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How To Photograph Moths

Nature photography fan Edwin Brosens shares his tips on photographing moths.

|  Animals / Wildlife
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MothSony A58 + Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro, F/10, 1/100 sec, ISO 200, Flash

 

So, you want to photograph moths but aren't sure how to? Well, hopefully, my tutorial will give you the guidance you need to succeed. 

First off, the set-up we use takes up quite a bit of space so we asked permission to set-up where we did on the outskirts of a forest so you may need to do this, too. Forests are good locations for this but rather than heading for the middle, set-up on the edge of the forest as moths fly in and out to nearby fields. 

As there's quite a bit to set-up, arriving at your location before it gets dark is a good idea and as well as your camera kit, you'll need a couple of white sheets, something to fasten them to and day lamps. Moths are attracted to light so by illuminating two large white sheets, you give them a target which will increase your chances of capturing a photo or two of them. 

 

Photographing moths

The set-up for photographing moths

 

When it comes to illuminating the moths themselves, I'd recommended using an LED ring light that produces a constant light so you can focus manually without too much trouble. It also makes it easier to follow the moth when it's moving and to ensure your images are sharp. You'll also need a flash gun to add a pop of light to your image to help keep the white background clean and bright. However, the flashgun must be set at the right level as too much flash and you'll lose detail but if you use too little, the background will appear grey. 

 

Moth

Sony A58 +Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro, F/10, 1/160 sec, ISO 200, Flash

 

You must capture a few test shots to find out what the best level for your flash is. I suggest starting with ¼ level and go from there. 

A problem for all nature photographers who capture macro images is wind as the slightest breeze can add movement to your shot. Big, white sheets can act as sails so do try and secure them as well as you can and try stepping back a little so there's more space around your subject. By doing this, you can crop the photo when back home and on your computer. 

 

MothSony A58 + Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro, F/10, 1/100 sec, ISO 200, Flash

 

With an aperture of f/10, your depth of field will be less than 8mm so you need to react quickly when focus is sharp as wind blowing through can result in your moth shot appearing blurry. You'll also need to use manual focus to increase your chances of capturing a sharp shot.

Even though it's tempting to check your shot on the back of your camera, resist and just keep hitting the shutter button instead. You'll then be able to check all of the images when you're home and have a larger screen to view them on. By following my own advice, I was actually able to capture a shot of a Drinker moth in flight as it was heading towards a lamp, something I was only able to do because I took a huge number of images and luckily, this one was sharp. 

 

Moth in flight

Sony A58 + Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6, F/7.1, 1/100 sec, ISO 200, Flash, F/10, 1/100 sec

 

Article and images by Edwin Brosens - www.edwinbrosens.com

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