Welcome to the 4th Annual BitB Top 10, where I get to pick my 10 (more or less) favorite photographs of the year. As an insect macrophotographer I still feel like a relative newcomer, although with three seasons under my belt fewer and fewer people seem to be buying it anymore. Granted I’ve learned a lot during that time, but the learning curve is still looking rather steep. I don’t mind—that’s the fun part! With that said, I present a baker’s dozen of my favorite photographs featured here during 2011. I hope they reflect the learnings I’ve had the past year and maybe show some progress over previous years (2009, 2008 and 2010).
One more thing—I’m including a special bonus for the first time in this year’s edition. Each of the photos shown below is linked to a 1680×1120 version that may be freely downloaded for use as wallpaper, printing in calendars, or any other use (as long as it’s personal and non-profit). It’s my way of saying thanks for your readership and support.
From Red-eyed Devil (posted 8 Jan). I’ve done limited photography with prepared rather than live specimens. However, the recreated aggressive-defensive posture of this greater arid-land katydid (Neobarrettia spinosa)—or “red-eyed devil”—was too striking to pass up. A clean background allows every spine and tooth to be seen with terrifying clarity.
From Brazil Bugs #10 – A mosca mais legal que eu já vi! (posted 6 Feb). I had never seen a cactus fly until I encountered this Nerius sp. I’m especially fond of the bizzarely-shaped head and un-fly-like spines on the front legs.
From Brazil Bugs #13 – Gorgulho do fungo (posted 17 Feb). This photo of a fungus weevil, Phaenithon semigriseus, is one of the first where I nailed the focus right on the eye at such a magnitude of closeup (~3X) and also got the composition I was looking for. I didn’t notice at the time, but the beetle seems to be “smiling.”
From Bichos Argentinos #6 – Jumping Spider (posted 28 Mar). One of the field techniques I’ve been practicing this year is actually holding the plant with the subject in one hand, resting the camera on my wrist and controlling it with the other hand, and manipulating the position of the plant to achieve a desired composition. It’s a difficult technique to master, but the results are worth it. The jumping spider, Euophrys sutrix, represents one of my earliest successful attempts with this technique.
From Bichos Argentinos #7 – Naupactus xanthographus (posted 30 Mar). This South American tree fruit weevil looks like it is sitting quite calmly on a branch. In reality, it never stopped crawling while I attempted to photograph it. Crawling subjects are not only difficult to focus on but also almost always have a “bum” leg. I achieved this photo by tracking the beetle through the lens and firing shots as soon as the center focus point flashed, playing a numbers game to ensure that I got at least one with all the legs nicely positioned. I’d have been even happier with this photo if I had not clipped the antennal tip.
From Feasting on the bounty (posted 4 May). Face shots of predatory insects are hard to resist, and in this one of the fiery searcher beetle, Calosoma scrutator, the angle of the subject to the lighting was perfect for showing off every ridge and tooth in its impressive mandibles.
From Big, Bold, and Beautiful (posted 10 May). I’ve taken plenty of lateral profile shots of tiger beetles, but I like this slightly panned out one especially because of the sense of scale and landscape created by the inclusion of the plantlets and the view over the small rise.
From Stink Bugs on Soybean in Argentina (posted 18 May). I found these Edessa meditabunda stink bug eggs on the underside of a soybean leaf in Argentina almost ready to hatch. The developing eye spots in each egg gives the photo a “cute” factor rarely seen in such super close-ups.
From Oedipodine Rex (posted 15 July). Some of my favorite insect photos are not only those that show the bug in all its glory, but also tell a story about its natural history. This nymphal lichen grasshopper, Trimerotropis saxatilis, is almost invisible when sitting on the lichens that cover the sandstone exposures in its preferred glade habitat.
From Why I Roamed the Marsh at Night (posted 23 Aug). I know this is the second beetle face shot I’ve included in the final selections, but it was while photographing this rare Florida metallic tiger beetle, Tetracha floridana, in the middle of the night that I discovered the use of extension tubes to improve the quality of flash lighting (decreased lens to subject distance results in greater apparent light size). This is perhaps one of the best illuminated direct flash photographs that I’ve taken, and I also like the symmetry of the composition.
From Crazy Eyes (posted 17 Sep). The three-cornered alfalfa hopper (Spissistilus festinus) is a common pest of alfalfa and soybean in the U.S. However, despite its abundance, I’ve never noticed the bizarre zig-zag pattern of the eyes until I took this photo. Even though both the insect and the background are green, there is sufficient value contrast to create a pleasing composition. Bumping up the ISO and a lower FEC setting prevented overblowing the light greens—easy to do with full flash macrophotography.
From Crossidius coralinus fulgidus (posted 4 Oct). This longhorned beetle had settled in for the night on its Ericamera nauseosa host plant, allowing me to use higher ISO and lower shutter speed settings with a hand-held camera to achieve this very pleasing blue sky background, while retaining the sharpness of detail of the subject that comes from full-flash illumination. The blue sky background provides a more pleasing contrast with the colors of this particular beetle and flowers than the black background that is more typically seen with full-flash macrophotography.
From A Riot of Colors (19 Dec). An uncommon underside view of these purple tree fungus (Trichaptum biforme) caps and use of flash illumination allows the colors to literally glow against the bright green lichens also growing on the tree. Keeping aperture at a moderate setting allows blurring of the caps further back, adding three-dimensionality to the photo and preventing it from looking ‘flat.’
Well, there you have it, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my selections. Please do tell me if you have a favorite among theses (and if there were other photos posted during 2011 that you think deserved making the final selections).
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011
20 thoughts on “Best of BitB 2011”
Some of these “Bumelia borer on white” were awesome too, and deserve a place in your top photos for the year!
That bumelia borer came close to making the cut, but in the end I decided the final selections were heavy enough on face shots, especially of beetles. Maybe I could’a switched out the caterpillar hunter to make room for it.
A great selection. For myself, it was the Red-eyed Devil that captured my attention the most. Great images and an eye-opening introduction to predatory katydids.
Have a great New Year, Ted!
Nice work Ted! Can’t wait to see what you come up with in 2012!
Yep, I think you’ve moved beyond “newcomer” status and can consider your photography skills as blossoming! Happy New Year and thanks for providing so much great content this past year!
Great job Ted! Your 2011 photos are outstanding and it is difficult to pick a favorite! You are truly a skilled macrophotographer and I look forward to seeing many more of your pics in 2012! Happy New Year from Arkansas!
A very happy new year ted! Those are some really fantastic photographs!
I might just have to use that red-eyed devil as my first-ever non-ant wallpaper! It strikes me he would be a spiky meal, whether eating or being eaten!
And, just checking – Are you sure those so-called stinkbug eggs aren’t, in fact, pokemon eggs?
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I’m going to admit to a weakness for strange flies, and make my first New Year’s resolution to seek out as many as I can this year, but the ferocious katydid is the best picture of a dead insect I can remember seeing. The embryonic happy-faces and the lichen hopper also make it on to my favourite bug blog images of the year list. Happy New Year and many more stunning images for 2012.
Wow. I’ll have to come back another time to read the narrative – can’t stop looking at those photos!
You may think of yourself as an entomologist with a camera, but you have achieved a level of excellence that you can call yourself anything you want, including a nature photographer!
You can call me a nature photographer all you want! 🙂
I love all of these, but the Red Eyed Devil and the eggs are my favourites. And the black and white tiger beetle on the sand. And, of course, the jumper. And the … Oh, forget it; they’re all my favourites!
Thank you all for your nice comments. It looks like the red-eyed devil is the hands-down winner among this crowd. Funny thing is I waffled on whether to include it – precisely because it was a dead specimen.
Nice pics! happy new year 2012!
Very cool. Thanks for sharing this collection.
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I’m a little late as I just discovered your blog. Thanks soooo much for the terrific photos and wallpaper files. My favorite? uhhhhh well … Red-eyed Devil, Gorgulho do fungo especially the eyes, tiger beetle in sand with grass shoots, the three-cornered alfalfa hopper is probably my favorite favorite 🙂
Hi Hollis – such nice comments are never too late! Thanks for stopping by.