One way to shoot bugs is the machine gun approach, just fire away and hope that something sticks. Lately I’ve been trying the opposite approach, a slower and more deliberate way to shoot in the hopes that by raising the lowest bar for the shots I’ll also raise the highest.
One of the things to do is to not be satisfied with what’s handed to you and instead try to improve the conditions of the shoot. That’s exactly what I did for the little guy to the left here. I first found him on a leaf and frankly I normally wouldn’t have bothered shooting him at all but I was getting a bit desperate since the weather wasn’t very good and I hadn’t found any decent bugs to shoot. So to make things a bit more interesting I needed to change the setting and first order of business was to get my subject on a stick. I’ve found that most leafs don’t look all that good in photos, the shinier kind pick up the light from the flash too much and produce harsh highlights and the green can often be a bit overwhelming, especially if the subject in question has more subdued colours.
This critter was fairly cooperative so getting him on a stick was easy enough. Now, I could have just held that stick in one hand and gotten some good results but I wanted to try doing things a bit differently. I had recently picked up a couple of cheap clamps that I thought might come in handy so I decided to clamp the stick to a tree so I could have both hands free to handle the camera. I’ll spare you a long explanation and instead direct your gaze to the setup shot below.
The critter was sitting on that twig and I also put that fern behind him to get the green background. The difference between having the subject sit on a leaf and having leafs behind him is that you get rid of the glaring highlights and, by varying the distance to the background, you can also control how much light hits it and how bright that green will be. The paper is there to provide some fill light. I actually brought the paper with me because I was planning to try using it as a background but this turned out to be a good use for it as well. The second shot to the left here is the same setup but without the green background, I’m not sure which one I like better.
With the right bug it’s easy to set things up like this but if you’re unlucky you might end up losing the shot just when everything is done. I’m finding more and more that bug photography is a lot about patience and, maybe even more so, luck, which I’ll give an example of in my next post. That’s called a cliffhanger and it means you get your ass back here for the next post, because I say so.