Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey

The bug season is over, autumn is here and winter is coming. To commemorate this occasion I thought I should make a list of my top 10 photographs of the little buggers. It was my first season shooting them and I’m happy with the results. 

First a word about the featured image for this post: it was a late birthday present from my mom and her fiancée and it’s been custom made for me, in other words it can’t be found anywhere else, which is pretty cool. At first I was planning to find a dead bug to shoot but when I received this I knew I had just the right thing to start of this post with. Technical details: Two LP160, one in softbox from above and behind, the other snooted and coming in from behind and to camera right. Now, let’s get on with the main attraction.

It feels as though I’ve made some noticeable improvements over the months I’ve spent crawling through the grass, looking for everything that crawls, flies, hops or squirms. My technique has gotten better, my composition has gotten better and I’m very much looking forward to taking it even further next year. For now, however, you’ll have to make do with a recap of some of my favourites so far. Picking out just 10 photos was kind of tricky and I’m not even sure I agree with myself – so with that in mind I suggest you also check out my flickr. To those of you new to this blog or my macro photography: all the shots below are uncropped and shot at 1:1. That being said, here they are (larger than I usually post on my blog since I’m sure some of you will still be too lazy to check the full size versions), in no particular order:

1. There are two things that appeal to me in this shot. The first thing is colour, I love every single colour in this shot: the brown, the red, the green, everything. Second is the focus, the eyes are just perfect here. The composition is also decent and to make things even better I took this shot the day after some really poor results, so it was an excellent way to cheer myself up from that.

2. The main reason why I like this shot should be obvious: death, wonderful, gruesome death…sorry, got a bit carried away there. It’s just a nice piece of action that goes to show that it’s a dangerous world. There’s also a certain crispness to the whole shot that I quite like and the background is nice and soft.
Fresh food

3. This was one of my earliest shots and it still holds up quite well. Again one of the main attractions is the colours. Another aspect that really makes this work as a whole is the composition, especially the background that stretches all the way from the foreground to the very end of the frame, giving the impression of visiting a completely different world. It brings to mind Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the valley of the wind.
On an alien planet

4. A nice and bright butterfly with summer colours. I think this was one of the first ones I captured while feeding and I still think it’s one of the best. There are some nice details in the fur and the composition isn’t bad. Perhaps it doesn’t have any single element that’s excellent but the impression as a whole gives a nice summer feeling.
Crazy straw

5. One of my reasons for liking this shot is that I just think these bugs look rather cool. I love the eyes and mustache. I also enjoy the brightness, both the sun and the background really went all out to help me out with the light on this one, the only shadows are from the bug itself. The final touch is the angle that makes the whole thing more interesting.
Robber fly

6. A guest from Indonesia that was kind enough to pose for me in the early morning. Here we have a nice combination of colours along with a good composition and clean background. I love the eyes and the small dew drops on the leaf adds some extra sparkle to the scene. The angle of the fly also makes it more interesting.

7. This is another shot where the angle makes a huge difference. Even though I have some reservation about the focus and light in this shot, I still really like it because of the overall composition. The colour from the flower work well with the butterfly and I think it’s a good moment that has been captured.

8. It took me quite a while to get any good bee shots but it was worth the effort. Focus is good, colours are lovely and the composition is nice. Everything works well in this shot, perhaps with the exception of the part of the flower that’s obscuring the mouth of the bee, but that’s a minor nitpick. A nice summer photo.

9. Colours, composition, focus, I’m happy with all of them in this shot. This is the third fly on this list but they all deserve to be here. One thing that I think really adds to this image is the leaf, both the colour and the shape. The focus is also excellent; not only are the eyes in perfect focus but also the front of the face. The background is clean but doesn’t go completely black, which is also nice.

10. This was probably the biggest surprise when I shot it, I really wasn’t expecting much from the subject but it turned out to be one of my all time favourites. Focus is good but above all it’s the composition that really makes this a winner. The black background also works perfectly with the story of the picture and I’m definitely considering getting a fairly large print of this to hang on my wall.
Looking over the edge of the world

There you have them, my pick for this post, though I certainly have more favourites. Let me know which one is yours, maybe a completely different one that I didn’t include here?


Bug photographer Fly Fresh food On an alien planet Crazy straw Robber fly Fly Butterfly Bee Fly Looking over the edge of the world Bug photographer

54 Responses to “My top 10 bug photographs of 2011”

  1. Caroline

    Fört trodde jag inte att nummer 10 skulle vara med annars hade jag sagt att jag hade saknat den. Försökte komma på om jag saknade någon utan att kolla på flkr och då mindes jag den där väldigt vita fjärilen. Den var så himla fin och hade förtjänat en plats här. Minns inte hur fokus va på den, men färgerna och kompositionen va najs. Sen gillar jag ju spindlar men kan inte på rak arm minnas något specifikt spindelfoto som borde vara med på listan. Tyckte om fotot på myran som bar en annan myra också.
    Det är lite svårt att välja en favorit bland dessa, de är bra på olika sätt, men mina top tre är nog gråsuggan, filosofiska flugan och den lilla skalbaggen.

  2. paulaturner

    I hope to have one shot this amazing someday and you had trouble choosing 10! If I have to choose well one is not enough so….6, 7, 8 and 9.

  3. mamma

    Om jag också får vara med och tycka så är nog nr 10 favoriten . Han ser lite förvanad och nyfiken ut ….om nu insekter kan göra det ?? Sen är det nr 5.. den verkar farlig och hade förmodligen fått mig att skrika och slå… Och så nr 8 eftersom jag gillar mjuka och lurviga djur ! Nej ,det är svårt att välja , alla är vackra och spännande , var och en på sitt vis .

    • Rifqi

      Oh no, my mother has found her way out on the interwebs…and nominated number 10 as her favourite. Number 8 also gets a special mention for being fluffy.

  4. Adrian Lewis

    Good set of pictures, Rifqi – and thanks for liking my woman with eyes closed. Here, I particularly like numbers 3,4, 7 and 10, with 7 as the best I think. Good photos! FATman

    • Rifqi

      Thanks and you’re welcome. That’s one vote for 7. Number 3 and 10 also seem to be recurring favourites.

  5. ridha

    I want to join too :p
    I like the fly wearing fly’s eyes style sunglasses…
    And of course my favourite one is the blue bug (I found that thing :p)

  6. michaelmarlow

    #’s 2 and 5 are Robber Flies, some of the most adept predators of the insect world, catching their prey in flight. I also happen to like them a lot because as you say, they look really cool. I think of them as the lone wolves of the insect world.

    I really like 2, the food chain shot, and 8, the bee shot. And of course the “bug photographer,” ha! Nice collection!

    • Rifqi

      I see, so number 2 is a robber fly as well, I guess they come in different sizes and colours. If I were to try to pick my top 3 shots, the bee would probably be among them. Thanks for the comment.

      • michaelmarlow

        They certainly do come in different sizes and colors. Number 2 looks similar to what in my experience is a “medium-sized” robber fly. One of my favorites is a smaller version, probably about 1cm, give or take a couple millimeters, in length; it has bright red eyes that are spaced further apart than the other robbers I have witnessed.

        Here’s a pic of the tiny robber, if anyone is interested:


  7. Mark

    The first creature is excellent, the man made one with a cam if I’m not mistaken. Nice lighting and composition, with endless possibilities.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks. Wouldn’t it be cool to find a bug like that when you’re out shooting? Just imagine coming across a bug that stares back at you through a lens.

  8. Meg

    There is just something about a close up of an insect that is just so darn fascinating. I love the last photo, the black background behind the iridescence of the bug.

    • Rifqi

      It seems like number 10 is going to emerge as the winner here. Thanks for stopping by and glad you liked them, it’s a fascinating little world for sure.

  9. jaurbanphoto

    The bee on the white flower is my favorite, though the first fly is a very very close second! the iridescent teal is superb, but i like fuzzy bees

    • Rifqi

      The colour of that fly is definitely nice and he sends his regards for getting a comment. The bee is also happy for getting another vote. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. disperser

    Each year I tell myself to go on bug safaris in the yard or out in the woods, but there is always something else to capture my attention. One of these years I’ll follow through on it.

    Until then I’ll be satisfied with the critters I find at home and in the office, and to check out other people’s efforts for inspiration.

    One question about No. 1 . . . flies don’t stand still for me long enough to set-up. Was this hand-held with a long macro or, as it often happens with me, a fortuitous shot out of many tries?

    • Rifqi

      Actually picking up the camera to go out and shoot is often the hardest part.

      All my shots are hand held, the trick is to be patient. I’m using a Nikon 85mm f3.5 macro lens so it has a decent working distance but you still have to be pretty close. I also hand hold a SB-400 flash to the side of the lens, so the flash is usually even closer than the lens. Just move slowly and you’ll get close. I’ve also found that a lot of bugs seem to stop caring about you once you get within a certain distance, like they decide you’re not a threat anymore and ignore you. The particular one in number 1 was also enjoying a patch of sunlight so he didn’t really want to move from that spot. Also, even if you scare them off, try to just stay still, often they come back to land in almost the same spot.

      • disperser

        I’ve done that with dragonflies, but flies don’t seem to come back to the same spot.

        I have a 105mm macro but that still needs to get fairly close for that level of detail (unless that’s a crop of a larger photo). And I should get in the habit of carrying my flash.

        . . . too many things take up too much of too little time.

      • Rifqi

        Time is certainly not in great supply, I suspect my little daughter eats most of it, she likes to put things in her mouth…

        All my macros are uncropped. Like I said before I think a lot of it boils down to patience but I can add that it’s also good to learn the habits of the little critters. They’re less active in the morning, so that’s a good time to go hunting for them. Another thing to keep in mind when you approach them is to keep your shadow from falling on them, they don’t like changes in light.

      • disperser

        Thanks, good tips. Here is another one I have used (and it seems to mostly work).

        When trying to get close to a bug, provide them with multiple inputs. For example, with a fly you can get very close with one hand if you also are moving your other hand toward it but from another angle.

        Most insects have trouble processing simultaneous multiple inputs, especially if slow moving. Based on your description, you might already be doing this with the camera coming in on one angle, and the flash from another. Or not, if the flash and camera are already in place.

        Like I said, this has worked for me with some insects. Others never wait for me to get close at all.

      • Rifqi

        Even before I read through your whole comment I thought ‘hey, that’s kind of what I’m doing with the flash’. Usually I kind of creep up along the lens with the flash so it’s not really from a different angle but I guess it does provide an additional source of motion for the critters to process. I never thought about it before but maybe that’s part of the success I’ve been having. And here I thought I had some special gift…

  11. krikitarts

    Hi, Rifqi,
    This is my first visit to your site (actually yesterday was, but I kept it open all night until I’d have time to comment), and my new vote is for the skipper. By the way, where in this wonderful world did you find the bug photographer? I’ve never seen anything like it and am completley intrigued! Very nice work–looking forward to exploring it more deeply.

  12. HoaiPhai

    Great captures! I fiddle around with macro using a 50mm f/1.2 and extension tubes but that set up is not quick enough to get everything together for bug shots. I’ve gotta get a macro lens!

    • Rifqi

      Thanks. Bug season has just started properly here again so I’ll have a lot of new macro posts in the near future. This year I’m using a set of extension tubes in combination with my macro lens to get twice as close.


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