Regina Maria Williams, a novice photographer, recounts what she learned during a summer of shooting insects and honing her technique.

 

Be prepared

Photographers tell me there’s always a moment you missed, the photo that could have been. But having your camera along reduces the chance of missing something special. For me, I remember seeing a hawk midflight. I was driving down Hwy. 62, heading home after completing my errands for the day. There seemed to be a red-tailed hawk on every other light pole. As I exited to pick up a few dinner items from the grocer, I spied a hawk with its mind on supper as well. I pulled into a nearby parking lot. Luckily, I had my Lumix with the 100-300 lens. The Bird was right there. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. The sky was perfectly overcast. The camera was light enough for me to hold steady and stick with my subject as it switched poles and swooped for food. I didn’t get the photo I wanted but I got one pretty good shot. Be open to other possibilities

The Star Tribune was doing a series of articles on pollinators, bees in particular. I thought, how hard can it be to shoot a bee? So I headed to my flower garden and gave it a try. Turns out, bees move around like 4 year-olds during family photo sessions. Everyday I tried but the bees were blurry, no matter my settings. As I was chasing bees one day, a dragonfly flitted in front of me. I noticed it kept landing on the same flower. So I focused on what seemed to be the insect’s favorite spot. Here it comes. Ready, aim, focus — click, click, click. I had never seen a dragonfly this close. He tilted his head and batted his eyes. He seemed to be spitting at me. But it relaxed after a few clicks. It was fine with being my model for the day. Now I, too, could relax and enjoy myself. I took a look at my first few images, adjusted my ISO, F-Stop and shutterspeed. Voilà! My favorite picture was born. I still have not gotten a decent bee photo, but there’s always next summer.

Get the gear

Once I had my dragonfly, I wanted to shoot some more little creatures. Sure, I’ve seen lots of close-ups of bugs, but never live ones with my own eyes. I wanted to capture this experience with an image. I had to get pretty close. And the closer I got the blurrier the pictures got, and the more still the camera needed to be. A tripod or mono-pod is part of the solution, but the Macro lens was the real problem solver. The macro allowed me to get right into the dragonfly’s grill.

Know your subjects

Here is what I observed about my various subjects: Herons and cranes are active and visible before 9 a.m. and after 6:30 p.m. The hawks along the boulevard make racket at the same time everyday. And of course, dragonflies pick the same spot over and over to sun themselves. This information helps me plan my schedule and pinpoint my subjects.

 

Regina Marie Williams is a Twin Cities actor and singer. She is married to Star Tribune photographer and photo editor Tom Wallace.