About the Beasties

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Traditional Scottish Prayer

I have been a photographer since some fool gave me my first camera, and my favorite subjects are animals. I prefer “journalistic” photography — I choose not to move or pose my subjects (except for adoptable rescue dogs) and allow them to remain undisturbed. I do not pick them up, relocate them (unless they are in a dangerous-for-them place, or climbing up my arm) or otherwise alter their environment. They are kind enough to pause for a moment to let me snap a photo; the least I can do is stay the hell out of their way. (This sometimes means my photos are less than optimally staged and lit. I understand that, and I enjoy the challenges that come with dealing with that.)

I started by photographing captive animals at a wildlife park, then moved on to horses, rescue animals, guests at a certain large and magical theme park, and then dogs at a doggie daycare. I no longer work at those places, but I can’t stop myself from taking photos!

Most of my dog photography these days is either pets, friends’ pets, or adoptable animals at rescues, primarily Hound Haven, in Clermont, FL.

I find insects everywhere; disconcertingly all around my house, but also in zoos, local parks, the parking lots of restaurants, and sitting on the hood of my car. I actually often end up taking iPhone photographs of bugs because that is the only camera I have on hand when I am surprised by one!

About the Equipment

Canon EOS M3 mirrorless camera with 22mm f2.0 lens.
Image source: www.canonwatch.com

I use a variety of different cameras, including the iPhone 12’s built-in potato, and a GoPro for underwater photography, but my first favorite for cheap insect photography is an old Canon EOS M3 mirrorless, with a 22mm lens and, when possible, a Raynox 250 macro filter. I love this because it’s small — you can tuck it in a pocket — and it’s very versatile. Of course, any camera can take macro photos with some settings-jiggling, slightly different lenses, extension tubes or even just filters, especially if you just want to play around.

Canon EOS 5D mk IV and 100mm f2.8 L IS USM lens.
Image source: canon.com

I have recently discovered the unspeakable joy of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens on a Canon 5D Mark IV. This is a much larger rig to carry around, but the 100mm macro lens works like a normal DLSR lens for portraits and distant subjects (and those terrifying bitey insects like horseflies and wheel bugs) and, with the flip of a switch, also produces images even more up close than what I’m getting with the M3 and the Raynox adapter.

Throwing the Raynox on this thing destroys your depth of field and makes a tripod pretty much mandatory, but it also gives you the ability to see individual pores on 1/4″ long baby grasshoppers, and possibly divine the future. Also, having the DSLR shutter reaction (the mirrorless, like all low-budget point and shoots, has that weird shutter lag) allows me to get closeups of fast-moving things like flies!

Canon MT-26EX-RT twin macro flash, EOS 5D mk IV and 100mm macro lens.
Image source: canon.com

If you have all the money, adding a Canon MT-26EX-RT macro flash unit to my rig is one of the best things I have ever done. Suddenly I can capture fast-moving things (this flash syncs almost as fast as my shutter can go!) and can keep my aperture up to f/18 or f/22 without having to do horrible things to my ISO.

Actually, if you have all the money, at the moment I’m using the Canon R5, an excellent mid-range mirrorless DSLR, and its equivalent RF 100mm macro lens. The Raynox and the twin macro flash both work on this camera as well. I love what the new mirrorless cameras can do, especially in the follow-a-target-with-focus department, but, honestly, almost any camera will get you some awesome bug photos. This gear is just what I use and like.

About the Photographer

I have been a writer, a behaviorist, a zookeeper, a bone cleaner, a graphic designer, a programmer, a gobo designer, an office manager and a chimney sweep, but animals have always been my favorite things. It’s like a TV channel with endless programming.


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