A few dead insects…

I had an assignment this weekend to shoot preserved insects as if in a museum display collection. Dead bugs aren’t normally my thing, but there’s something to be said about subjects that stay put and allow me to arrange lighting without scurrying off. I pinned the insects in foam-bottomed trays and reflected the strobe off an overhead white board. More photos below.

Photo details (all): Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D

ISO 100, f5-f11, 1/40 sec, indirect strobe


  1. #1 TGIQ
    March 21, 2010


  2. #2 Tom
    March 21, 2010

    I like the colors 🙂 Are you gonna do more David Attenborough movies in the future, Alex??

  3. #3 Mikey Bustos, AntsCanada
    March 21, 2010

    Wow! I’ve always wondered if they use special chemicals to allow the insects to retain their exoskeleton pigmentation. Beautiful colours, especially those beetles!

  4. #4 Ainsley S
    March 21, 2010

    Mikey– nope! Beetles come with their own built-in high-gloss wax coating, and the most colorful ones above (blue Eupholus weevils, green Chrysina scarabs, etc) get their colors not from pigments but from nanoscale photonic crystals made of chitin. That’s why pigment-colored things like ladybugs lose their colors after death, but structurally-colored species will stay iridescent as long as the specimen lasts.

    Alex, these are gorgeous– masterful blurring-out of the labels in the Hymenoptera picture. 🙂

  5. #5 Snail
    March 22, 2010

    Those beetles, in particular, are stunning. I’ve never seen weevils quite that intensely blue before.

  6. #6 Roberto Keller
    March 22, 2010

    I really like the fact that you played with shallow depth of field to render the labels out of focus (and the foam too I guess)! Especially relevant for the Hymenoptera shot.

  7. #7 allthingsbiological
    March 22, 2010

    Perhaps it’s the teacher in me… Aside from the stunning initial appearance of the image, this clearly shows how appropriate pinning allows the collector to see the entire structure of the specimen.

    This is really stunning, Alex. Can I get a larger copy of the image for a Field Biology handout?

  8. #8 Melody
    March 23, 2010

    I have dreams about seeing things like this. Beautiful!!

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