014 - 4:44 PM
brian1208
brian1208 e2 Member 1110273 forum postsbrian1208 vcard United Kingdom12 Constructive Critique Points
25 Aug 2014 - 5:06 PM


Quote: it was almost as if they were trying to maintain a steady distance from the photographers head regardless of where the camera was......

that could be the clue - keep your head behind the camera (I find that makes it easier to see through the viewfinder too! Grin )

petebfrance
25 Aug 2014 - 5:08 PM


Quote: .. - keep your head behind the camera (I find that makes it easier to see through the viewfinder too! Grin )

so that's where I've been going wrong all these yearsBlush

Ade_Osman
Ade_Osman e2 Member 114521 forum postsAde_Osman vcard England36 Constructive Critique Points
25 Aug 2014 - 5:12 PM

It's a very subjective topic, because it depends a lot on the species you're trying to shoot. Insects vision is completely different to the way we see the world, some see in the infrared spectrum others in ultra violet. Then you have the the issues surrounding compound eyes whereby most insects are able to see 360 degrees around their bodies and in slow motion, hence the reason we as humans find it so difficult to get close to them, especially on warm days when their metabilism is working on overtime.

When chasing butterflies I always try to shoot them if possible on cooler days or early on during the day. As for camouflaged clothing, well it can't hurt and I seem to have the most success when wearing a sky blue t-shirt, most butterflies apparently distinguish blues in the colour spectrum more so than other colours the theory being its why they fly on sunny days. How much truth there is in this theory one can only speculate.

My best advice is providing you are not trying to shoot protected species is to capture the insects first using traps, nets, pooters etc. Then to cool the subject down a little using refrigeration. This doesn't necessarily apply to butterflies but more to moths, flies, beetles and other species. Providing care is used this makes life a lot easier, please be aware though that whilst I advocate this method, I rarely use it on butterflies and always try to release captured specimens unharmed back in the environment they were initially caught in. This doesn't generally do the insects any harm as they are used to dealing with changes in temperature, such as day to night etc.

Attractants can also be useful too, sugared ropes and fish pastes having proved to be successful in past as well as certain perfumes. My wife was wearing a "Mum" deodorant once which seem to pull in a whole load of Wood White butterflies, so much so she was having to carefully brush them off her person. Lots of things can be used, you just have to think out the box sometimes and experiment.

themak
themak  157 forum posts Scotland
25 Aug 2014 - 5:20 PM

I'd draw the line at carrying a fridge around.

Ade_Osman
Ade_Osman e2 Member 114521 forum postsAde_Osman vcard England36 Constructive Critique Points
25 Aug 2014 - 5:23 PM


Quote: I'd draw the line at carrying a fridge around.

A cool box and some ice packs will suffice just as well.

petebfrance
25 Aug 2014 - 5:36 PM


Quote: I'd draw the line at carrying a fridge around.

A cool box and some ice packs will suffice just as well.

that's 'thinking outside the box' Smile
It's a thought. I've never considered a butterfly net although there have been times when there was an almost irresistible temptation to swat the little blighters when they pass through the garden and on to some tastier weeds elsewhere......

Ade_Osman
Ade_Osman e2 Member 114521 forum postsAde_Osman vcard England36 Constructive Critique Points
25 Aug 2014 - 5:40 PM

You need to come on a mothing safari with me Pete, you'd learn a whole load of secrets GrinGrinGrin

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