On Tuesday, I visited Maulden Woods with Richard Revels to have another go at photographing Wood Ants. Although Wood Ants are the largest type of ant found in the country, they are still very small and require some degree of skill and perseverance to photograph. I say perseverance, because the only way to photograph them, is to use a 100mm macro lens, Speedlight flashgun, and rest the equipment on a bean bag on the woodland floor. You then lay down, set the lens focus to manual, and maximum magnification (which for the Canon 100mm is 1:1),and you then have to move the lens `backwards and forwards` slightly until the image snaps into focus. When it does, you fire the shutter ! Easily said, bearing in mind that the little devils are crawling all over you and biting you at the same time ! It certainly is not the easiest or most comfortable forms of photography that I have tried !
Wood Ant confrontation
The set up. Richards set up used a Sigma 150mm macro lens and the Speedlight mounted on the hot shoe.
This is my set up. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 100m Macro lens, Speedlight 580EX flashgun on a bracket so that it is quite close to the lens. Canon connecting lead from hotshoe to flash. The equipment is resting on a bean bag. Autofocus is almost useless at this sort of magnification and manual focus works best. The trouble is the little blighters do not stay still and `pose` nicely !
Three Wood Ants attacking a Shiel Bug. It amazed me how quickly they can move a dead insect. I had to pick the Shiel Bug up and move it back five times before I was happy that I has a shot with them all in focus !
Richard set up slightly further along the path to me. He always seemed to have more Wood Ants on his `stick` than I did. When I asked him `why`? He told he had smeared some corned beef from his sandwiched very thinly on the stick and this was what was attracting them ! I tried this and it resulted on them swarming over my stick !
Because they move so fast and never stay still for long, using a tripod is totally out of the question. Resting the camera/lens/flashgun on a bean bag is by far the easiest option.
All shots taken at ISO 1000, 125th sec at F14. The flash exposure compensation on the camera set to plus two thirds of a stop.
We found a dead Shrew along the pathway. When we put it down near the Ants nest it only took a few minutes before it attracted a swarm of Wood Ants attacking it.