The question that I’m most often asked is what my favourite wildlife subject is to photograph. I always say that I struggle to choose and it’s true, but there is a particular group that I tend to fall back on, especially since my investment in a decent macro lens at the beginning of 2014: macro photography. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily love invertebrates any more than any of the other amazing species I have been privileged enough to photograph. I think what it comes down to is that there is incredible diversity of invertebrate species within a few feet of my back door. That’s not to say that I live in some super or exotic location (although I do love it here!), but that a lot of these tiny miracles are easily overlooked simply due to their size.
What I love about invertebrates is that you can nearly always find several species in a short space of time and within a small area. While they may not all be the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen, there are almost always reasonable photographic opportunities. I love going out to photograph larger species too, but they often involve more planning and more time. Sometimes I don’t have that luxury.
I have decided to share with you a few macro photographs that I have taken this year of these little critters. I’ll start with a familiar one – butterflies. I love the warmer months when we can see these vibrant beauties flitting about the countryside. One of the few species to hibernate in the UK is the Comma, and as such it is often one of the earliest to appear in spring. This particular individual was one of the first of the later summer brood to emerge, looking particularly fresh and new.
Similar to butterflies and far more numerous by species in Britain are the moths. I have a home-made moth trap which I leave out on dry nights to see what I can record in my garden. I haven’t had as many opportunities this summer as I would have liked but that didn’t stop me from finding this stunning Privet Hawkmoth, one of the largest in the UK with a 5 inch wingspan!
Next on my list are Hoverflies. There are quite a lot of different species and some are easier to identify than others. I never realised the variation was so great until I started looking more closely – something you can’t help but do with macro photography! You may have seen one of the more common species, the Marmalade Hoverfly, was the subject of my Image of the Month for July. I have also photographed this female Syrphus species, one of three which resemble each other very closely.
I couldn’t resist sharing one more hoverfly with you too. This one is a male Long Hoverfly, so called because of its long slender body. It is nectaring on a Wild Carrot flower.
One group that I’m not very good at identifying is the Sawflies (thanks to @RyanClarkNature for his help with these). This one is likely to be a member of the Agridae family – I’m still working on narrowing it down further!
Another group of flies, while we’re on the subject, is the Scorpion flies. The males of these strange looking little beasties have bulbous brown tail segments (you can just make it out in this picture) which curl over their back just like the sting of a Scorpion.
A little more familiar is aphid-eating Lacewing, friend of many a gardener. I find they can be tricky to photograph well, but I am pleased with the results in this picture which I have chosen as my Image of the Month for August.
There are of course a great number of beetle species to be found in Britain as well. This is one of my personal favourites, the Golden-Bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle which has a fabulous Latin name too: Agapanthia villosoviridescens. As the name suggests they have exceptionally long antennae which they wave about in an enigmatic fashion as they clamber around the undergrowth.
Finally, another familiar sight, the Common Blue Damselfly. This one is busy eating a fly that it had just caught on the wing. It is true this species is widespread in the UK but the dazzling colour could hardly be described as common in my book. I am always stunned by the intensity and variety of colours in nature. We often think of such vivid colours belonging in the jungle or somewhere far more exotic but it is evident on our shores too albeit in smaller quantities!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this small selection of images. If you have any questions about macro photography tips and techniques, I’m hoping to write a post soon covering some of the most frequent things I get asked about. Do get in touch if you’ve got a question to add to the list!