Bug Shot Delaware June 8 – 11, 2017

Several years ago I became aware of this specialty workshop that is all about photographing insects. It is run by three entomologists who are also fantastic photographers: John Abbott, Alex Wild and Piotr Naskrecki. Last year I went to Austin, TX for the workshop and learned several new approaches to insect photography, and especially learned about using flash in different ways to photograph small subjects, both in the field and in the studio. I even got to bring back a free, home made studio “white box” that provides even illumination for flash. The instructors are all extremely knowledgeable and approachable about insects and photography and will work with you to help you accomplish your goals.

This year, with Bug Shot practically in my neighborhood (2 hours away) at the St. Jones Reserve near Dover, Delaware, it was too close not to go. The workshop includes dinner the first day, three meals Friday and Saturday, and breakfast and boxed lunch on Sunday. Participants ranged from young adults accompanied by parents to retirees, with many professional or academic entomologists in the enthusiastic group. Some folks stayed on site, but had to bring bedding; others stayed at nearby hotels.

This year’s specialty was horseshoe crabs and the workshop was arranged to encompass the full moon and tides when the crabs come up on the beach. While horseshoe crabs are common in this area, Delaware Bay is a hotspot, to much of the country horseshoe crabs are a novelty. This is not typical and the usual focus is on terrestrial or aquatic insects. There were two night sessions and a day session at Ted Harvey Beach to shoot the crabs, but the beach area was available at any time.

One of the more helpful aspects of the workshop is that interesting specimens are kept in the meeting room/studio in a temporary “zoo” for participants to practice their studio techniques on. The June bug, Bess Beetle and trogid (hide) beetle were made in the white box with two flashes. I am also increasingly using Piotr’s approach of getting close-up with a wide angle lens with extension tubes. The lighter lens is easy to hand hold and the depth of field allows me to keep the focus without needing a tripod, something that I can no longer do with a telephoto.

The only negative about the workshop was the low abundance and diversity of insects at this time and location, for no apparent reason. Last year in Austin, there was tremendous diversity, including both male and female 6 inch long dobson flies. If you have any interest in nature macro photography or insects, I highly recommend this workshop. It travels across the country in successive years from west coast, to mid-country to the east.

BugShot participants at Ted Harvey Beach ready for horseshoe crabs.

Horseshoe crabs at night, Ted Harvey Beach, Dover, DE. 14 mm Rokinon, light painting with a flash light.

Horseshoe Crab, Ted Harvey Beach, Dover, DE,. 14 mm Rokinon. Light painting with a flashlight.

BugShot Delaware, St. Jones Preserve. 200 micro with 1.4X tele-extender.

June beetle taken at BugShot Delaware held at the St. Jones Reserve and Ted Harvey Beach using the white box.

Bess beetle, St. Jones Reserve, Dover, DE.

Hide Beetle, St. Jones Reserve, Dover, DE.

Location Review: Tacquan Glen Nature Preserve

What attracted me to Tacquan Glen nature preserve was that it was new to me and it was fairly close. Only about an hour (45 miles) away in Lancaster County, PA and worth a visit to find out more.

After a rainy night, the morning was clear and sunny and it was a very pleasant ride north on Dulaney Valley Road (MD-165) going opposite of the morning traffic. Although it wasn’t in my GPS, Google Maps was able to find it, and my GPS did find Tacquan Glen Family Campground, which is about a half mile before the preserve on River Road. Once you turn on River Road, the Preserve is about 3 miles with parking on the right and the primary trails about 75 yards further on the left. There was a well-marked parking area on the right that could probably accommodate about a dozen cars and some additional parking at the main trail head. There were numerous signs that you cannot park on the road — go find a different nature preserve if the parking area is full. No sanitary facilities.

Despite previous rainfall, the eddies and cascades were not impressive although there was a small cascade just upstream of where the creek ran under the road. This area, and the rock formation, could be accessed by a small path to the right of parking lot after clambering over some rocks. I did not take the time to fully explore the area, but its proximity to Baltimore is an advantage if you have only a half a day and want to explore someplace new and peaceful. On a Friday, I saw only one other visitor while I was there.

More information can be obtained at The Lancaster Conservancy.

Tacquan Creek

Rock formation near Tacquan Creek