Part of writing is learning how to catch snippets of unexpected delight. By putting a macro-lens on my phone, I discovered the delightful fuzziness of insects. It's an investment (around $200 for the lens and case) but much cheaper than a specialty camera and lens set. If you want to experiment with phone-macrophotography, you can all try this simple rubber band lens set up. I got surprisingly good results for just $15!
From left to right: A photo of pearl milkweed, a small green flower with five petals and a metallic center. A photo of stiff-stem flax, an orange flower with a red center, and prominent stamens. A photo of bristle mallow, an orange flower with five petals that almost look wet. All photos by Paige Welsh. Ask before reuse.
At first, I just photographed flowers, because they didn't move or buzz. Then I got braver and moved onto insects. I was living in Texas when I started insect macro-photography. The heat and humidity foster an amazing diversity of bugs! By the end of my time in Texas, I figured out how to carefully pick up butterflies in my hands and have them stay. The trick is to go slowly on a cold morning when they're already sluggish.
From left to right: A close-up of the wing of a Tawny Emporer butterfly. The wing has the texture of wood grain and a line of blue dots amongst the brown. A photo of Reakirt's blue butterfly perched on a shriveled flower. The butterfly is a bluish-grey. A photo of a checkered skipper butterfly. Wings open, the butterfly has a fuzzy blue abdomen and black and white checkered wings. Photos: Paige Welsh. Ask before reuse.
I'm aware that these aren't the most daring compositions. After all, macro-photography is my strictly-for-fun art form. It's just nice to spend the day outside and then come home to ID the insects. It becomes a bit like a treasure hunt scrolling through ID websites.
Macro-photography also led me to see "ugly" bugs differently. It's easy to say a butterfly is beautiful, but what about a beetle? a moth? Something that may sting? My focus began to be aggregating a diversity of insects rather than just what is conventionally beautiful. And that's when things got interesting. I began to witness dramas!
Above: Video of a black and orange jumping spider that clutches a freshly killed grasshopper. Video: Paige Welsh. Ask before reuse.
If you regularly go out to take photos you'll start to see rare species and unexpected interactions. What's more, almost all bugs are fuzzy once you get on their level. Here are few more of my favorites.
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Paige Welsh's creative work has been published in Narrative Magazine, Bear Review, and Gigantic Sequins. You can find her book reviews in The Los Angeles Review of Books and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. When she's not writing, she likes to garden with her partner Chris, and their cat, Biscuits. You can follow her on Twitter @MarkthatPaige.