One of my favourite pastimes is going off on a macro safari. The meadows become my jungle and I hunt through the grass and flowers for any creep crawlies I can find. Over the years I’ve learnt that there’s little point in going out with the intent of capturing a specific species, because they’re bound to be somewhere else on that particular day. I always to take photographs of whatever I see that captures my interest. It’s what’s here right now, so it becomes my subject.
I hasten to mention that I know absolutely nothing about insects and spiders. I’m a photographer, not an entomologist. But I do have this enormous encyclopaedia called the internet, so I take my photos, then try and name the bugs when I get home. The fun of macro photography is that you get to see things that aren’t visible with the naked eye, and it’s that detail that never ceases to interest and amaze me.
Last weekend I went off with my camera to a local meadow which I thought might be rich pickings for a few butterflies and dragonflies. Now, what did I say about never anticipating what you’ll see? Hardly a butterfly in sight, but I did find half a dozen different grasshoppers and crickets! I’d never seen so many different species all at the same time. By chance I’d managed to go macro-hunting at exactly the right time of day, between 5 and 7pm, and they were all busy going about their business of feeding. Most of the species I recognised from earlier photo shoots, or summer walks, and they were comfortingly familiar as an everyday sight in the English countryside during the summer months.
It wasn’t until I got home, downloaded my photos and started to trawl the net in an attempt to identity one of the grasshoppers that I realised she (or he) didn’t exist. Not officially! Most grasshoppers and crickets are green, brown, a little bit of a pinky-blush, a stripe, patches of black, creamy brown – but not this crazy lady – she’s cerise pink! Isn’t she fabulous! I’d never seen anything like her before.
My internet research turned up this article from the Telegraph in 2009 in which an 11 year old boy found a rare pink grasshopper that is identical to the one I photographed. They reckon that it’s a female common green grasshopper.
I’m lucky in that I happen to have a friend who’s a conservationist, and he’s taken a copy of a couple of my photos to discuss with his colleagues who specialise in entomology. So far they believe that my pink lady in quite young, and a rare variation. I’m now waiting for further feedback from other experts. From what I can gather I’ve caused quite a stir in my friend’s office, where they’re all busy discussing my pink lady.
I must admit that it’s rather fun to have seen and photographed something unusual. There’s a mystery to be solved, and the sense of the hunt goes on: only this time it’s the hunt for answers.
If you’ve haven’t tried macro photography then give it a go, you never know what you’ll find when least expecting it. Most cameras have a macro setting, it’s the one that usually has an image of flowers on it, next to the one of the mountain. All macro means is close-up. The trick is to take into account that once you start moving in closer that any tiny wobble can shift your subject out of focus, because with macro there’s such a fine line between being in and out of focus. For this reason it’s best to take several shots of the same thing, thus hedging your bets. For any animal or insect your main point of focus needs to be the eyes. When the eyes are in focus it helps us to connect emotionally and so our subject naturally feels more alive. This will give your photo more human interest and appeal to others.
Never worry about not getting the perfect shot: photography isn’t always about technical expertise, it’s about capturing an image with wow factor.