Holy Macro!

Russ Hayes of Sher­brooke, Que., gives us a close-up look at the hid­den and fas­ci­nat­ing world of in­sects.

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You don’t have to travel out­side of Canada to en­counter some ex­otic and un­usual- look­ing in­sects. They are right here in our own back­yards. I be­lieve that the ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans are un­aware of the hun­dreds of va­ri­eties of in­sects that are alive and thriv­ing all around them. Yes, they see com­mon flies, bees, wasps, mos­qui­toes, ants and spi­ders, but if they were to take a closer look, they would be very sur­prised by what is lurk­ing in their back­yards and gar­dens.

I pur­chased a macro lens for my camera in 2014 that al­lows me to cap­ture ex­treme close-ups of my sub­jects. Pur­chas­ing this piece of equip­ment in­stantly changed my world of pho­tog­ra­phy. It opened up a whole new per­spec­tive on in­sects, and even or­di­nary ob­jects, that sur­round us in our ev­ery­day life, but re­main rel­a­tively unseen by most eyes. Or­di­nary items such as rain­drops on a clothes­line, spi­der­webs and small feathers be­come ex­tra­or­di­nary un­der a macro lens. It takes a very steady hand, or a tri­pod, to man­u­ally fo­cus on the sub­ject with this lens. You can use auto fo­cus, but when you are ten to 20 cen­time­tres away from a sub­ject, the fo­cus area is quite ex­act­ing. As

with a hu­man sub­ject, I try to be sure that the in­sect’s eyes are pri­mar­ily in fo­cus. This gets a lit­tle tricky, as you don’t want to scare away the in­sect while get­ting closer. I don’t tend to feel fear while try­ing to cap­ture a close-up shot of a wasp, for ex­am­ple, as I am so fo­cused on get­ting the pic­ture. I also be­lieve they are mes­mer­ized by the click­ing noise of the shut­ter.

I was im­me­di­ately sur­prised and amazed at how in­sects ap­peared through my camera’s macro lens, in­clud­ing the com­mon house fly. Sure, they are generally dis­gust­ing, but are also built like some sort of su­per fly­ing ma­chine, with suc­tion pads on their feet and alien-look­ing head parts. One of my first en­coun­ters was with the crane fly. It has ex­tremely long legs and a head that some­what re­sem­bles a horse’s head, be­cause of its very long snout called a ros­trum. It also has de­fined knobs stick­ing out of the side of its body. These are called hal­teres, which con­trol the fly’s bod­ily ro­ta­tion in flight. This type of in­for­ma­tion was for­eign to me be­fore I be­gan re­search­ing var­i­ous in­sects on the In­ter­net. I was soon hooked! Ev­ery day I would scour the back­yard veg­e­ta­tion for any­thing that moved. On fre­quent walks

in the nearby woods, my camera at the ready, I would be on the look­out for in­sects. On one such walk some­thing large flew across my path. I thought it was a hum­ming bird, but it ac­tu­ally turned out be a ci­cada. Amaz­ingly, it landed on a branch a few feet away and I was able to get a shot. That was the only time in the past four years that I’ve spot­ted a ci­cada, so it pays to be pre­pared.

Our neigh­bours won­dered what I was al­ways do­ing in our yard, camera in hand, sud­denly fo­cus­ing my camera on some­thing unseen by them. I put to­gether a slide show of about 200 close-up pho­tos of var­i­ous in­sects, added a sound track and in­vited the neigh­bours over to view the 20-minute show. Ev­ery­one was amazed at the macro in­sect pho­tos. What ex­cited me most was that they did not have any idea that these in­sects were part of their ev­ery­day life, but generally went un­no­ticed.

Through spring, sum­mer and fall, ev­ery day in­tro­duces new and ex­cit­ing in­sects in var­i­ous stages of their lives. It has been four years now and I still dis­cover in­sects that I haven’t seen be­fore. Since I have be­come more tuned-in to the na­ture around me, it’s in­cred­i­ble the things I no­tice and am able to pho­to­graph.

De­vel­op­ing a keen eye has brought amaz­ing photo ops my way: the ex­cite­ment of spot­ting a monarch but­ter­fly, so rare here now; the amaz­ing colour of the blue cuckoo wasp (who knew this in­sect even ex­isted!); fas­ci­nat­ing ants tend­ing their aphid farm ( yes, they do milk the aphids); the un­be­liev­able as­sas­sin or rob­ber fly, which catches other flies and prey in-flight; nu­mer­ous colour­ful bee­tles and ladybug lar­vae; the var­i­ous fam­i­lies of spi­ders, in­clud­ing the tiny jump­ing spi­der, which is a cute lit­tle fur ball; count­less but­ter­flies and drag­on­flies—and so on!

I try to share my favourite daily pho­to­graphs on my Face­book page, as I like to in­tro­duce my friends and fam­ily to the minia­ture world around us. I be­lieve I have opened their eyes to nu­mer­ous in­sects that they were un­aware ex­isted here in Canada. Some are ben­e­fi­cial to our gar­dens while oth­ers are in­va­sive and cause a lot dam­age. Ei­ther way, I am al­ways in­trigued by pho­tograph­ing them.

In Canada, we get a respite from deal­ing with in­sects in win­ter, but they are a hardy bunch and al­ways re­turn, in one form or another, in spring. When they do, my camera and I are al­ways wait­ing! n









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