“No man is an island, entire of itself;
everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

John Donne, 1624

No one person is entirely self-sufficient and as human beings we are all interconnected with each other and the environment in which we depend. Within the smaller context of photography, I feel particularly grateful to many photographers who have not only provided useful tips on technique and style but more importantly have also given me inspiration. I have compiled a list of some of the influential photographers that I admire.

All these photographers have mastered the essential elements of focus, composition and light. Some excel in natural light while others prefer to use flash. What they all have in common is a passion for the natural world and particularly for the insects that the land’s ecosystems depend upon.

Click on the links to be directed to the photographers’ respective sites / blogs

Piotr Naskrecki

Dr. Piotr (Peter) Naskrecki is a Polish-born entomologist, photographer and author, currently at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA.) His research focuses on the evolution of sound-producing insects, and the theory and practice of nature conservation.

I first came across Piotr’s work through his seminal book, The Smaller Majority. The book takes us on a visual journey into the remote world of organisms that, however little known, overlooked, or even reviled, are critical to the biodiversity of the tropics, and to the life of our planet. Piotr’s incredible photography and in-depth knowledge of insects is impressive. However, what I love most about the narrative is that it returns us to a child’s sense of wonder with a fully informed, deeply felt understanding of the importance of so much of the world’s smaller, teeming life.

The Smaller Majority is also the title to Piotr’s awe-inspiring blog. It showcases his pictures in an entertaining and educational manner. Piotr strives to promote appreciation and conservation of invertebrate animals – insects, arachnids, and their kin – by capturing both their beauty and roles as vital, often critically important members of the Earth’s ecosystems.


John Hallmen

John Hallmen’s photography has a refined and sophisticated quality reminiscent of the best of Swedish design. No surprise to find that he is an incredibly gifted Swedish photographer specializing in natural light and studio work. His images are always beautifully composed and lit usually with informative background information of the species, habitat and the technical considerations regarding camera settings, lenses and diffusion.

In 2014, John published a children’s book Minimonster I naruren“. He made this in collaboration with his wife, son, and Swedish biologist Lars-Åke Janzon. The Swedish title simply means ‘BUGS’ and an English translation should hopefully be available soon. On the theme of childhood and bugs, John has some wonderful images of his son holding a dragonfly that beautifully conjures up the child’s feelings of awe and wonder for the natural world. John certainly brings a unique, artistic and imaginative approach to macro.

© John Hallmen
Brown Hawker Encounter (Aeshna grandis) – Single exposure made with Sony NEX-7, Sony E 18-55 OSS + short extension tube. Natural light + diffused pop-up flash.

Brian Valentine (aka Lord V)

A major pioneer in the field of macro photography, Brian has had a big influence on many macro enthusiasts. He has a huge and loyal following on Flickr and on the Canon Digital Photography Forum is never too busy not to respond to posts and give helpful advice. Now retired, he specializes on taking virtually only macro shots, nearly all of them from his garden. Indeed, his garden must be a heaven for insects and it never ceases to amaze me how he manages to attract such a rich variety of insects.

Brian has been published in a number of magazines, has written many useful articles and tutorials, ranging from his use of a bean-pole – to flash diffusion – to cross-eye stereograms. His homemade pop can diffuser is particularly popular for those not able to afford an expensive ring flash.

© Brian Valentine
Crab Spider – Canon EOS 5D MarkII and Canon MP-E 65mm Macro

Kurt (aka orionmystery)

Kurt has his own photography workshop in Malaysia and is a master of flash photography. His blog is full of useful tips on various flash rigs and methods of diffusion. This has led him to explore and adapt some ingenious flash solutions.

While Kurt captures wonderful daylight pictures it’s fair to say that the majority of his shots are taken at night. This is not surprising bearing in mind the incredibly rich variety of nocturnal species (frogs, snakes, spiders) found in the tropics. As well as using Canon MPE 65mm and Sigma 150mm macro lenses, Kurt has experimented with the Laowa 15mm macro and produced some remarkable wide-angle environmental captures, particularly of frogs, beetles, snakes and lizards.

© Kurt (Orionmystery)
Male Long-armed Scarab (Cheirotonus peracanus) – Taken with the Laowa 15mm wide angle macro lens.

John Kimbler (aka Dalantech)

John Kimbler is a master of the left hand brace technique and his book, Extreme Macro: The Art of Patiencegives a detailed exposition of this technique. In summary, John will slowly take hold of a flower (or whatever the insect is resting on) by pinching the stem between his left index finger and thumb. He’ll then brace the lens on that same hand and focus the scene by sliding the lens. Since the flower and the lens are on the same support (his left hand) when one of them moves they both move, so it’s easy to keep everything perfectly still, giving more precise control.

His favourite subjects tend to be highly magnified and detailed portraits of bees, dragonflies and butterflies. Using flash and apertures of around f14 he is able to capture incredible detail. Indeed, looking at his close-ups of pollen-covered bees sucking nectar it’s hard to believe that the images are single captures and not focus stacked. His blog is full of helpful technical articles all wonderfully illustrated with incredibly detailed close-ups.

© John Kimbler

Thomas Shahan

Macro-photographer, illustrator and printmaker, Thomas Shahan is best known for his macro portraits of jumping spiders (Salticidae). They are all highly detailed and saturated close-up portraits with smooth backgrounds revealing no indication of the environment. His work has been featured in a variety of magazines and publications, including The National Geographic.  The equipment he uses is well within the reach of any photography enthusiast. He uses a Pentax K-x with either a vintage 28mm or 50mm prime reversed to the end of extension tubes, a manual flash unit and a home-made flash diffuser. In the rare chance that he has a highly cooperative subject, he may bust out his macro bellows for some really high magnification shots. His work proves that ingenuity, persistence, patience and artistic vision (he was trained as an artist) are far more important than expensive equipment when it comes to taking great macro photographs.

© Thomas Shahan
Habronattus americanus – Shot with Pentax K-S2 and a 55mm macro on a focusing teleconverter. Cropped a bit too.

Matt Cole

Matt Cole is a wildlife and nature photographer based in Leicestershire, UK. He enjoys photographing all forms of wildlife but has a particular passion for macro photography, predominantly of insects, but also of fungi.

Matt’s work has been published in BBC Wildlife Magazine, Outdoor Photography magazine, The Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and numerous Wildlife Trust publications, amongst others. In recent years his work has been Highly Commended in the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition and the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition. Matt is also a contributor to the ‘Meet Your Neighbours’ nature photography project created by Niall Benvie and Clay Bolt.

Matt’s blog is full of interesting and helpful articles. I particularly like his use of wide-angle lenses like the Tokina 35mm macro, Tokina 17-10mm fish eye and Laowa 15mm macro.

© Matt Cole
A newly emerged Black-Tailed Skimmer dragonfly photographed with a 35mm macro lens to show it in its natural environment

Paul Harcourt Davies

Paul Harcourt Davies is an outdoor photographer, author and passionate naturalist who has long been dubbed the ‘macromaestro’ both for the painstaking and the artistic qualities of his close-up and macro work and for the way he seeks to demystify techniques and make them accessible to all.

Originally from the mining valleys of South Wales, Paul gained an MA in natural sciences (physics) at Oxford University, then an MSc in Biomathematics in London, undertook PhD research before realizing he was on the wrong path. The call of Nature was too strong to ignore and so he cast caution to the winds and became a full-time freelance writer and photographer in 1986.

Paul has authored many books but it’s the first of a series of eBooks with Clay Bolt appearing in 2012 – Wideangle Macro: The Essential Guide, that has been the biggest influence on my own attempts at environmental captures. At present, I look forward to reading his regular articles for WildPlanet Photography Magazine.

© Paul Harcourt Davies

Paul Bertner

Paul Bertner is a photographer, traveller and adventurer from British Columbia, Canada. He graduated from the University of British Columbia with honours from the Cell Biology and Genetics program. Being surrounded by nature has led him to expand his interests into rainforest ecology, tropical systematics and zoology. He finds macrophotography immensely satisfying and helpful for capturing the beauty of his surroundings.

Paul’s blog is full of helpful advice, particularly pertinent for any photographer interested in setting-off on a rainforest expedition. His travels are wonderfully narrated as he describes personal tales that take on epic-making proportions. His passion and commitment for travelling and photography really shines through, even after all the dreadful illnesses and incredible hardships he has had to endure. The sort of experiences that would detract and stop most (including myself) only seem to urge him onto embarking and exploring new adventures while always retaining his childlike enthusiasm and wonder for the natural world.

© Paul Bertner
Bright-eyed frog (Boophis tasymena)

Gil Wizen

Gil Wizen is a naturalist with a great affection for small creatures. This naturally led him to study Biology and later to focus on Entomology (the study of insects) as his main field of research. In his website, Gill explains how since an early age he has always been fascinated by the natural world, and spent many days in the field, observing and collecting insects and small invertebrates. He started taking photographs of animals and plants when he was 14 years old, after he bought his first SLR camera – Olympus OM-2SP with a Tamron 90mm macro lens. Following 10 years of enjoying film photography, he then decided to move into digital photography and today uses mostly Canon gear.

© Gil Wizen
Antennae of the Spanish Moon Moth (Graelisia isabellae).

Andy & Helen Holt

Andy & Helen are keen amateur naturalists and conservationists living in Staffordshire, England. They have been photographing wildlife for over 10 years and since 2012 have also been making wildlife films. Although they share a love of all native British wildlife, they have a particular fondness for Kingfishers and Dragonfly’s, both of which have been the subject of film projects.

For the film Dragonfly, Andy and Helen ended up with 5 small aquariums in their conservatory, dressed to replicate a pond environment as closely as possible, using sediment and vegetation from their own pond. They then went pond dipping and ended up with nymphs representing several species that they introduced to the tanks. Many hours were spent observing the tanks with cameras at the ready, and the results are truly astonishing.

The 15 minute film about the life history of these colourful insects has won many prestigious awards and is available to view online in full HD here

© Andy & Helen Holt
Mid air copulation!  Incredible capture of mating Broad-bodied Chasers

Alex Wild

Alex Wild is a photographer and research scientist specializing in insects, especially ants, but also beetles, bees, wasps, and various other arthropods. His scientific background is in systematics, a broad field that includes the discovery, description, and classification of life and the inference of evolutionary relationships. Alex is currently Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he manages a research collection of around 2 million preserved insect specimens.

Anybody who is seriously interested in ants will love his blog, Myrmecos. The word Myrmecos derives from ancient Greek for “ant” and reflects his fascination with the earth’s most abundant social organisms. Myrmecos blog, online since 2007, is an exploration of these and other small animals.


© Alex Wild
The word Myrmecos derives from ancient Greek for “ant” and Alex’s blog and website are wonderful explorations of these and other small animals.
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