Yesterday I finally had the chance to head off with a net to a nearby slough to collect some more pond critters to photograph. I was specifically looking for either backswimmers (family Notonectidae) or water boatmen (family Corixidae)—and of course I didn’t find any of either. That’s pretty typical; it seems like I rarely find the species I am actually searching for…but I almost always find something of interest to photograph.
At the slough there were a lot of water striders (family Gerridae) dancing around. These are predatory insects that have the interesting ability to run on the surface of water. They are common on ponds and other still bodies of water. There are about 1700 species in the family. It occurred to me that I had never taken any really good pictures of these critters…so I scooped-up a mid-sized specimen and brought it home to play with. In retrospect I probably should have caught a larger specimen to make it easier to get a real close-up photo of its face. Oh well…
The set-up and equipment I used was exactly the same as I used to photograph a water beetle two weeks ago (see Photography of a water beetle part 1). My favourite photo from this shoot is above.
The big difference between photographing the beetle and the water strider is that the latter remained on the surface of the water at all times, not under it. That provided something of a challenge as these insects adopt essentially a “spread-eagle” pose on the surface of the water. That position lends itself to a typical “ID” photograph from above—like the picture below. If you search for photos of water striders that is what you will typically find. But I wanted to take pictures that were more up-close and personal and also highlighted the way these insects stand on the water surface. That meant getting down to eye level with the insect.
It also meant a lot of patience as the water strider was very skittish and I couldn’t figure out a way to make it more comfortable. It spent a lot of time zipping around the surface of the water and would only stay still for very short periods of time. I had to wait until the insect stopped near the glass and in the right position (either facing me or to the side) and then try and get the photo before it moved again. Murphy’s First and Second Laws of Photographing Aquatic Insects (see Photography of a water beetle part 1). applied perfectly once again. It didn’t help that I was trying to take these pictures on my kitchen table, so I also had kids running back and forth and seeking my attention—usually just as I was about to press the shutter of course!
Given the shape of these insects, and the way they position themselves, depth of field was problematic. And of course I missed the focus on a lot of shots due to the animal’s movement. So I found that I rejected most of the photos I took. But eventually I managed to get the “keepers” I am sharing here. To be honest, I had some trouble deciding which photo was my favourite. I finally settled on the one at the top of the page, but the two below were also contenders. Interestingly, this photo is very similar to my favourite photo in my second blog about water beetles (see Photography of a water beetle part 2: and now for the good stuff )—but with the insect above the surface rather than below.
What do you think? Would you have chosen the same picture, or do you like one of the others more?
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus E-620 digital SLR
Lens: Zuiko 35mm macro
Settings: manual exposure (F11 @ 1/125 sec)
Lighting: on-camera flash (full power)