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Details Unseen The Hidden Secrets of Bugs

Blount Scholars Nature Photography Course

This class is intended to show students how to use a digital camera to photograph everything from insects to elephants. The techniques the students learned in this class are transferable beyond nature to product photography and other genres.

By the end of the course, the students will be able to create publishable quality photographs for use in biological research as well as creative/artistic applications. The course focuses on using digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, DSLR-related equipment, field and studio techniques, post-processing, and photographic workflow.

Stacking Images

The stacking technique used in this class involves creating between 50 to 100 images that are stacked on top of one another displaying the intricate detail of an insect.

Students positioned the insect in the field of view of a camera attached to a movable rail. This technique is one of the most difficult to master in macro photography.

Zoe inspecting a bee under the microscopic camera
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the class was cut short which resulted in the students having only one day to perfect the photography technique.

Let's meet the students and their photos

Common Name: Leaf Beetle

Scientific Name: Chrysomelidae

Eryn Cade

  • Class Status: Senior
  • Major: Dance
  • Hometown: Fairfield, AL

Why this Specimen?

Personally, my specimen was very reflective and vibrant. It reminded me of my own personality.

Common Name: Glasswing Butterfly

Scientific Name: Greta sp.

Mary Elizabeth Miller

  • Class Status: Junior
  • Major: Biology (pre-med) and Dance
  • Hometown: Donalsonville, GA

Why this Specimen?

Before looking at the bugs, I thought I would be very indecisive. The minute she opened up the box, though, my eye immediately went to the glasswing butterfly. I was so fascinated by the clear, yet iridescent, wings that I knew I wanted to capture it up close.

Common Name: Carolina Mantis

Scientific Name: Stagmomantis carolina

Keerthana Manjo

  • Class: Junior
  • Major: English
  • Hometown: Memphis, TN

Why this Specimen?

I was drawn to my bug because he had a really charismatic and photogenic face. In my final photo, I wanted to capture the playful and fun nature of the mantis!

Common Name: Bumelia Borer

Scientific Name: Plinthocoelium suaveolens

Isabel Herrick

  • Class: Senior (Class of 2021)
  • Major: Computer Science
  • Hometown: Dunwoody, GA

Why this Specimen?

His colors are what drew me in first; the orange legs are a beautiful contrast to the iridescent blue body. After that though, the incredible details on his head are what really solidified my choice.

Common Name: Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle

Scientific Name: Cicindela sexgutata

Christopher Logan Goulart

  • Class: Junior
  • Major: History and Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Hometown: Enterprise, AL

Why this Specimen?

For my bug, I always liked beetles. The brilliant colors of the tiger beetle caught my eye almost immediately. The tiger beetle has an interesting face and side profile that I wanted to capture as well.

Common Name: Orchard Mason Bee

Scientific Name: Osmia sp.

Sarah Osucha

  • Class: Sophomore
  • Major: Biology (pre-med) and Dance
  • Hometown: Knoxville, TN

Why this Specimen?

I chose this bug because he was a fun blue color that stood out to me amongst the other options. Additionally, I really liked his eye and chose to use that as a focal point in this image. I utilized a pink background to make the color of the bug stand out and I really enjoy the contrast of the colors in the outcome. I challenged myself with the small size of the bug, but I really love how the final image turned out.

Common Name: Blue Morpho

Scientific Name: Morpho sp.

Diana Etain

  • Class: Graduated
  • Major: English
  • Hometown: Gadsden, AL

Why this Specimen?

Butterflies have always been my favorite insect due to the vibrant color of their wings.

Common Name: Orchid Bee

Scientific Name: Exaerete smaragdina

Zoe Baker

  • Class: Junior
  • Major: Electrical Engineering
  • Hometown: Orland Park, IL

Why this Insect?

I was really intrigued by the fly's iridescence. I thought its bright blue color would really pop on a contrasting background.

Common Name: Bee-like Robber Fly

Scientific Name: Laphria macquarti

Zoe Baker

  • Class: Junior
  • Major: Electrical Engineering
  • Hometown: Orland Park, IL

Why this Specimen?

I thought there was something very anthropomorphic about the bee's face. The placement of the hairs almost reminds me of an old wise man with a beard.

Common Name: Sunset Moth

Scientific Name: Chrysiridia sp.

Elizabeth Batts

  • Class: Junior
  • Major: Marine Science, Physics, and Biology
  • Hometown: Kingsport, TN

Why this Specimen?

Butterflies are a common bug, but seen at this scale they become unfamiliar. The scales of the butterfly's wing surprised me and I want to share this view with others. Additionally, the bright colors of the scales create a lovely natural mosaic.

The students were required to learn advanced techniques of photography, while also learning proper handling techniques for museum specimens in one single day. UA classes transitioned to remote learning the week after Spring Break, resulting in the work shown here being their last official in-person class.

Bama Bug Fest 2020

Bama Bug Fest: On the Web

Bama Bug Fest is crawling your way in July 2020! This virtual, all-things-bug event has a little something for all ages and will take place every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from July 7 to July 25. Though we are social distancing this year, we're not missing out on any of the bug fun! Take part in interactive video elements; watch interviews with experts; learn how to draw insect characters; join in bug-themed storytelling, and much, much more.

This year’s Bama Bug Fest will be live streaming on Facebook and YouTube, four times a day (10 AM, 2 PM, 4 PM, and 7 PM), with segments for different age groups and interests, ending each day with a wrap up and Q&A for the public. Additional pre-recorded videos will be posted and shared by the University of Alabama Museums and The Tuscaloosa Public Library on their social media platforms.

Content will include:

  • Actor Justice Leak (Hellgrammite from The CW's Supergirl)
  • A Build a Bug Workshop
  • School Yard Roots
  • Family-friendly bug-related stand-up comedy
  • DC Comics artist Sarah Leuver
  • Spider-man (Andrew McLean)
  • Black Widow Cosplayer (Andrea Towers)
  • fashion bugs TO DYE FOR (Dr. Marcy Koontz, Associate Professor and Curator of The Fashion Archive with The College of Human Environmental Sciences)
  • Baking Chocolate Chirp Cookies with Arthropod Apothecary
  • World-renowned science educator Dr. Sebastian A. Echeverri

Click here for the Bama Bug Fest website!

Be sure to use the #BamaBugFest for all sorts of updates throughout the month of July!

Tuscaloosa Public Library