Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

April-Mid-May 2007

Tip of the Month


Kaufman Field Guide to

If you are a wildlife photographer that occasionally, or regularly, photographs insects you've probably been as frustrated as I have in trying to identify the subjects you've shot. This past summer, for example, I photographed a winged insect I suspected was a wasp or fly, but it was so odd-looking that I couldn't be sure, and wondered if it was really either one and not a mimic. At any rate, I got good shots but I couldn't label the insect since I had no idea what it was. This isn't an unusual occurence for me when photographing insects.

Recently I picked up a copy of Kaufman's insect field guide, and thumbing quickly through the pages I spotted the mystery insect, which indeed proved to be a species of stingless wasp, Arge humeralis, in the Order Hymenoptera that is represented by wasps, bees, and ants. Mystery solved! Finding this wasp was quite the discovery, in a cursory overview of the book, for there are over 2,350 photographic illustrations in the book, only a tiny percentage of the more than 90,000 known species in the US. However, the Kaufman guide illustrates examples of all the most common species, and as my stingless wasp so aptly showed, many of these species are neither common or represented in other books.

That's always been the real frustration of insect guides - so few species are illustrated. The Peterson Field Guide series, for example, had color plates, and black-and-white illustrations, of only a few hundred species, and my Audubon field guide on insects has photo identification plates numbering even less. While Kaufman's guide doesn't show even a fraction of all the species out there, it does show the species you're most likely to notice - 'naked eye entomology' as they call it. Those species, are similar species not illustrated, often are distinguishable only through a stereo dissecting scope or microscopic examination of genitalia - something I'm not too into.

There are other insect guides in my library that are devoted to field observation, binocular-guides if you will, to dragonflies, butterflies, and grasshoppers, but the subject matter in these is obviously limited. A lot of the insects I photograph fall outside these three conspicuous insect groups, and identification, before the Kaufman guide, was pretty hopeless.

Like Kaufman's bird and mammal field guides, the plates are Photoshop-excised images, rarely including a plant or habitat unless its a good clue for identification. Simply extracting an insect from a plant background or habitat is a monumental work, but it results in a clean page with a wealth of species on each page. The book costs $18.95, is co-written by Kenny Kaufman and Eric Eaton, is published by Houghton Mifflin (the publisher of the Peterson field guides), and the ISBN is : 0-618-15310-1.

If you're planning on photographing insects this spring, you'll find this guide as handy as your macro lens!

Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:


Framing with a Telephoto
Against a Desert Sunrise

Adobe Photoshop LIGHTROOM


 ProShow Gold
Digital Slide Program

 Workflow and Workload -
You Can Keep Ahead

 New Lens Covers for
Long Lenses

 Action Wildlife Photography Camera Settings

 Bring along a Point N Shoot

 Liquids in your Levels -
TSA Warnings!

 Effective Cloning in Adobe CS2

 The Helicon Focus Filter Revisited

 Action Wildlife Photography Camera Settings

 Keep Your Head Up
 The Best All-Around Lens

 The Pond-A Must-See shooting Location in southern Arizona

 DIGITAL- Digital Birding

 DIGITAL -Shoot for the Future

 DIGITAL-Shoot for the Future, Part II

 Capture 1's Most Useful Features

maximizing depth of field digitally

  Backing Up Your Digital Files - you'll need more than you think

 DIGITAL Photographing scenes with extreme exposure values

 NPN- Nature Photography Network - a digital forum for nature photography

 Digital Pro Image Management Software

 Watch Your Backgrounds
The potential of composites or shooting in RAW format

 A Great Website for Information - the Singapore Nature Photography Society

 Save Your Equipment from Crashing!

 The L-Bracket, the ultimate camera bumper

At the Pulse of Life
by Fritz Polking

 Carry Your Gear!

 Shooting in Inclement Weather

 Carry-on Luggage for small commuter flights

 Visual Echos Tele-Flash for the 580EX Flash

 Ask Questions
Before You Go

 Seize the Moment!

Geared Focusing Rail for Macro Work 

 Protecting your long lens from SAND, the pleasures of beach photography

 How do we protect our gear from dust, and carry our gear when on safari

 The Ultimate Flash Bracket
Padding Your Wimberley
Tripod Head

  Specular highlights and the flashing frog
 Using TTL flash with Hummingbirds  Testing your Flash's Aim
Maximum Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance - they're not the same thing!  If you see it, it's too late -- a lesson in anticipation  How do you shoot the Moon?
  Low level tripod work  A great depth of field guide  Wimberley 400 and 600mm IS plate

 Sigma's 120-300mm F2.8 APO HSM zoom lens

 Using The Wimberley Gimbal head with a camera body

 Sigma's 120-300 f2.8 APO
zoom telephoto lens

 Custom Function 4-1 for Nikon and Canon shooters

 Sighting in a very, very long lens
 The Nature Photography Network - a super website for images and information
  Take a Workshop First   Luck, what is it?  Don't take in baby wild animals

  Airline Carry-On Luggage -Let your concerns be heard!

 Disconnect -- travel precautions

Photograph America Newsletter
 Wildlife Portraiture

 Obey the Rules
The Ti Chi Stalk
Photographing Critically Endangered Sites Bushnell Night Vision Optics  Adobe Photoshop 7 for $300

 The Sibley Bird Guides

 Removing Cactus Spines

 Drying out boots with newspaper

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