Back in 2008, I was in Costa Rica working on what would become Canopy in the Clouds and one night while sitting around the dinner table with my collaborators, Greg Goldsmith and Colin Witherill, we got talking about how to showcase all of the crazy bugs we were finding. After a long discussion, we ended up deciding to try shooting them on white or black background, isolated from their environments and thereby emphasizing their crazy shapes, colors, and forms. This was in no way a new or original idea, but something we decided to do on the spur of the moment in the field.
The next day during a rainstorm, I spent the afternoon figuring out how to build the setup and eventually came up with a very makeshift studio that was based around a piece of white poster board with a bunch of flashes set up around me with a diffuser. Not very convenient but it seemed to work. For the next few weeks and during our next field season in early 2009, we would spend all day in the field doing our normal field work and whenever we would see an interesting bug, we would grab it and stick it in a plastic bag to take back to the house to shoot in my little makeshift studio. There were a couple very memorable nights when we were up shooting well past midnight trying to get through everything we had caught that day. I vividly remember Greg, who was acting as “bug wrangler” chasing a moth all around our little living room as it kept flying away whenever we tried to photograph it.
The project was a lot of fun and we ended up with a couple cool galleries of images that are now available on our site. However, our technique was pretty primitive and the results were decent but not spectacular. In 2009, a couple of photographers, Clay Bolt and Niall Benvie, founded an international collaborative project called Meet Your Neighbours. The basic idea was to create a set protocol for shooting local species in a white field studio and get photographers from all around the world to participate. This would highlight the biodiversity of local communities and work towards “reconnecting people with the wildlife on their own doorsteps.” It is a really amazing project with a bunch of very talented photographers participating. As part of Filming Florida, not only will I be participating in Meet Your Neighbours, but I will be publishing a new species every single day. This means that in the three years of the project, I’ll be posting well over 1,000 species from all across Florida. It is a monumental and daunting task but it should be a ton of fun and a great learning experience. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I work on perfecting my own techniques for this process!