|A spider on the hunt is one of countless scenes available to photograph, if you know how to find them.|
The arthropod world is virtually endless. With over a million recorded species - believed to be but a fraction of the actual total - you can shoot ten different species every single day of your life and never get close to documenting them all. Finding them in their native habitat exhibiting natural behavior, however, can be a challenge for those new to wildlife macro photography. In this article I'll walk you through the task of locating and handling macro subjects in the field.
|Elad and Bruno admiring two spiders in their natural habitat. The key for any successful macro photographer is to be able to closely observe a subject without disturbing its natural behavior.|
First, however, I should point out that insect activity is influenced by climate and seasonal conditions, which of course vary greatly around the globe. Here I'll speak to my experiences photographing in countries with 'normal' winter/summer climates in which mornings are chilly and midday is considerably warmer.
The first order of business is getting to know the best seasons of the year to find and photograph insects. While there are insects present year round in most climates, it is in springtime that the populations truly boom. Spring, in most species, is the time of year when the adult hatches from its cocoon, and starts frantically looking for food and for a mate. The fields are absolutely packed with invertebrates of all species, flying, hunting, mating - doing everything we want them to do to create an interesting shot.
|Robber fly mating is precarious. The male often waits for the female to catch prey before he approaches, so he doesn’t become her next meal himself!|
During summer months, insect numbers dwindle noticeably but there are still lots of subjects available. In the fall and winter, however, things are usually not as good. Most adult insects will have died out and the newborns will be in one of their larval stages.
One of the most common questions I get is, 'Where are good places for finding little critters?' The answer is simple. Insects and other invertebrates are everywhere. They exist in almost any environment. And the more remote and wild the location, the higher the quantity and diversity.
The best locations though, are usually ones with damp earth, vegetation, and most importantly – water. I always recommend exploring areas near lakes or in fields with low growth. A body of water with a field beside it is just perfect. Some insects (such as dragonflies) are only found close to water, since their larval stage is fully aquatic.
|A butterfly found in low vegetation.||Be careful when you walk in the field: there are countless meticulously-built spider webs!|
Many species of course, have no problem with a drier environment; robber flies and mantises, to name just two. Fields of low growth vegetation are much easier to maneuver in and generally allow for more pleasing compositions. All else being equal, you'll likely have much more success in a sparse poppy field than a densely packed sunflower plantation for example.
Time of day
Arguably the most important consideration of all is knowing what times of the day are most conducive to locating and shooting invertebrates. Time of day has a huge impact not only on subject activity, but obviously on the quality of light as well.
The best time to shoot non-active arthropods is very early in the morning. Why? Because insects are less active when the temperature is lower. Under crisp early morning conditions, not only will insects hold 'poses', they can be easily manipulated and repositioned by hand without causing them any harm.
Finding insects is one thing. Getting close enough to photograph them at macro-required distances while they're exhibiting interesting behavior is another skill altogether. But its not as difficult as it may seem if you know some basics.
The first thing to know is that insects are highly motion-sensitive. Making sharp, abrupt movements close to an active insect will likely cause it to flee. The rule of thumb here is to plan your movements carefully and perform them as if in slow motion. In addition, you should know that insects’ eyes are ultra-sensitive to changes in light. This is clearly a survival response, since a sudden shift from light to dark could indicate a predator is approaching. By taking care to move toward the subject without casting a shadow near it, you increase the chance of it staying put for the shot.
|An active butterfly can still be approached if we make sure we don’t frighten it by casting a shadow or making sudden movements.|
Finally, it's important to understand the types of activities in which insects are more prone to remain stationary. A robber fly, for example is less likely to fly away if it’s carrying prey. A female spider will not run away from her egg sack, even at the expense of her life. Knowing even a few little details like these enables you to get very close to your subject.
|A robber fly carrying prey is easy to get close to, if you approach it slowly.||A female crab spider guarding its egg sack will never leave it, allowing an extreme magnification shot with minimal effort.|
With these tips in mind, you can greatly increase your chances of creating unique and impressive wildlife macro imagery.
For more information on macro photography take a look at Erez's other articles:
The what and why of wildlife macro photography
What we want in a macro shot - Detail
What we want in a macro shot - Background
What we want in a macro shot - POV and special scenes
Macro photography: Understanding magnification
Depth of Field in Macro Photography
Composition Basics in Macro Photography
Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer and photography instructor based in Israel.
In January 2013, Erez will lead a winter landscape photography workshop in Iceland, where you can experience and shoot incredible icy sceneries. See Erez' Iceland gallery here. You can see more of Erez' work at Erezmarom.com and follow him on his Facebook page and deviantArt gallery.
Apr 8, 2015
Mar 27, 2015
Mar 25, 2015
Jan 14, 2015
|Home from first day. by Frank LoPriore|
from Back to School
|Hummingbird in Flight by Lensmate|
from A Big Year - birds
|Green turtle in the shallows by gcachon|
|Bruce Green by George Veltchev|
from -Yuge and Nasty-
The new Surface Book 2 laptops come with Intel's 8th generation quad-core processors and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 and 1060 GPUs. In other words: they pack a serious punch.
Leica is resurrecting a portrait lens from the 1930s: the Thambar-M 1:2.2/90. This lens features just 4 lens elements, and was famous for its spherical aberration that creates extremely soft images.
Google's Visual Core is an Image Signal Processor designed to power and accelerate HDR+ processing and other imaging tasks in the new Pixel 2 devices (and beyond).
The Google Pixel's camera is among the best we've reviewed, and its successor has already been hailed as class-leading. With expectations set high, the Pixel 2 has nonetheless left a very good first impression on us as we shot some initial sample images.
Leica is one of the oldest names in photography, and has long been one of the most prestigious. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit Wetzlar, to see for ourselves how Leica's lenses are put together.
Canon went and put an APS-C sensor in a G series compact. The result is a mighty tempting camera for travel.
Google Photos is adding a few pet-friendly features that will make it easier to find photos of your favorite pooch. Now, you can organize your pet photos by facial recognition, and you can even search your library by breed.
Colorful tripod maker MeFOTO has launched a new tripod... and a whole new brand name. Meet the GlobeTrotter travel video tripod, the first product to be released under the MeVIDEO brand.
If you own a Moto Z, you'll soon be able to attach a Polaroid instant printer to it. Check out the unreleased Moto Mod, which was leaked earlier today.
DJI has developed a technology called AeroScope that allows law enforcement to identify and track airborne drones that are breaking UAV regulations, while simultaneously addressing privacy concerns.
The Nikon D850 is a 45.7MP full-frame DSLR with an autofocus system lifted wholesale from the pro-sports focused D5. 4K capture, continuous shooting at 7 or 9 frames per second make it sound like the ultimate all rounder. Is it all that these specs suggest?
The Mate 10's Kirin 970 chipset with integrated AI processing allows for object recognition, motion detection and automatic scene selection in the camera app.
DxO has announced version 3.0 of the iOS app for its 'One' connected camera. It adds support for multi-camera Facebook Live broadcasting and both time-lapse still and video capture. Android users will be pleased to hear that a One for their platform is on the way, as well. Several new accessories are available, including a battery pack.
Canon has introduced the PowerShot G1 X Mark III, which borrows the 24MP APS-C sensor and Dual Pixel AF system from the company's recent mirrorless and DSLR cameras, adds a 24-72mm equiv., F2.8-5.6 lens and puts them into a lightweight body – but it'll cost you quite a bit.
It's not often that we see a genuinely interesting compact camera, and the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is one such beast. We've pulled out the top features of the camera and tell you why they matter – and put the Mark III up against the competition.
Apple's HDR effect in the iPhone 8 Plus is on by default and more aggressive than in previous generations. It's also good enough to convince DPR contributor Jeff Carlson to leave it on all the time.
Canon's 28mm F2.8 IS USM may be small in size, but it's big on fun. We wrote about our experience using it as our only lens in Big Sur, California, but in case you missed out on our full gallery, take a look to see what this little lens can do.
Travel photographer Elia Locardi tells the story behind this gorgeous (and rare) panorama of the Dubai cityscape draped in fog.
Bison, drift cars, horseback riders, antelope – from the beach to the race track, the Sony 100-400mm G Master is one versatile piece of kit.
"Wildlife photography in Yellowstone National Park is an incredible opportunity, yet some bad photographers are giving all photographers a bad name by not following the rules."
Casio's bionic-looking new action camera, the GZE-1, is built with extreme sports in mind. The little camera is drop-proof, freeze-proof, dust-proof, and waterproof to 50 meters.
Yashica recently released the digiFilm Y35: a camera that tries to simulate the "experience" of shooting film... and it's just the worst.
Western Digital has revealed some interesting new technology that, it claims, will allow them to develop 40TB hard drives by the year 2025.
Photographer Micael Widell wanted to see just how affordable it could possibly be to get into digital photography—so he bought a full DSLR kit with battery grip and 50mm lens on eBay for just $80.
Confused about DxOMark's scoring system? This straightforward video by Marques Brownlee breaks down how DxO gets its scores, and why you should always look beyond that "overall" number.
It's not exactly a revolutionary device, but the iPhone 8 Plus does promise some evolutionary updates in the camera department. DPR contributor Jeff Carlson has been putting the 8 Plus to the test in some everyday shooting situations – take a look at how it fared.
This week in Hollywood, DJI introduced its new Zenmuse X7 camera, a Super 35 format cinema camera of its own design that can also capture 24MP still images in APS-C format. Is it time to start thinking of DJI as a camera company?
Landscape and astrophotographer Asif Islam shot a series of timelapses starting in Los Angeles and getting farther and farther away, showing how the Milky Way emerges as the light pollution fades.
Ultraviolet photography is something that relatively few photographers explore, but it’s a fascinating realm to explore with less of an investment in equipment than most people think.
After almost fifteen years of nearly buying one, Barney recently found a working Canon PowerShot G5 in his local thrift shop. It must be Throwback Thursday.