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Thrifty Thursday: Through the Lens, Backwards

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

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Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs taken with equipment costing less than $500.

[iPhone 4S: $300 ; Canon EF 35mm f/2, reversed: $320 ]

This week’s Thrifty Thursday features a wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) I found frozen in snow this afternoon on my porch. Wheel bugs are predatory insects common in southeastern North America. The species presents a dramatic profile, so I wanted a photograph that isolates and accentuates its characteristic form.

Silhouettes require attention to backdrop. After some experimentation I discovered that a computer monitor set to dull red was just the thing.

Being Thrifty Thursday, I limited the exposure itself to a cell phone camera and a spare 35mm lens. When reversed, with the camera shooting through the front of the lens at a subject placed at the back, the lens acts as a magnifier. The image above is just an iPhone snap through the backwards lens, rotated and cropped in photoshop.

The setup looked like so:

Adding prices, you’ll see I cheated and went over the usual $500 threshold for Thrifty Thursday. But the reversed lens technique can be done cheaply. Any moderately wide lens, including inexpensive film era lenses of the sort available at garage sales, will do.

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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