Me and my camera

Taking photographs of wildlife helps you see the world through new eyes as Sue Taylor, BBOWT volunteer recorder, explains.

I love the detail that can be seen in nature, even as a child I would watch the smallest creatures transfixed by curiosity. What were they? What were they doing, and why?

Now I am the wrong side of 50 my eyes don’t allow me to see the detail unaided, but I have a secret weapon: my camera.

Most cameras have a ‘flower’ setting for close up shots but mine has a microscope setting. This allows me to capture in detail much that I couldn’t otherwise see.

Leaf hopper

Can you see the cartoon owl that lives in a field maple tree hidden in the markings of this leafhopper? (Acericerus vittifrons) just 5.5 mm. Photo by Sue Taylor

This extra detail is fascinating. It also helps me to identify and record many species without disturbing them. This is important to me as it allows me to observe behaviour, as the creatures interact with other creatures and their environment.

My camera is an OlympusTG5, this and its successor the TG6 are used by many amateur and professional entomologists as it fits easily into the pocket, is not hugely expensive and gives good results. Other makes of camera are available!

Cameras like mine are revolutionising invertebrate recording. At one time catching, killing and pinning a specimen was the only way to make a record which could be checked by others at a later date, but now for a good number of species, including many common ones, a clear photo is all that is needed. (To make a record of an organism you need to note, what it was, where, when it was seen and by whom.)

Sawfly larva eating elm leaf

A zig-zag sawfly larva munching through an elm leaf. Bad news for the elm as the sawflies have several generations in one year and it’s parthenogenic, no males needed. Photo by Sue Taylor

Modern cameras have opened up invertebrate recording to anyone with curiosity and patience. Identification resources are reflecting this trend towards photography and there are many good websites with a wealth of great photos to help you identify a huge range of invertebrates from weevils to wasps, beetles to butterflies. Take a look at Steven Falk’s Flickr site for starters. 

Next time you see an insect, take a really close look. You never know what you will find.

If you know what it is, please record it on iRecord, every record helps build a picture of what we have and where it lives. Information that is vital to help us look after our precious wildlife.

Wherever I go my camera comes too, and it has helped me discover rare and beautiful insects both on nature reserves and in my garden.

Although many of my photos are taken to help me identify what I see, others are taken to capture beauty, drama or sometimes humour, like the leafhopper at the top of this blog, which has a cartoon-like character in its camouflage.

So in these strange times I offer you a little beauty, drama and humour from the invertebrate world.

Sue Taylor
(Volunteer recorder for BBOWT, focusing on entomology)

Please remembers to look after our nature reserves when taking photographs. Stay on the marked paths and don't trample the flowers or disturb the wildlife.

White crab spider

A beautifully camouflaged white crab spider eating a housefly. Photo by Sue Taylor


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