Photographing Arthropods

by Adrian Thysse
December 28, 2016

Jumping Spider (Habronattus americanus) by Adrian Thysee ©

Jumping Spider (Habronattus americanus)

Since the age of 9 I have been fascinated with nature, and in my early teens, I received my first film camera and began learning to use a camera to record my interest in the natural world. Until the digital era, I was a generalist, photographing whatever caught my eye, mostly for my own purposes but occasionally finding a publication that was interested in what I photographed. Over the years, a noticeable trend emerged: with each passing year more and more images were closeup and macro and of those images a larger and larger proportion were of insects, spiders, and other bugs.

Bee fly (Family Bombyliidae) by Adrian Thysee ©

Bee fly (Family Bombyliidae)

Now being fully human (some may argue with this…), I became curious about each subject, and that meant I had to find out their names so I could begin to investigate their little lives. I began to take advantage of online groups that had expertise in the area of entomology and began submitting images.Each photograph would be identified to some degree by someone in the community, many of whom were professional entomologists. Along with the ID, there would occasionally be words of praise for the images. I began sharing by blogging about bugs and bug photography and I soon found myself part of a loose worldwide digital collective of bug photography bloggers.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)  by Adrian Thysee ©

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)

Then in 2012, an unexpected event happened. I was invited to help out at a national convention of the Entomological Society of Canada that was going to be held in Edmonton. Specifically, they wanted to help organize a macro photography competition as well as give a talk about the photography of insects. To cut a long story short, after my talk, a few people came to talk to me.  I was surprised to find I had there were entomologists who had been silently following the blog, and a few were interested in learning more about macro techniques. By 2013, I began running workshops out of my home, and this soon led to out-of-town workshops, followed by talks and presentations. Since then I have displayed at art shows and I have been published and interviewed. I still do bespoke workshops and one-on-one training from my home and on location, and I work with the Ellis Bird Farm every year to do at least two summer workshops as well as display at their annual Bug Jamboree. I am currently also a part-time instructor at MacEwan University, teaching evening courses on macro and nature photography.

Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria)  by Adrian Thysee ©

Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria)

My success is minor in the scheme of things. As a photographer, I am still only a ‘semi- professional’ and I do not earn enough to make a living. Rather I relate this to share how pursuing my passion in a photographic niche while striving to continuously improve my skills and understanding, has lead to life-enriching consequences. Besides the pleasure of deepening my connection to nature, it has widened my boundaries and brought me into contact with a lot of very interesting people.

Green Stink Bug (Chorochroa sp.)  by Adrian Thysee ©

Green Stink Bug (Chorochroa sp.)

Meadowhawk (Sympatrum sp.)  by Adrian Thysee ©

Meadowhawk (Sympatrum sp.)

In this era of digital photography and the internet, the number of images produced every year continues to grow exponentially. How can we find our own unique style or approach against the millions of photographs that are being uploaded daily? I can confidently say that there are hundreds of macro bug photographers around the world who do fantastic work, many of which produce more and ‘better’ images than I do. I share this because I sometimes I see indications that people are frustrated and dissatisfied with photography and their lack of growth or recognition. To those, I say the following: turn your camera toward your passion, toward the subjects you really care about and then persist. Take the time to learn more about the photographic craft and start sharing your work today, not with the goal of hearing praise (which can be fickle in the online world) or winning contests or making big sales, but with the aim of connecting with others that share your interests, to enter new communities (online and off) and to make new friends. For hobbyists and amateurs, photography can be fulfilling when it supports your primary passion and when you then find a means to share it. Photography is, after all, a tool, a means of expressing yourself.

Migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes)  by Adrian Thysee ©

Migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes)

Yellow-faced Bumblebee (Bombus vosnesenskii) by Adrian Thysee ©

Yellow-faced Bumblebee (Bombus vosnesenskii)

Recipe for Photographic Satisfaction: Photograph what you love. Strive to improve in technique and in vision. Take photographs daily. Connect with like-minded communities. Share your work.

Adrian Thysee photography logo


Authors Biography & Contact Information

Adrian Thysee by Yuet Chan

Adrian Thysse is a freelance photographer, instructor, and writer based in Edmonton, Alberta. He is a nature photographer who photographs everything from landscapes to flowers, but specializes in the macro photography of entomological subjects. He does commissioned work and provides photography workshops and presentations, the details of which can be found on his websites. Photo of Adrian by Yuet Chan.





Websites: Splendour Awaits (Macro) and Adrian Thysse Photography
Phone: Weekdays 9am-5pm (780) 868 2681


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