Disclaimer—these are not great photos!
A few days ago I posted this little quip as my status on Facebook: “Cool! Found a Retrachydes thoracicus thoracicus on the sidewalk outside my hotel!” I chuckled a little as I posted it, knowing that only a select few who read it would know what the heck I was talking about (of course, a right click to select “Search with Google” reveals the answer instantly). Of course, it is a species of longhorned beetle (family Cerambycidae) that apparently is found commonly in South America. I wanted to take some photographs of the beetle to show those who didn’t do the Google search just what it looked like. Unfortunately, the beetle was already somewhat moribund when I found it, and no matter how much I coaxed and prodded it on the stick I placed it on, it just looked… well, dumb. Legs out of position, antennae hanging limply, and the beetle itself laying prostrate on the branch, as if it barely had the strength to hang on (which actually was the case). Shame—it sure is an attractive species, with its densely pubescent and transversely gibbous pronotum (obviously the source of its name) and striking orange-banded antennae. C’est la vie!
Lately I’ve been trying to get a better handle on choosing backgrounds when I photograph insects, no longer content with the often busy and distracting backgrounds that show up in photographs taken completely in situ. It’s often a simple matter to hold the object on which the insect is sitting in front of something that gives the desired background effect, and having this perfectly calm yet strikingly attractive beetle to work with seemed to invite experimentation. I’m also trying to get a better feel for how to use higher ISO settings to make it easier to get these various “non-black” backgrounds while still using flash to get acceptable depth of field with the subject itself. Below are four of the better shots that came out of the session (yes—sadly, these are the “better” ones). I’m loathe to go below 1/160 sec exposure because of motion blur and would like to keep aperture settings quite small, so fairly high ISO settings are required to get the background effects I’m looking for. I think I’ve learned that ISO 1000 is about as high as I can go before the background gets unacceptably noisy—at small sizes the photos look fine, but open them up larger size and you’ll see what I mean. Anyway, ignoring the composition and noise issues, which background do you like best?
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012