Shutter Bugs

By Noppadol Paothong | June 30, 2010
From Missouri Conservationist: Jul 2010

When people think of insects, they too often imagine creepy bugs crawling on their legs or scarylooking spiders hiding in the attic. These are creatures with serious public relations problems. However, insects are really interesting if you pay attention. Get to know where they come from, what they eat, how they adapt to the environment and survive their daily lives, and you’ll likely be fascinated. For me, they are one of the most interesting life forms in the world.

As a child growing up in a big city, insects were among the first things that made me go outdoors and appreciate nature. Later, they were one of the first subjects I used to practice my photography skills.

Every summer I couldn’t wait to get out of the city and spend my vacation at my grandmother’s house in the countryside. One cool summer evening, my friend and I were playing a game in the field when a large, emerald-colored beetle caught our eye. I later learned that it was a jewel beetle, or Buprestid. We were fascinated by its beautiful color and weirdlooking body parts. It was something I’d never seen before.

After that, I began to explore the beetle’s habitat and learned how this species lived and what it ate. My interest in nature grew. When I went outside, I paid closer attention to the world around me—to the sounds, colors and any small creatures crawling about. Sometimes, after a rainy night, my friend and I would light a candle to see what kind of insects we could lure. (Oftentimes we got more than we bargained for, such as mosquitoes.) Out in the tall grass field, we would compete to see who could catch the weirdest-looking bug. Though many years ago, the memory of those times is still vivid in my mind.

I still enjoy watching and photographing insects. It’s fun to explore new ways to photograph them. Because they are tiny, a small change of perspective can make a totally different image. When I photograph insects, I often sit low and start searching on the ground level. I move slowly. When I find the one I want to photograph, I try various angles to see what shows the most interesting side. I also use a macro lens, which offers a good close-up. It is usually easier to approach them in early morning. When it is still cool, with morning dew on leaves and grasses, they tend to stay still until they dry out their bodies, and this makes the photography less challenging.

If you have a yard, park or conservation area nearby, you likely have a variety of insects living within the area, and they are easy to find. With time and patience, you can get close enough to photograph them. Also, because insects are not too difficult to approach, they offer unique opportunities for kids to explore nature. Searching for bugs can be a fun individual or family activity. A popular game is trying to find and identify the most unusual insect. This simple outdoor adventure might even create the sort of lasting memory and changed perspective for your family that it did for me.

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This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler