Suddenly having an extra hand can be really helpful; it’s something I’ve wished for many times and now I finally have it. No, I didn’t grow an extra limb, weren’t you paying attention during my latest macro posts?
I’m of course referring to the fact that I’m now using a flash on camera instead of hand holding it to the side when I’m shooting bugs. True, I can’t get quite as pleasing light when it’s coming in full frontal but that’s somewhat mitigated by the fact that I now have a hand that’s free to do other things.
That’s how I shot the lacewing you see here to the left. I saw something bluegreenish fluttering in the grass and went in to have a closer look. I found this little guy sitting in the tall grass and I really liked the colours so I knew I wanted to shoot him. The problem was that it was a pretty windy day so there was no way I was going to get good shot where he was sitting. Luckily the wind can actually work for you in a situation like this. Usually bugs are very sensitive to small movements that don’t seem natural to them, so grabbing the grass when there’s no wind would more than likely spook them. However, when they’re already swaying back and forth in a strong wind they’re more concerned with holding on for dear life than worrying about some extra motion.
It took a few tries, in between which I had to let the critter settle down again, but I finally managed to pick up the grass without him flying away. I then sat down so I could shield him from the wind and in a way that also let me rest the camera on my knee while I held the grass in the other hand. The good thing about this technique is that it makes it very easy to change the composition; just twist the grass a bit and you can completely change the angle, no need to change your own position, which usually risks spooking the critter as well, thus losing you any additional shots. Focus is also pretty easy to get right like this but you’ll be surprised how much your hand actually moves – I kind of try to shoot when I’m not breathing, which sometimes means I have to take a break to catch my breath a bit. Who knew shooting bugs was so much work?
This is a technique I’ll be using a lot now that I have a free hand to actually do it with. It will only work for certain bugs though, you can forget about doing something like this with a fly, even if it happens to sit in the middle of a tornado. It will probably work best for critters who aren’t too prone to flying away, like the beetle in the last shot here. Again I was holding the blade of grass he was sitting on and that also allowed me to move him to a place with a bit better light – though the main reason for moving him was that I didn’t feel like sitting down where the ants had built their highway; the notion of having ants in my pants does not appeal to me.
Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll show you another way in which I try to maximize the quality of my shots instead of just shooting a lot and hoping for the best.