Tag Archives: ants

Tiny Views: A Nature & Macro Photography Workshop

Lenses were recently turned to the smallest of creatures at Mo Ranch in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. A dedicated group of eight Central Texas photographers from novice to accomplished image makers gathered for the the third Nature and Macro Workshop led by Austin natural science photographer, Brian Loflin.

Stick insectA walking stick or stick insect of the family Phasmatodea appears as if by magic from camouflage among a grouping of wildflowers. Close focusing lenses and dedicated lighting makes this possible.

The photographers endured three days of classroom work and photography in the macro lab and field capturing a diverse cross section of natural subjects — all much smaller than the proverbial “breadbox.”

The workshop features the tools, techniques, processes and procedures for capturing high quality images of our smallest natural world via digital camera. It includes: The equipment for nature photography; Understanding and perfecting digital exposure; How to make pictures extremely close; Lighting with off camera flash; Focus stacking; Wide angle close up-images; High key, white box and black box photography and much more.

Some of the student’s images from the workshop include:

Details found on a prairie coneflower, Mark Laussade.Macro workshop Macro workshop-2
A tarantula with reflection and Fire ant- Don Simpson.DBS-Peekaboo Terantula DBS - Fire Ant 2
Praying mantis and unidentified bee (possibly a mason bee)-Doug Farrell.

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A whimsical nature assembly and coneflower detail- Cathey Roberts.

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Participants have high praise for Brian’s workshops and instruction, stating, “Thanks to Brian for the extensive preparation that he did for our workshop. He has expansive knowledge and photographic expertise. On top of that, he is a very capable communicator and teacher who shows much interest in his students. He goes above and beyond what you would expect in order to make the learning experience worthwhile and memorable. Our workshop was first rate!”

Brian Loflin is a veteran nature photographer, author and teacher. His multi-day workshops include Nature and Macro Photography, Bird Photography in South Texas and Flash Photography. Classroom instruction includes Nature, Macro, Flash, Photoshop for Digital Photographers, Photoshop Lightroom and Composition & Light. He has authored photographed and published several books on natural science with his wife, Shirley, including the award-winning Grasses of the Texas Hill Country, and Texas Cacti. Another book featuring Texas wildflowers is in current production.

Copyright © 2015 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved. Images copyright by their respective makers.

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Ants in detail

It’s often hard to visualize the tiny anatomical structures on these small creatures. With proper tools and techniques, exceptionally good detail may be revealed, even on the smallest of ants, if a photographer diligently practices an often overlooked,  non-technical skill — patience.

Ants are small indeed, and fast. At macro magnifications it’s difficult and often impossible to chase living specimens with a lens and to expect a quality outcome. Like experienced wild game hunters, it’s best to let the subject come to the lens. To chase the insects, you must try to hit a moving target with a moving camera and that procedure introduces unwanted image degradation into the equation.

In the image below, this Acrobat ant (Crematogaster sp.) was reproduced at a sensor magnification of  2.0X with the use of a macro lens on a bellows. A 105 mm macro lens was selected to provide excellent resolution and adequate working distance between the subject and the front of the lens. This procedure precludes shadows of the lens barrel on the subject area and allows sufficient room for electronic flash.

My method is to isolate several ant subjects on a small mound of clean pebbles surrounded by a moat of water as illustrated in the bottom image below. If assembled carefully, the ants will remain within a small area. That confining stage can be set up in a petri dish or other suitable shallow dish. The pebbles may be contained in a bottle cap or something similar. The trick is to bring the level of the water to the lip of the cap so the ants don’t run all over the place and off the gravel mound.

After a while you can notice the ants establish a trail and may follow each other around and over the pebbles. The trick now is to select a preferred spot, pre-focus and wait. Shoot the picture with a suitable shutter speed of 1/150 to 1/250 second and with electronic flash providing some motion-stopping assistance and acceptable depth of field. This procedure requires considerable patience and persistence to achieve good results. Don’t worry if your first attempts contain only the south end of north-bound ants, or worse, just a leg or antennae. Stick with it. Good results will follow.

So when you become frustrated, remember Brian’s 7-P rule of nature photography: Prior planning, patience and persistence pays in prime performance!

Nikon D2Xs, PB-4 bellows on tripod with 105 mm F 4.0 Macro lens, SB-800 flash and diffuser.

© Copyright 2011 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Leafcutter ants

Leafcutter ants (Atta sp.) harvest a wide variety of leaves and store them underground in their nests.  Leafcutter ants have a  social structure that is regimented into finite divisions of labor. This worker is carrying a leaf cutting many times its own body weight back to the nest. This plant material is not for food, but is a substrate media upon which a fungus is cultivated for food for the colony. Shot in Costa Rica with Nikon F5 on Fuji Provia 100 film with 55mm F3.5 Micro Nikkor (1:1) and flash.

© Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.