Shawnee National Forest, Illinois
Among the insects, one lineage in particular excels in the air: Diptera, the flies. These animals have evolved a gyroscopic control system that’s faster and more efficient than the standard insect sensory system, and as a consequence the flies are the most agile fliers on our planet. Their numbers include some spectacularly maneuverable aerial predators such as the fly pictured here, hanging from a leaf to consume its prey.
Photographing these subjects posed two problems. First, flies are highly visual creatures, easily spooked by a camera flash, so I often got only one attempt at any individual fly. I’d take a shot, then have to hunt down another fly, and then another one, and so on.
Second, the resting position of the flies meant that the fly was often shaded by the overhanging leaf. With the flash units mounted on the camera, positioned above the subject, the leaf received the full glare of the flash while the fly sat underexposed on the bottom. Like so:
To get the photo at the top of this post, I hand-held a flash head behind the subject (a delicate maneuver so as not to spook the sensitive animals) so that the flash would diffuse through the leaf rather than bounce full back at the camera.
photo details: Canon EOS 7D camera
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens
ISO 100, f/13, 1/250sec