Every once and a while I stumble across a dusty forgotten folder on my hard drive, full of photos so old I don't even remember taking them. Like this 2002 shot of an Azteca adrepens ant from Paraguay:
I was terrible at photography.
I mean, I still make impressive numbers of truly bad photographs, but I know better than to show them in public.
Many of my early photographs are similar: the subject is dropped unimaginatively in the middle of the picture, not doing anything interesting, and the image is lit by blindingly bright flash. I suspect I was just happy to get something in focus.
For contrast, here is a recent capture of a related ant species:
While the second image was taken with more expensive equipment, the heavy gear is not why the second photo is more compelling. Rather, I have learned the patience to photograph the animals actively doing something, and to compose a photograph with interesting lines and intentional subject placement. Getting better at photography is not a matter of improving one's gear so much as improving one's craft.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
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 Alex Wild on Twitter