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.