Sunday Spinelessness – Playing favourites

By David Winter 08/05/2011

As long as I’ve lived in Dunedin, the Otago Museum has a run an annual wildlife photography competition. I never entered a photo, because I go through exactly the same process every year. I look back through a years worth of photos and start picking out some that I like, ending up with a list of about ten, which then needs to be whittled down to two entrants. I agonize over the whittling process for about five minutes, then reason that there’s no chance of me winning anyway so forget about it. There really is no chance of me winning, but some of the better photos get included in an exhibition, and it would be a thrill to have the spineless properly represented. So, this year I’m going to ‘crowd source’ the whittling process. Here are some photos that I like, at the bottom of the post there is a poll – vote for your favourite and help me decide which ones to enter!

First off, a couple of photos from my run-in with a wasp nest.

The only good wasp?


One from my trip to Vancouver and Portland

Another angle

And finally a couple form Christmas in Vanuatu (I sound like some sort of globe trotter with all these exotic locations – I was very lucky in 2010)
Hadda beetle

Crab spider

And the poll (by the way, does anyone know a nicer way of putting a poll into a blog, keeping in mind about half of the people reading this blog do so at sciblogs, the other half at blogspot):

Which Photo should I enter?

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0 Responses to “Sunday Spinelessness – Playing favourites”

  • Ok, from my perspective the best shot of the 5 is the Hadda beetle. If you would like some of my reasoning-

    The problem with the first shot is the lighting. The backlight has underexposed the wasp, it would be more interesting to have focused on the spider and shown its behaviour. The backlight has also dulled the wasp wasp down.

    I liked ‘Emergence’, this would be my second pick. But you’ve got hot spots appearing on the face and the defocused foreground is a slight distraction.

    The butterfly looks cool- the angle is unsual and fun. But the bokeh of the background is a ugly and distracting (sorry).

    I like the beetle, the flow of the leaf vein draws the eye to it. The background is complementary. The exposure looks nice & the hot-spots aren’t harsh.

    The lighting on the crab spider works less well. The opithosoma is a tad too dark and the narrow DOF/lighting has caused a loss of detail on the head region.

    Hope this helps- it’s always a pain selecting photos for contests.

  • Thanks Brendan, it helps a lot!

    I shouldn’t blame my gear, and real photographers can get great result from point and shoot cameras, but I do find the lack of control my camera gives me frustrating at times.

    If I had the cash a DSLR would be close to the top of the list of things for me to buy, but because I’m addicted to macro I’d need a lens worth more than the price of most “body + lens” kit (not to mention a flash unit) so it would be a big expense.

    Which all sounds a bit defensive 🙂 Thanks for the help and the advice, it’s appreciated

  • I chose the Hadda bettle, too, for what it’s worth. Similar thoughts to Brendon. (One slight twitch I still have is if it’d work as well in a larger format as Emergence.) The lighting issues reminded of the ring flashes I’d seen on some Nikon units years ago (as a kid!)

  • Well, a good photographers can get superb compositions with almost any cameras, but macro is something that really pushes the envelope on the technology. Lack of manual controls on compacts are a pain for macro.

    Of course, the first trick is being able to find the creepy-crawlies, so you’ve got that nailed 🙂

    The nice thing about macro photography is you don’t need the top DSLR (albeit I like a good OVF and flash controls- but high fps or superb high ISO performance isn’t required). But yeah, the actual macro lens and specialised flash (a ringflash makes a lot of difference) will blow up your budget. My lenses and flashes cost a lot more than my camera bodies.

  • Grant- it’s that leaf vein that does it for me.

    Me too, exactly what I thought. (The DOF plays it out nicely, too.) My mentioning the format it’s presenting in is just that some images that look ‘iconic’ in smaller format can look a bit featureless in (much) larger format IMHO. A problem here is I have no idea of the size they’re being presented in!

  • Hadda beetle #1 (because of the composition – the vein draws you in) & the ’emergence’ is a close 2nd for me because I like its quirkiness 🙂

  • Hadda here too, for the colours and shine, no biological or photographic reasons. So can we know your preference yet?

  • Jill, for anyone reading this thread, is my Mum, so I better provide an answer…

    It ended up being close to a three-way tie between the emerging wasp, the butterfly and the beetle so I got all three printed. In the prints, the burnt out white in the foreground of emerging wasp photo was just too distracting so I left that one out and when for the butterfly and the beetle.

    Went to the museum this afternoon to drop them off and there were three others doing the same, so it seems like there will be plenty of competition.