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My personal best photographs of 2012

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Since I’m asking everyone else to pony up a selection of their best science & nature photos of the year, I figure it’s only fair I participate. Here are 10 images I consider my personal favorites of the last 12 months.

Plectroctena & prey (Uganda)

This image made the cut because it is a cleanly-executed studio shot that illustrates natural behavior in spite of the artificial situation. The ant was collected dragging the paralyzed millipede back to her nest, yet she continued to pose for me with her catch. Plus, I like shiny things.


Synoeca social wasp emptying water from her nest (Brazil).

Speaking of shiny, macro photos of water droplets never get old.


Tenodera mantis (Illinois)

I arranged this image as a student exercise in creating impact via simplicity during a photography lesson. Zing! It had more impact than I anticipated.


A questing dog tick, Dermacentor variablis

A simple, well-lit shot that illustrates a tick’s natural host-hunting behavior.


Tetramorium pulcherrimum (Uganda)

This image required nothing special in terms of technique. Some photographs shine just for the charisma of the subject. What’s not to like about a fuzzy teddy bear ant?


Dorylus soldier ant (Uganda).

Photographing driver ants up-close without getting mauled is an accomplishment in itself.


Tetragonisca angustula stingless bees (Brazil).

I used to keep a hive of this honey-producing species when I lived in Paraguay many years ago, and I photographed Tetragonisca during a Brazilian trip partly for sentimentality. This particular photograph required a morning’s effort.


Myrmecologist Flavia Esteves digs a trench to collect soil-dwelling ants in Uganda.

Photographs of scientists make great complements to images of their study subjects. I spent several days hunting ant scientists at work at California Academy of Science’s Ant Course in Uganda this summer, and this shot of Brazilian myrmecologist Flavia Esteves is one of my favorites.


Fruiting bodies of Dictyostelium discoideum, a social amoeba.

I don’t often veer to non-insect subjects, but when I do the change is fun. I blogged about this laboratory slime mold session in an earlier post.


Messor pergandei, reflected (California).

My usual milieu is ants-on-white. After consistent pressure from my myrmecological peers that taxonomically-informative hairs aren’t visible enough against a light backdrop, I set myself up the challenge of creating a perfect black background. I’ve got a post on how I made this image coming in the next week; stay tuned!

Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is an Illinois-based entomologist who studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books, and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. bccnp1 9:25 am 12/31/2012

    What amazing photos.
    Thanks for sharing your creativity and talent.
    Those are just awesome.
    Nature and science rock.
    Happy New Year to all.

    2012 was dedicated to Bucky a little deer my grandkids fell in love with.
    Bucky’s Journey part 1
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR7l_iWvnx4

    Bucky’s Journey part 2
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOjDUZD16f8

    Boxing deer and dog
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp9kTQeN4ec

    Link to this
  2. 2. ErnestPayne 12:28 pm 12/31/2012

    Wow!This is enough to get me to bring out my digital camera and learn how to use the newfangled contraption (my daughter took all my non digital cameras and lenses and put them in her camera museum).

    Link to this

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