When I Come Around: Hover Fly Edition

syrphid fly on leaf positioned for flight

Many insects that do not immediately flee the specter of the camera, like this hover fly, will turn their backs to it, preparing for flight from potential danger.

One of the best “tools” that you can have to photograph insects is patience. They are not models that take instruction, and while you can entice them with “treats,” they still aren’t necessarily going to line up right where you want. One of the more common yet frustrating and patience-testing behaviors that I encounter is on approach of a subject, the insect will turn its back to my camera. Naturally, they want to be able to fly or scurry away, so in the end I understand, but in the moment, when that perfect shot is just about lined up and the bug turns, it can be exasperating. In some cases the insect will even fly off, only to return to the same spot and start the shutter-release bug dance all over again.

In the case of this hover fly, we were pretty much at a standoff from the beginning. Usually, as in this case, I try to get a shot, even if it is not perfectly framed or as highly-magnified as I would like (see below), and then I attempt to move closer and around to a better angle. If possible I will try to only move the camera and my head and arms, leaving my lower body still; slow and steady movement is of course requisite. Environmental conditions ranging from lighting, wind, substrate and/or surroundings of the subject (e.g. the plant or structure it is resting on) as well as substrate and/or surroundings of the photographer (e.g. what kind of foothold, what you’re stepping in, etc.) often determines how you can move. The shot above was the best I could do in positioning myself; I didn’t quite make it all the way around to a parallel facing position, but fairly close in the end. The shot below is closer to where I started. I only got a handful of shots total before the fly flew which sometimes is better for the photographer’s sanity than a long stream of near-hits.

syrphid fly on leaf positioned for flight

The dance begins here with the fly having turned its back. The wider angle shows where the camera starts; working it around to a better perspective is the challenge.



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