Tricks of the Trade

Myrmecos

Category archives for Tricks of the Trade

Planning the perfect shot

Aphaenogaster woodland ants disperse a bloodroot seed. This image materialized in my head a couple months before I actually set it up. My photographs fall into two categories: incidental shots I happen upon by chance, and premeditated images mapped out in advance. There’s not much to say about the first type. I wander about in…

What is ISO?

You’ve seen the ISO button on your camera. What does it do, and why does it matter? ISO- an abbreviation for International Organization for Standardization- refers to a standard measure of the sensitivity of film or digital sensors to incoming light. The higher the ISO rating, the more sensitive the sensor and the less light…

Polistes dominula, the European Paper Wasp captured with an iPhone As an insect guy, the first question I ask about any camera is: Can I shoot bugs with it? To my great disappointment, the answer for most cell phones is no. Cell phone cameras are normally fixed to focus at distances useful for party pictures…

As winter doesn’t have much insect activity, it’s the season I use to work on my equipment.  Yesterday I tried out a new arrangement to diffuse the heads on my mt-24ex twin flash when the heads are mounted on long, moveable arms. Here’s a time-lapse video showing the construction, plus a short clip of the…

Plectroctena, on white

Every now and again someone asks how I get the white background on these sorts of stylized ant shots. Pretty simple: it’s a sheet of cheap white printer paper. Overexposing the shot slightly by boosting the flash evens out the white. I set the ant down on the paper under a petri dish or a…

A reader asks: I also have a MP-E lens with the MT-24EX flash unit. I was curious to know something I didn’t see you mention in your recent blog post about this setup. Could you share any technical points regarding how you achieve the visible backgrounds with that lens? In general, I get very nice…

Online Copyright Registration

A couple years back I posted a short bit on how to register photo copyright with the U.S. government. That turned out to be the last time I filled out a registration with pen and paper. For all subsequent submissions I’ve used the new ECO system at http://www.copyright.gov/eco. Let me disabuse you of any preconception…

CombineZP: stack your images for free

I don’t ordinarily do product endorsements on the blog, but here’s one: the image-stacking software CombineZP. I recommend it for two reasons.  First, CombineZP produces smoother, more artifact-free images than the very expensive competition.  Second, CombineZP is freeware.  Alan Hadley, a British arthropod enthusiast, wrote it in his spare time. Good.  And free.  Not much…

Photo tip: focus on the eyes

I’ve had several people ask me recently where to focus when taking insect photos.  Here’s my advice. Aim for the eyes. Compare: The second photo should be more appealing than the first.  Indeed, the first looks out of focus.  Strictly speaking, though, this isn’t true. The top photo shows a much greater percentage of the…

Career Advice

Malcom Gladwell to aspiring journalists: The issue is not writing. It’s what you write about. One of my favorite columnists is Jonathan Weil, who writes for Bloomberg. He broke the Enron story, and he broke it because he’s one of the very few mainstream journalists in America who really knows how to read a balance…