ESA Insect Macrophotography Workshop

Today is the last day of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, and it has been an action packed week for me. Annual meetings such as this serve several purposes. In addition to seeing talks on a variety of subjects—in my case covering subjects ranging from insect resistance management to scientific outreach to beetle systematics—they also offer the chance to establish new connections with other entomologists that share common interests and reinforce existing ones. Of course, a major part of my interest in entomology revolves around insect macrophotography, and in recent years ESA has begun to cater to the entomological photographer contingent within the society. Last year’s meetings featured a macrophotography symposium titled, “Entomologists Beyond Borders” (for which I was one of the invited speakers), and this year featured an Insect Macrophotography Workshop led by Austin-based entomologist/photographer Ian Wright. Having done this for a few years now I figured a lot of the workshop might be review for me, but I still have much to learn and am willing to accept new ideas from any source. Besides, the workshop involved a field trip to a local habitat to try out our insect photography skills, and for a field junkie like me time in the field at an otherwise all-indoor event spanning close to a week is always welcome. The location of the meetings in Austin this year made this possible, as even in mid-November there still remain insects out and about that can be photographed if the weather cooperates (and it did).

This will be a somewhat different post than what I usually post here. Rather than featuring photos of a certain species and using them as a backdrop for a more detailed look at their taxonomy or natural history, I’m just going to post all the photos that I ended up keeping from the field trip portion of the workshop with just a comment or two about each. We went to the city’s nearby waste-water treatment facility, the grounds of which are wild and woolly enough to provide habitat for insects, and spent about an hour and a half seeing what we could find. For myself, it was a chance to photograph some insects I’ve not normally tried to photograph (i.e., dragonflies, ambush bugs) and get more practice on my blue sky technique. I did appreciate the chance to spend some time talking to Ian during while we traveled to the site and back, and I also ended up helping other participants with their camera equipment questions and technique suggestions. With that, here are the photos I took—I’ll be curious to see what readers think of this post format versus my more typical style.

Micrutalis calva

Micrutalis calva (Hemiptera: Membracidae) on silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium).

Micrutalis calva

This species of treehopper is restricted to herbaceous plant hosts.

Anax junius

Anax junius (Odonata: Aeshnidae), one of the darner species of dragonfly.

Anax junius

This adult was perched on a dead twig tip and seemed to be “asleep.”

Anax junius

I clipped the perch and held it up for these “in-your-face” shots – it then awoke with a start and flew off.

Phymata sp.

Phymata sp. (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), one of the so-called “jagged ambush bugs.”

Phymata sp.

Formerly a separate family, ambush bugs are now combined with assassin bugs (family Reduviidae).

Acmaeodera flavomarginata

Acmaeodera flavomarginata (Coleoptera: Buprestidae).

Acmaeodera flavomarginata

This is one of a few species of jewel beetle in the southcentral US that are active during the fall.

Mecaphesa sp.

Mecaphesa sp. (Araneae: Thomisidae), one of the crab spiders

Mecaphesa sp.

Cryptic coloration allows the spider to lurk unseen by potential insect prey visiting the flower.

Gratiana pallidula

Gratiana pallidula (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) on silverleaf nightshade (Solanum eleagnifolium).

Gratiana pallidula

A type of tortoise beetle, adults “clamp” down against the leaf as a defense against predators.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

9 thoughts on “ESA Insect Macrophotography Workshop

  1. Excellent shots, Ted, especially the larger one of the ambush bug. I recently shot a somewhat plainer ambush bug (all gray w/red eye) on milkweed here in south Florida, but haven’t been able to ID it, even to genus. If you want to see it, let me know and I’ll e-mail a couple of pix.

  2. Nice Ted! While I really like your usual taxon-focused articles, I also enjoy posts showcasing an afternoon’s photography finds like this one. Nice to see what cool stuff you came across during a given outing.

    Also, the second Micrutalis photo is my pick of the lot!

  3. Great stuff, Ted. The Anax should be Anax junius. I think I can see the bullseye marking on the frons. Any pics of the entire insect? BTW-Aeshnidae has no “c”.

  4. Fantastic post Ted! I really appreciated your insight, advice, and help during the workshop! And I know a lot of other attendees benefited from having you there. Your work is tremendous! I’m so glad we got to meet and I’m only sorry we didn’t have more time together. I’m very seriously considering attending Portland. The symposium idea from last year sounds really cool actually. Maybe we could moderate a session of talks from some of the amazing macrophotographers out there?

    • Hi Ian – it was really great meeting also. Fantastic job on the workshop – I’m not sure I would have had the temerity or confidence to put together and run an entire half-day workshop all on my own. Bravo!

      I think co-leading a symposium in Portland would be awesome – now if we can just recruit Alex Wild, Piotr Nasckrecki, Thomas Shahan, John Abbott, and Nicki Bay we’ll be all set!

  5. Hi, I just moved from Austin in Sept and enjoy your blog, and would have really enjoyed getting to meet you. Oh well!
    The jewel beetle you photographed is one of my favorite austin beetles. I saw it only once and it was in the fall on a yellow aster. The color and patterns are very clean and bold.


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