Approaching the unapproachable

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Entomological Society of America’s Insect Macrophotography Symposium, focusing on techniques that I use for photographing wary insects in the field. Turnout for the symposium was awesome (I estimate ~125 people in attendance), and as the first talk I’ve given where I presented myself as a photographer I was pleased at the warm reception I got. A big thanks to my friends and colleagues who showed up to see the talk—it was great seeing your friendly faces in the crowd.

For those of you who couldn’t attend the ESA meetings this year or were unable to see my talk, I’ve attached a PDF version of the talk to this post—click on the image of the title slide below to see it. I expect I might give some version of this talk again in the future, so I would love to hear about any techniques you have found useful for approaching and photographing wary, skittish insects in their native habitats.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

19 thoughts on “Approaching the unapproachable

  1. WOW! Your pdf was fantastic and I totally agree with Adrian, add more text and sell as an e-book! Thanks for putting this up for all of us who could not make it over to Knoxville to hear your great talk Ted!


  2. Thirding the ebook suggestion! I’d buy it.

    Also wondering if you have any recommendations for…I guess, beginner macro flashes? $750 is rather out of my price range at the moment, alas, and I haven’t been able to find much in the way of macro-specific recommendations at different price points.

    • Hi Michelle – you might consider the Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash. They’re light, relatively inexpensive (about $250), and can be used very effectively for insect macrophotography. If you do get one, I recommend that you either place some kind of diffuser out in front of it or attach it upsidedown with velcro to a lens hood to maximize the apparent light size. I’m considering getting one for supplemental off camera lighting.

      • Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll look into that one. I do have a couple older flashes of a similar style, but they’re not very reliable and to be honest, I don’t even know where to start learning about pros and cons of different types of flashes.

        (My name’s Melissa, by the way.)

        • Style of flash is not so important – you just want something other than the on-camera popup, and the closer you can get it to the subject the better. The only style I wouldn’t recommend is a full ring flash – these are great for mounted specimens where you want light coming from all sides, but with live subjects they end up looking flat. Some of the best insect photos I’ve seen are with do-it-yourself setups.

          And sorry about the name!

  3. Spectacular photographs and great hints. You could explain the left Hand technique a bit more. I have read a lot on Macro photography and this has been the most enjoyable read given the examples. Thanks.

    • Hi Victor – many thanks for your kind comments, especially from a photographer of your caliber.

      The “left hand” method is easier to explain in person than in a Powerpoint presentation. Maybe I’ll do a post just on that technique with some photos showing what I’m talking about.

  4. As a German forest entomologist interested in macro photography I attended your talk and enjoyed it very much. Thank you for the insights!


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