Picking your patch

May 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of the questions I am most often asked by people viewing my macro images is “where do you find these things?”. The answer to that is simple… most places you look! Insects and the like have acclimatized to and infiltrated our everyday life to an extraordinary extent. We cross paths with them every day, but most people are simply oblivious to their presence.

So does this mean that most macro shooters simply shoot around the house? Not at all! While a few may have the required habitats in their yards to support an abundant variety of insect life, most of us are forced to go looking if we want to find an area that offers a good range of bio-diversity in a concentrated area. It’s this bio-diversity that helps keep interest levels high and provides a wide range of subject matter.

When I first started shooting macro, my biggest concern was simply finding enough interesting subjects to shoot. I tried several nearby locations that looked promising, but none offered more than the odd subject here and there. It wasn’t until after several of these frustrating outings that I finally came across an area that was literally crawling with life in all shapes and sizes. It has been my staple shooting area for the last couple of years and I am still finding new species to shoot.

Recently, I had cause to look back and think about why this area is so much more productive than others areas I have tried. Below is a list of attributes that I have come up with that I now look for when picking new areas to shoot

1) The presence of permanent water, both still and running
        It’s a simple and well known fact that water attracts life. A mixture of running and still water provides both feeding and breeding areas for insects.

2) Diverse flora
        A lot of insects will limit their existence to a single species of flora, be it a plant, tree or other. The larger the range of flora in the area, the larger the range of potential subjects!

3) Low human interaction
        While many insect species are happy to co-exist with us, most prefer to do their own thing. Finding an out of the way spot provides a greater chance of finding the more solitary or wary species.

4) Dense vegetation
        A lot of insects spend their lives hiding from potential predators, so the denser the vegetation in an area, the more hiding spots that are available which in turn can encourage larger populations into the area.

5) Abundant food and housing sources
        Linked with points 1 and 2 above. An area with more food sources will usually be home to more insects. In conjunction with this, the correct types of habitat for housing these insects is required if the insects are to become regular visitors. In this sense, it pays to know the habits of your subjects as they can help identify likely areas of habitation.

I’m sure there are numerous other traits that make an area good for macro photography, so please feel free to respond with any thoughts on the subject!

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