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Thread: Photographing Moths

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    South Devon, UK
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    11,357

    Photographing Moths

    Due to poor weather and other photographic commitments I haven't been spending much time photographing insects recently. But I am starting to find a number of moths attracted to my house windows at night; so I have been doing a bit of experimentation with them.

    Shooting directly, with flash, can sometimes work but there are usually plenty of potential problems over shooting, plus flash, onto glass and into fairly strong light; which is what is attracting the moths.

    Photographing Moths

    Another problem relates to accessibility and I find my best moth windows are tricky. I'm not over keen on going up a ladder, above thorny foliage at night then attempting to hold my camera sufficiently steady for insects which are moving around.

    However, I find that I often reach some interesting subjects by leaning from a side window and capturing them in a small insect collecting net or suitable container.

    If I don't want to photograph them immediately, I keep them in a small container (cheap insect collecting jars are widely available) in a dark cool place until I have sufficient time. A domestic refrigerator is ideal and a small twist of kitchen paper inside the jar will keep them happy overnight.

    The classic method for photographing dead specimens, for identification, is to place them on a piece of plain white paper. Graph paper is handy for making size comparisons. Doing a Custom White Balance and/or shooting Raw will help.

    Arranging suitable ambient lighting and long exposures, using a tripod etc, where necessary should prevent excessive shadows.

    Shooting live moths however, is a little more challenging and I find that they are quickly attracted to bright lighting, even when using cool bulbs, on the same set up which often works well for other insects.

    If the insect isn't moving, long exposures can work; but I have found that even when they appear to remain still the shot is often ruined by a slight twitch of their antennae or legs.

    The only option which has worked for me is to use flash; but this can result in some harsh shadows. However, placing them inside a shallow container which can be rotated and tipped to achieve the best angles can reduce this problem.

    Photographing Moths

    Some moths will happily settle onto white paper but others totally refuse to cooperate, even when they have been chilled.

    The answer for these, and to produce more pleasing natural shots, is to place some leaves and pieces of bark inside the shallow container.

    Some moths will quickly settle on suitable backgrounds but others, which have been disturbed during placement, quickly attempt to fly away.

    Covering the container, plus moth, and leaving for sufficient time to settle can help. If the moth hides underneath the 'foliage' I have found that gently turning it over often works.

    Photographing Moths

    Rosy Footman Moth on a piece of bark. Shot indoors with a tripod and flash. 1/160 F14 Iso 200 set manually. Flash output on ETTL plus a little exposure compensation to suit.

    I have found that quite a bit of flash compensation can be needed depending on the scene. For example, +1 when using flash, without extra ambient lighting, on a plain white background to -2 for pale subjects in 'natural' surroundings.

    There is quite a bit of extra information at this site. Although it was written a few years ago and the suggested camera equipment has considerably changed over those years.

    http://www.staffs-ecology.org.uk/sta...ng%20Moths.pdf

    So, I'm expecting to see some stunning moth photos from all you macro enthusiasts.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Chicago, IL, USA
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    Real Name
    Gretchen

    Re: Photographing Moths

    Ya know, I've seen moths I thought were more beautiful that some butterflys. So, I would not be adverse to photographing them. But the idea if having any bug in my refrigerator . . . . . . or handling said creature? Well, it's just going above and beyond. Although I commend your efforts and results, I'm just not going down that road with you. I hope I don't fail the Bug Macro 101 this semester because of this sentiment.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Ontario (mostly)
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    Real Name
    Bobo

    Re: Photographing Moths

    Thanks for the excellent tips Geoff.

    I find moths as fascinating as any other insect and have shot a few this summer. Normally in the daytime we can find them in hollowed out tree trunks or slightly dark areas. Once I found a whole host of them in a tree trunk, lots of caterpillars and eggs too. But light was bad and did not have a flash. Went back the next day but most were not there anymore.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    South Devon, UK
    Posts
    11,357

    Re: Photographing Moths

    Another species which I am getting on my night time windows is Lacewings (Neuroptera group). These are tricky to photograph to identification standards, when alive, because you need very close shots of exactly the right areas. And there are several almost identical species.

    When I get around to it, I will post some examples on the insects thread.

    Moths, and butterflies etc, are fine Gretchen, all totally harmless. It's the wasps that have a really mean temperament.

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