Best time to shoot insects?

Started Jun 8, 2013 | Discussions thread
SteB Veteran Member • Posts: 4,523
Re: Best time to shoot insects?

DannH wrote:

Hi all,

Was curious what time of the day people find it best to shoot insects. Usually I shoot on days where there is cloud cover between 9am - 11.30am. The insects are normally active but there's lots about to get a couple of willing subjects. After hearing lot's of people saying it's good to shoot early mornings as they're less active I decided to head out a bit earlier for once in the hope they would still be asleep and also that I may capture some dew drops on them. Although there was lots of subjects, which would have been good at 2:1 - 3:1, I didn't see anything that was large enough to shoot at 1:1 or lower. Was I just unlucky or are early mornings just for extreme macro?

A lot depends what you want to shoot and where. If you are in the UK you need to be aware that after the cold Spring, insect numbers are still well down on normal.

For instance photographing pollinators in flowers often requires some warm weather and direct sun, with no cool breeze for them to actually feed. On days with a cool breeze you won't find many pollinators feeding in flowers.

On the subject of early morning macros. Potentially you can find almost any sized insects early morning. However you need to appreciate that you will only ever find a very small proportion of insects in area, early morning. Most insects are hidden in deep cover and are not easily found. I know this from long experience. You go out at first light and find a moderate amount or very few. As it starts to warm up lots more insects start to appear.

My general impression gained over a lot of years in a UK context is the amount of insects you will find early morning is related to the numbers of them you tend to find in that area. So if there are large populations of a lot of insects, of a wide variety of species you will find more, than if their numbers and variety are lower in a given place. This might sound obvious. However, I've found on many sites that you don't find a great deal at first light. Often you can struggle to find enough to make the trip worthwhile, and I'm very observant.

The false impression that you get from some accounts of macro photography is that you will find all the insects that were flying around during the day sleeping on grass stems and vegetation early morning. This is not my experience. It may be on some particularly rich sites, or in parts of the world with high densities of insects that you will find a lot, but this is not that common across a lot of the UK. Also a lot depends on the evening. If it was warm late in the evening, you will find more, because more get trapped out in the open when the sun suddenly goes down. Whereas if it is not so good in the evening, most insects will have already gone into cover well before the sun goes down, so less are trapped in places where you are likely to find them. Insects don't want to be trapped out in sight as the sun comes up, as they are easily picked off by birds.

Evenings and the last rays of the sun can be good for finding resting insects, because they tend to congregate in the few places the direct sun is catching to catch the last rays. The side of trees etc. Just look for sheltered spots catching the last rays.

Insects are not evenly distributed around sites either. You will find far more in sun traps, and places sheltered from the wind. Early morning insects also seem to be aware of where the sun rises, so you find more in places which catch the first direct sun.

Whilst it did end up being more about dragonflies, you might be interesed in this thread I started about 5 years back on the link below.

Approaching insects to photograph them

A lot of books give the impression that Dragonflies are best photographed early morning when less active. However my experience is that on many sites you simply won't find any, even if you see quite a lot during the day. Even on sites with a lot of dragonflies, you only tend to find a few early morning, even after a lot of searching. This is the other thing, it is a learning curve. The ability to find insects in the early morning requires quite a bit of experience, patient searching, and knowing where to look

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