Those of us who marvel over conservation photographer Piotr Naskrecki's luscious tropical frogs, spiders and katydids received an early Christmas this morning. Naskrecki revealed on his new blog how the magic happens- at least, for some of his long lens portraits. It looks like this:

Piotr Naskrecki's Suriname forest studio showing how he balances natural light with flash.

The advantage of photographing small subjects over large ones is the ability to play God with light and composition. Wildlife photographers can't very well pick up a giraffe and store it for a more pleasing photograph in a tightly controlled setting several days later. But a katydid? The animal can be moved around, lights can be placed from every angle, and backdrops can be selected and positioned for various effects. Here, we see that Naskrecki's field studio provides diffuse illumination from a pair of strobes that- depending on the exact placement of the subject- can bathe the subject from the front, side, or back in soft light. The backdrop is natural forest, lit with sunlight, leaving the impression of an ambient, in-situ capture.

Leaf katydid (Typophyllum sp.) from Suriname. Photo by Piotr Naskrecki.

Insects allow shooters all the creative control enjoyed by studio fashion photographers while retaining the natural history intrigue of a wildlife safari. I love it. That freedom is one of the (many) reasons why I enjoy insect photography.

If you haven't seen Naskrecki's work, his galleries are worth a visit.