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Why Eye to Eye With Nature?

“Bug portraits.” That’s my answer when people ask me what sort of photography I do.

While I get immense pleasure from taking photos of birds & frogs & many other critters (as you can see from my photos) & from observing their natural behaviors, my first love is taking bug portraits. Something that has enthralled me since 2001.

That's because photography allows me to get “Eye To Eye” with bugs, which pulls me into their world -- where I’m their size & they’re my size. Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

Macro photography allows me to better observe their behavior in the field where they’re going about their lives, and it lets me see all the amazing details that aren't visible to the naked eye. With larger critters, we can see & appreciate them without the aid of a camera. That’s not so easy with bugs.

I'm using "bugs" loosely & as an everyday term of speech. I should say insect portrait or even arthropod or invertebrate portrait, but Bug Portrait rolls off my tongue a bit more easily. if you already know insects & bugs aren’t truly interchangeable terms, you probably also already admire both & don't need to be coaxed into giving them a look.

I hope my love of & fascination with insects & our other smaller neighbors will be infectious to those who may not have even noticed them as something other than a pest or something frightening.

Let me show you how beautiful a Slug Caterpillar is or how charming a Slimy Salamander is & how those names are woefully unfair.

Maybe you've heard about the Insect Apocalypse — a dramatic decline in the number of insects in our environment. Insects & spiders & other invertebrates are a vital part of our environment & a decline in their numbers will affect the rest of us.

But I fear it's hard to see value in something most of us don't even WANT to see.

I believe getting "Eye To Eye With Nature" encourages us to see the critters around us as individuals that play a valuable role in our day-to-day lives & in our environment. I think that comes naturally to us with larger animals, while it does not come naturally to us with tiny critters.

I hope getting Eye to Eye helps people see the beauty & value in an insect or a salamander or other small critter when it's looking them in the eye at what feels like a more human-sized scale.

Shooting at that magnified scale also lets others see their wonderful colors, sparkling wings, and highly textured exoskeletons on a more intimate level than the more traditional “helicopter” view that we see in field guides. All of these creatures are important to our environment & continued existence.

What we don’t value, we don’t protect.

What we don’t see, we don’t value.

Photography was a gateway to conservation for me because it made me want to learn more about the tiny critters I was observing. Maybe it will be the same for you.

I'm counting on it being a simple calculation:

Seeing + Amazement + Learning + Appreciation = Conservation

One of the wonderful benefits to me of this photography has been the almost instant relaxation that comes when I get out in the field and far away from the stress of work, chores, and the feeling that we & our politicians are destroying both our planet and civil society.

People are often surprised when I tell them that shooting small critters is easier than it looks and that getting good photos, in my experience, is a lot more about patience than buying an expensive camera or macro lens.

In addition to patience, this is a contemplative process for me. I spend time considering the critter I'm going to photograph, observing its behavior, & thinking about how to best highlight its charms -- in hopes others will be as captivated by those charms when I share the photo as I am.

I’ll confess it helps that I love small creatures. Time seems to suspend while watching wasps or bees cleaning themselves, ants guarding planthoppers, salamanders climbing leaves to hunt, or caterpillars marching along a stem (their little feet being my main fascination). The icing on the cake for me is when I can also document them and their behavior with photographs.

Critters are photographed where I find them with no baiting or posing & while trying to leave no trace that I’ve been there. I spend a little time before I take a photograph to think about how my activity might affect -- & specifically might endanger -- the subject. If I think it will endanger the subject, I pass on taking the shot. Likewise, if critters around my intended subject will be endangered. That all adds to the challenge and also to the satisfaction when I get a good shot.

I hope you enjoy these photos, and I hope you'll take a closer look at the small critters around you. And I hope you'll share my amazement & enthusiasm for our small neighbors & will also do what you can to help conserve them & our environment. Plant native plants, cut back on the 'cides (e.g. pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides), & take a look at the ample information available on the web for other things that can be done.

In the meantime, come with me & take a look at some of these amazing critters. Maybe you’ll fall as hard for their charms as I have.

I can be reached at: eyetoeyewithnature@icloud.com

You are welcome to use my photos with credit for non-commercial purposes (e.g. educational, scientific, or non-profit organizations). Please contact me about commercial use or if you have any questions about usage or need a high-res file.

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