Over the summer I have hardly removed my macro lens from my camera. Bugs, beetles and butterflies were out in abundance. Passing any patch of long grass I could hear it humming with crickets and grasshoppers. Dragonflies and damselflies could be spotted dancing over ponds, their wings glimmering as they caught the sunlight and wildflowers contributed splashes of colour everywhere from meadows to roadside verges.
Since my usual location has been cleared for development I have had to look elsewhere to photograph insects. This year a field a short walk away from me which is usually used to graze horses has been left to turn into a wildflower meadow. The horses have been relocated (possibly due to the abundance of ragwort which is poisonous to them) and now the field is a haven for all manner of creatures. Pockets of land that are not being used for agricultural purposes or otherwise being earmarked by developers are becoming increasingly rare. Vehicles roar down the busy dual carriageway that runs parallel to the field. Over the traffic the yellow arches of McDonalds glow at the mouth of an industrial estate. Twenty years ago the industrial estate was marshland where my father and elder sister used to go birdwatching.
A public right of way runs right through the middle of the field though it is hardly, if ever, used. The majority of the tracks that weave through the waist high meadow are made by foxes. Indentations in the tall grasses reveal where they have pounced for prey. I happened across a couple of voles laying awkwardly in the depressed grass. Wasp spiders have found a little oasis here too. They build their webs low in the long grass to catch grasshoppers and crickets. Grasshoppers scattered in all directions as I trod tentatively through the field. It did not take long for the spiders to fatten up.
Most insects usually wake slightly later than mammals and birds as the temperature begins to rise, though it is always worth being out at dawn. At this time of day most insects will be lethargic and therefore easier to approach. On clear summer mornings there is also usually a sprinkling of dew which if photographed backlit will add some sparkle to your images.
Recently I have been experimenting with backlighting in my macro images. At first I used a home-made reflector made from a piece of stiff card with golden paper (crinkled to bounce the light more evenly) stuck onto it. It was quite effective but lately I have left the reflector at home to concentrate on silhouettes. Shooting backlit I feel, lends a more natural and slightly ethereal feel to images.
Filed under: Jodie Randall