“A good photographer is invisible…”

Yesterday I shot down to the southeastern lowlands of Missouri to spend some quality time in the field with friend and fellow cicindelophile Kent Fothergill. We were primarily looking for migrants of the Ascendent Tiger Beetle (Cicindela trifasciata ascendens), a Gulf Coast species that doesn’t normally occur in Missouri but is well known for its vagility and late-season northward migrations and which has been seen in the state once before (Brown and MacRae 2005).  No such individuals were found, but no matter – the day was really about just getting out and enjoying the camaraderie.  Nevertheless, there were some successes.  We located burrows of 1st- and  2nd-instar larvae of the Ant-like Tiger Beetle (Cylindera cursitans) at a site along the Mississippi River where Rich Thoma and I found adults last year.  Previous attempts to rear this species from larva to adult have not succeeded (Brust et al. 2005), but I collected a number of larvae and transferred them to a rearing container anyway in hopes that the techniques I’ve developed for rearing the closely-related Swift Tiger Beetle (Cylindera celeripes) might work also with this species.  We also found the beast that I am photographing above – I’ll leave it to your imagination for now to figure out what it is.

In between stops there was plenty of time for discussion on subjects entomological and non.  One thing Kent knows a thing or two about is insect photography, and during a discussion about such he made an interesting comment. Beyond focus, exposure, and composition, he noted that good insect photographers have the ability to become invisible – i.e., they combine patience and persistence with knowledge of the subject’s behavior to make it forget about the big glass eye staring at them from 6 inches away and return to going about their business.  It brought some clarity to my mind about the things I’ve tried in my own attempts to photograph insects that really did not want to be photographed (and there have been many).  The point was emphasized when I came into the office this morning and found the above photograph in my email inbox – Kent had taken it yesterday while I was photographing the bug-to-be-named-later, and I was completely unaware that I was being photographed!  Yes, a good photographer is invisible…


Brown, C. R. and T. C. MacRae. 2005. Occurrence of Cicindela (Cicindelidia) trifasciata ascendens (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae) in Missouri. Cicindela 37(1–2):17–19.

Brust, M. L., W. W. Hoback, and C. B. Knisley. 2005. Biology, habitat preference, and larval description of Cicindela cursitans LeConte (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Cicindelinae). The Coleopterists Bulletin 59(3):379–390.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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4 Responses to “A good photographer is invisible…”

  1. Henry W. Robison says:

    Nice shot of your macro rig Ted! I like your diffusers!

  2. Roberta says:

    Awesome shot. I like the point you are making, too. I have a friend that talks to the insects, trying to get them to pose nicely 🙂


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