Against the sun

Right after finding out that you should always take the lens cap off before taking a picture, the second most important lesson in photography that we usually learn is that we should not point the lens against the sun. There is a very good reason for this: the camera’s light metering system will attempt to…

Focus stacking of live subjects

I first became aware of the technology known as focus stacking in 2002 or so, when a new company called Syncroscopy came to our museum at Harvard to demonstrate its new software “Auto-Montage.” It was designed to combine several shallow-focus images taken with a video camera attached to a microscope into one, seamlessly focused photo….

How to shoot against a black background

I must admit that I have never liked photos taken at night that showed the subject, be it an insect or a person, against a pitch black background. If I am ever in a situation when a full-flash photo at night is the only option, I always try to put some light on the background…

My rainforest portrait studio

Katydids of the tribe Pterochrozini are some of the best leaf mimics that you can find in the Neotropical rainforest. Or rather the best mimics that you cannot find, as their resemblance to leaves, both green and shriveled, is so exquisite that in my 18 years of working in the Neotropics I have never found…

Wax-tail hopper

One day last year, when I was in Costa Rica’s Barbilla National Park, the manager of the park came to me and said that he had just found the strangest “mariposa nocturna.” What he showed me sitting on one of the beams of the station’s building was indeed strange, but it wasn’t a moth –…

The eventual usefulness of stuff

I admit it, I am a pack rat. Or at least it may appear so to the untrained eye. I hate throwing things away, but empty orange juice bottles can be used to make great flash diffusers; one of the dozens of loose, mismatched screws will eventually prove itself priceless by fixing my tripod head;…