The Sage Grouse

BugShot (part 2)

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

A hummingbird hawk moth, shot in Arezzo, Italy. (Photo by Thomas Shahan)


After BugShot (part 1), the organizers emailed me, expressing their enjoyment of  my characterization of Thomas Shahan as “gasoline in the mix.” Although no one posted comments on WyoFile, I received many private posts. People are really enjoying Shahan’s art. I hope people are going to the BugShot Flickr site showing photos from the workshop.

Your humble neophyte attended this workshop having limited macro-photography experience photographing a few dragonflies and damselflies at a range of 10-12 inches. Now I am working on photographs of insects and spiders at ranges of 1/2 to 2 inches.

Here’s a few photos I took at the Missouri workshop:


This caterpillar shot was taken at the BugShot workshop in Missouri. (Photo by RT Cox/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

When I got home, while I was still filled with noisy enthusiasm about having spent three days immersed in genius, a tiny little jumping spider (about 3/16ths of an inch) pounced onto the fabric place mat on our dining room table. Not like many who would have crushed or brushed it away, I leapt for my camera and flash. He was not cooperative. Shy he was. I would go to one side of the table and he would turn the other way, so I went to the other side only for him (or her) to do it again, over and over until he/she finally decided to face me down. Fully as big as a 3/16th inch piece of pencil lead, he defiantly stared into my macro lens, raising his front legs in a macho stance. Four eyes in front and two in the back of his head; useful I’m sure. I think my mother had eyes in the back of her head. Four eyes glared at me, never blinking against the relentless flash. Who knew that such tiny objects would display such amazing microscopic detail, displayed with endless bravery, on one’s dining room table?

RT Spider

A jumping spider discovered in The Sage Grouse's kitchen in Wyoming. (RT Cox/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

Spiders enjoy no privacy around here. Perhaps we should search the Constitution for a right to arachnid privacy. I hope, too, that flashes are not damaging, otherwise there are a lot of blinded spiders now staggering around our neighborhood.  Note the reflections of the flash in the jumping spider’s eyes.  One of the principal lessons at the Bugshot workshop was learning how to set up flash units to eliminate such reflections.  I now have new equipment and can’t wait for the next jumping spider to leap upon the dining table.

Another lesson from Thomas Strahan was his suggestion to take photos from below a spider’s plane, so that instead of the photographer looking down on the spider (as in my shot of the jumping spider), the spider is looking down or across to the camera.  He thinks it is important for the photographer to be at the same level as the subject.  See Shahan’s spiders at

Robber Fly

A Robber Fly snatches up a meal. (Photo by Thomas Shahan)

My office waiting room is now adorned with blowup prints of tiny spiders. My paralegal is making noises about an oppressive work environment, but, still giddy with her birthday bonus, her protests are just funning. Maybe. Here are some; judge for yourself.

Digital cameras have revolutionized publication of field guides and reference books.  Now they are filled with photographs instead of drawings and paintings.

Sources of more information, all soft bound and illustrated with photographs:

Kaufman, Field Guide to Insects of North America. Houghton Mifflin Publishing.  About $18.

Evans, Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America.  National Wildlife Federation.  List $20.  This is new and everyone at the workshop was raving about it.

DuBois, Dragonflies & Damselflies of the Rocky Mountains. Kollath-Stensaas Publishing.   About $19.

Dunkle, Dragonflies Through Binoculars.  Oxford Univ. Press.  List $30.

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Published on September 27, 2011

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