I have a symbiotic relationship with other scientists. They let me in on their cutting-edge studies, giving me and my camera unfettered access to their charismatic little subjects. When the research is published and the science press picks up the breaking story my photos go along for the ride, sometimes garnering license fees. If the story is big enough, the photos are also positioned for the textbook market. In return, the researchers get photos that help them promote their work in talks and on laboratory web pages.
On Monday I stopped by the Illinois Natural History Survey to shoot Barry Alto’s mosquitoes. Barry has some work coming out soon about the ecological interactions between a native species (Aedes triseriatus) and an introduced species (Aedes albopictus) and needed photos of mosquito larvae. That’s a new subject for me, so I was happy to take them on.
How to get a natural-looking shot out of a lab colony? Here’s the set:
With a flash head positioned behind the beaker, the backlit leaf glows. A second flash from the front provides a bit of fill at low power. The lighting arrangement proved effective:
I used a different strategy for the introduced species, Aedes albopictus. They were thick in their rearing containers, so I just backlit the mass of pupae and larvae and took a few shots until I had one that worked.
The full session took about 500 exposures to get about 10 good images for Aedes triseriatus and about 200 more for Aedes albopictus. Digital photography has its advantages. Here is a screen capture from my RAW conversion program showing a small part of the workflow:
Technical details (close-up shots):