Spring is sprung, the grass is riz…I wonder where them buggies is…?
One of the great things about macro/close-up photography is that you don’t need to go far to take great photos. In the spring my typical photo safari consists of walking into the backyard and wandering around the garden looking for an interesting bug. In the winter I am more likely to wander over to my aquarium to see if any of the shrimp, snails or fish are doing anything interesting.
But sometimes I don’t even have to go that far. These photos are of a moth I found in the kitchen, just inside the back door. It’s a
It’s a “large yellow underwing” moth (Noctua pronuba). Above is a typical “ID” (identification) photo—the kind of picture you would see in a field guide to “large yellow underwing moths of the world”, or some such thing. It’s helpful for identifying the species, but not particularly exciting. After taking this photo I was keen to move the little beast to a more natural background and see about getting some more interesting images.
There are a few basic rules to getting great close-up photos:
- Get close.
- Get down to the critters eye level and be sure its eyes are in focus. This rule doesn’t apply to critters that don’t have eyes….
- Get closer.
- Try and catch the critter doing something more interesting that just sitting there looking at you. This is often the hardest step to achieve. The great thing about macro/close-up photography is that this often isn’t as important a step as it is for photography of bigger critters. A picture of the face of a critter you can’t see without magnification is likely going to be interesting, no matter what it is doing.
The first thing I did was put the moth on a piece of old weathered wood—a nice “neutral” background. I took a number of pictures…but none of them really thrilled me. Part of the problem was the background, but also the moth wouldn’t stop walking around. It wasn’t scared, but it definitely didn’t feel like posing. That’s where rule number 5 comes in:
- When shooting a critter in captivity…you need to ensure it is comfortable and relaxed.
I noticed that when the moth was on a damp area of the wood it stuck its tongue out. “Aha” I thought, “It’s thirsty!” So I ditched the wood, went outside and picked a big green leaf as a new background—I figured that the green would be a nice contrast to the brown and tan colours of the moth. I put a drop of water on the leaf and sure enough, it settled down to drink—and pose nicely.
After a few photos I decided that I wasn’t sure if I liked the green leaf. So I moved it onto a dead brown leaf, gave it another drop of water, and blasted off another series of photos. This sort of photography is sure a lot easier when the critter stands still…
All together I took 37 photos. Editing was easy…a couple of tweaks to the contrast and some cropping using Photoshop Elements 8.0.
I’m having trouble deciding which photo I like best though. I love the portrait on the green leaf with its tongue hanging out; but the side view on the dead leaf looks more natural—I often find these moths crawling around on the ground in leaf litter. Plus that picture clearly shows the moth drinking from a drop of water.
What do you think—which photo do you prefer? I realize that this might be a rhetorical question considering that this is my first post and there is a chance that nobody will ever read it! But…if you’re here, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus E-620 digital SLR
Lens: Zuiko 35mm macro
Settings: manual exposure (F16 @ 1/125 sec)
Lighting: Olympus RF-11 ring flash (TTL)