Christopher Badzioch proves that it's not always the most expensive and specialized gear that makes a great photo -- it's the eye, vision, a sharpie marker, some electrical tape and a cheap homemade sweep that really matter when it comes to making amazingly detailed, dramatic insect "portraits."
Badzioch, an amateur photographer originally from Opole, Poland and currently residing in Bristol, Conn., has been sharing his unique insect shots in the PopPhoto.com Reader's Gallery and we are so impressed, we asked him to shed some light on his magical techniques. The photos in this story were all captured with basic macro lenses -- not with bellows and rails or other super-advanced specialty gear -- meaning with a little practice and patience, you too could soon be making your own dramatic insect portraits!
Getting Started: A Little Bit about Bugs
Learn a little about your subjects and their habits to know when it is best to capture photos.
Don't know what it is? Here are a few online Insect ID websites: www.insectidentification.org, www.whatsthatbug.com, www.einsteins-emporium.com/..., bugguide.net/node/view/15740 or simply search "Insect Identification" if you can't find your bug on these sites.
• Getting close is very tricky, so knowledge of the environment is crucial in insect photography. Observe your subject carefully; try to see patterns in their behavior: do the honeybees like one particular flower in your yard best? Stake one out and wait for the subject to come to you.
• There is not just one bee or fly out there. Remember, you are surrounded by millions of insects every day and if the first one you see gets away, there'll be another soon enough.
• Patience is the key. Think of insects like they are two year old kids running around without a break. But everyone, even bumblebees and toddlers eventually needs a break, so that's when to make your photos. It may only last for a few moments, so be ready.
• Most insects are very sensitive to carbon dioxide, and will run or fly away if you breathe directly on them; however, certain beetles will freeze when breathed on -- experiment!
• Early morning and twilight are the best times to make insect photos, as the cold-blooded creatures slow down when the temperature is lower.
• Insects can see shadows very well, so never approach your subject from the same direction as the light casts, or they'll scamper.
• Spring and fall, with more dramatic temperature swings are prime seasons for insects. In the late summer and fall most bees will be totally focused on gathering as much food as they can to overwinter -- meaning they'll care less about you, and more about the pollen gathering at this time.
• Learning about your local insect and invertebrate population will help you to locate as many of them in their natural habitat, and also to understand their life cycle, so doing your homework is a big part of making successful photos.
• Be careful! Many insects and spiders can be dangerous, even deadly! If you are unfamiliar with a specific bug, it's better to presume it's got powerful venom, rather than find out the hard way.