Tag Archives: moths

More moths!

Aug 29th, 2013

Just over a week ago I put up a post about moth photography, looking particularly at creating white background cutout shots: http://wp.me/p3PJ2M-1f . This post concentrates on a couple of moth shots I have produced since then, exploring some more complex compositions. The first photograph below is of a beautiful little moth known as the Chinese Character {Cilix glaucoma}. This little chap is tiny at roughly one centimetre in length. All of my work with insects of this size is carried out with a very special lens that Canon make called the MP-E 65mm. It allows magnification up to x5 life size which in real terms means you can fill the frame with a grain of rice!

Chinese Character moth {Cilix glaucata}

Chinese Character moth {Cilix glaucata} – Canon MP-E 65mm, off-camera flash with diffuser, macro focussing rail

When viewing the world at high magnification, your creative options as a photographer are almost limitless. The Chinese Character moth above is resting on the petal of a clematis flower. By positioning my camera carefully, I was able to fill the background completely with another clematis petal, creating an incredibly vibrant image despite the fact that the main subject is a pale cream and grey moth. I lit the scene with a single off-camera flash with a diffuser fitted to soften the light. I also used a tripod-mounted macro focussing rail (made by Really Right Stuff) to ensure my focus was spot on.

Dusky Thorn {Ennomos fuscantaria}

Dusky Thorn moth {Ennomos fuscantaria} – Canon 100mm macro lens, tripod

My next shot (above) is of Dusky Thorn moth {Ennomos fuscantaria}. The wings of this moth look very like dead leaves, helping it to remain camouflaged throughout the day when it is at rest. As this moth is a fair bit bigger than the Chinese Character, I didn’t need the high magnification provided by the MP-E 65mm lens, so was able to use my Canon 100mm macro lens instead that offers x1 life size magnification. This lens is easier to use as it has a greater working distance (distance between front of lens and subject) so you are less likely to spook your subject. I used natural light for this shot and due to the shady conditions, this meant a shutter speed of over one second so a tripod was essential! The subtle colour palette works for me in this shot, showing off the moth’s camouflage.

Both of these images were taken in my back garden, which remains one of my most productive locations. The colourful flower bed and the messy corners of dead wood and decaying leaves provide a wealth of miniature landscapes to explore with the macro lens… and you are never too far from a cup of tea!

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde – www.alexhyde.co.uk

Moth Trapping in Surrey

Aug 20, 2013

A week ago I ran a moth light trap whilst visiting family down in Surrey. I was keen to see which species were about as July and August are prime months for moth watching.

Moth Traps

Many species of moth are attracted to light as we all know from when they visit our windows at night. Moths are particularly attracted to bulbs that emit part of the UV spectrum, with a mercury vapour (MV) bulb being a common choice for moth trapping. I use a setup known as a Robinson trap. During the night moths are attracted into the trap where they settle and can be released unharmed the following morning.

Robinson Moth Trap

A Robinson moth light trap running a mercury vapour discharge bulb in a back garden. Egg boxes provide a safe place for moths to shelter.

For me nothing beats the excitement of opening a moth trap first thing in the morning, you never know what you are going to find. This is a small selection of the species I discovered. The moths were photographed individually and then composited together in Photoshop to produce this final image.

Moth Watch

A selection of moths attracted to a Robinson moth trap, using a mercury vapour bulb. Clockwise from top left: Tree-lichen Beauty {Cryphia algae}, Small Phoenix {Ecliptopera silaceata}, Copper Underwing {Amphipyra pyramidea}, Birch Marble {Apotomis betuletana}, Lozotaeniodes formosanus, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing {Noctua fimbriata}, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing {Noctua janthe}, Black Arches {Lymantria monacha}, Nut-tree Tussock {Colocasia coryli} and Jersey Tiger Moth {Euplagia quadripunctaria}. All species photographed in mobile field studio on a white background. Surrey, UK. August. Digital composite.


On a good night a moth trap will gather hundreds of moths which can be an amazing, if not slightly overwhelming sight. I will usually photograph a selection of the more interesting species or those that fill gaps in my archive. This almost always involves photographing the moths individually on a white background. I do this outside, carefully transferring the moths onto a piece of very smooth white paper with a paintbrush. If you are careful and slow, it is possible to move the moths without damaging or disturbing them. Naturally some will fly away before you can photograph them, but that’s all part of the fun. Once in position on the paper, I light the moths with a pair of flash guns (Canon 580 EX II) either side of the moth to ensure even illumination. Critically, the flash guns are fitted with diffusers. The diffusers increase the surface area from which the light emitted, helping it to wrap round the subject and ensure hard-edged shadows are avoided. If you only have one flash gun and diffuser, a reflector can be substituted for the second flash with very similar results. See below:

Using a diffuser softens the  any shadow edges in your photograph. A reflector or a second flash will ensure the subject is lit evenly.

Using a flash diffuser softens any shadow edges in your photograph. A reflector or a second flash will also soften shadows and ensure the subject is evenly lit.

Below is a closer look at one of my favourite moths, the Black Arches. You will notice how softly lit the moth is, with the shadows under its legs barely visible.

Black Arches {Lymantria monacha}

Black Arches {Lymantria monacha} male photographed in mobile field studio on a white background. Surrey, UK. August.

The male Black Arches, as shown here, has large feathery antennae that I have tried to emphasise in the shot below. The lighting setup is exactly the same as the shot above.

Male Black Arches {Lymantria monacha}

Black Arches {Lymantria monacha} male showing feathery antennae. Photographed in mobile field studio on a white background. Surrey, UK. August.

Another species that caught my eye was a tiny moth, the Birch Marble, only about 1cm in length (see below). But why the interest in this rather bland little insect?

Birch Marble {Apotomis betuletana}

Birch Marble {Apotomis betuletana} photographed in mobile field studio on a white background. Surrey, UK. August.

As you can see below, the Birch Marble is an excellent bird-dropping mimic, brilliantly camouflaged as it sits on a leaf (it’s the one on the right!). Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have always been fascinated by examples of camouflage in nature and photograph them whenever I can. You can see more animal camouflage images in my web gallery here >>CAMOUFLAGE.

Birch Marble {Apotomis betuletana}

Birch Marble {Apotomis betuletana} (right) next to a bird dropping. This moth is an excellent bird-dropping mimic, giving it protection from predators. Surrey, UK. August.

If only there was more time, there are so many great photos to be made, but it’s important to return the moths to the safety of the undergrowth as soon as possible. Moth trapping is an excellent way to demonstrate just how much beauty and diversity there is in the insect world and I would recommend it to anyone. Alternatively, if you don’t want to make or buy a dedicated moth trap, you can always enjoy looking at moths that come to your window light at night.

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde – www.alexhyde.co.uk