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How To Shoot Photos Of Parasitic Wasps

These wasps are 5 mm – 40 mm large, and difficult to photograph. This article will explain how to shoot them and where to find them in the field.

| Animals / Wildlife
Words and images by Edwin Brosens

How To Shoot Photos Of Parasitic Wasps: parasitic wasp 1
Sony Alpha 700 + 20 /1.8 + Flash F/14 @ 1/30

As I did with the above shot, I try to give people a good understanding of where the live, how they hide and how they protect themselves during the night.

Parasitic wasps are everywhere so you can start to search at the nearest nature reserve or your home for one. Start your search early in the morning, looking through the vegetation. I used a 20mm wide-angle lense to capture the shot shown above. This kind of shot helps others understand where such subjects can be found and they're also useful for story telling articles about this subject. As you can see, the sun was in the background so I had to overexpose the image. I also needed to use a little fill-in flash so the Wasp's body wasn't in shadow.

Generally, I use about 30% flash and 70% daylight in a photo. Natural light produces the best colours but flash has to be used to fill in the shade and to bring out the detail on the wasp's body. You need to use your flash remotely, positioning it at a 45 degree angle from your subject.

How To Shoot Photos Of Parasitic Wasps: parasitic wasp 2
Sony Alpha 700 + 90 /2.8 Macro + Flash F/18 @ 1/80 Sec.

Behaviour photos are difficult to capture and they require a lot of patience. I was lucky to take photos of a Dusona which was waiting to parasitoid a caterpillar. I waited an hour and in that time I only shot five photos! You have to work quite closely too. For this shot I was just 10 cm away.

How To Shoot Photos Of Parasitic Wasps: parasitic wasp 3
Sony Alpha 700 + 20 /1.8 + Flash F/14 @ 1/60
Ophion in flight

One morning I saw some Ophion wasps flying between the vegetation; so I set up my camera on a tripod and waited until one wasp passed by. For this I had to continuously look through my viewfinder so I could react quickly. When they're flying you can have problems with sharpness and composition but keep shooting and eventually you'll capture one that's sharp. Using your remote release is advised in this situation as you can have the remote in your hand, ready to snap the shot .
Make sure you look around for a spot that guarantees your composition will work. In the above example the light came from behind the trees, illuminating the ground which helps give the image an artistic feel and helps create a sense of motion in the scene.

Take care when it comes to choosing an ISO as using ISO400 and above can mean you lose some detail and sharpness. It's worth shooting a few macro shots of flowers in your own garden and experimenting with the ISO to see what results you get before you venture out in search of your subject.

How To Shoot Photos Of Parasitic Wasps: parasitic wasp 4
Sony Alpha 700 + 90 /2.8 Macro + Flash F/16 @ 1/80 Sec.

I shoot photos of this Ophion while he was hiding himself under the fern. As I used a 90 mm f/2.8 macro lens the seed of the fern leaves are even sharp. These insects are sensitive to air movement so when you move in with your camera, be quiet and move slowly so they're not scared off.

How To Shoot Photos Of Parasitic Wasps: parasitic wasp 5
Sony alpha 700 + 180/3.5 APO Macro lens + Flash F/13 @ 1/30 sec.
Barichneumon bilunulatus

During a warm summer day I found this Barichneumon bilunulatus taken nectar from a flower. There was a harsh wind which meant there was the opportunity to shoot some creative shots with movement in the image. I used my tripod, remote control and external flash to capture the movement of the flower.

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