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Then, and Now

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I started photographing insects about 10 years ago. Here’s a shot from the beginning:

Odontomachus haematodus trap-jaw ant (2002, Nikon Coolpix 995)

And a congener, from this week:

Odontomachus rixosus trap-jaw ant (2013, Canon 7D)

Aside from the obvious improvements to technology, what has changed? I’d say my two biggest improvements come from an obsession with simplifying composition so the background doesn’t compete with the subject, and from my lowered angles, which elevate subjects to prominence.

Someone remind me to photograph a trap-jaw ant again in 2023. I predict it’ll be an ant with a jetpack.

[note: I explain the photographic technique behind the ant-on-black in an earlier post.]

Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he 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. Sean McCann 12:44 pm 03/15/2013

    Great work with some challenging subjects!

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  2. 2. TheHymenopteran 11:33 pm 03/15/2013

    Thank you for these sorts of posts Alex. It helps us Entomologists-in-training-that-also-aspire-to-become-great-photographers! I suppose we are a relatively smallish group, but you cater to our needs very well! Cheers.

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  3. 3. DerekHauffe 11:16 pm 03/25/2013

    I first read the advice about shooting from a lower point of view when reading about photographing children. The point was that it was a less condescending point of view. When I started taking pictures of animals, I figured it still made sense. Great insight!

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  4. 4. DerekHauffe 11:17 pm 03/25/2013

    Maybe “condescending” was the wrong word—”patronizing” might be better.

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