This photo was taken at Medard Park in Hillsborough County Florida. However these bugs are located all over.
I took this shot at 12:30 on June 18th. I mention the date as for some reason there are times of the year when more bugs are out. I usually seem to find more in the afternoon than in the morning. However, they also seem to be more active in the afternoon so it is a trade off.
Lighting is a big one. I shoot Canon and I have both of their macro flashes; however, I don't use them that much anymore. I have tried numerous flash brackets, diffusers etc. etc. What I now use the most (what I shot this with) is Canon's little 270 EX II flash with a bracket. The upside of this flash is that it is small, lightweight and more powerful than both of Canon's Macro Flashes. However, the downside is that it has a longer recycle time so it is more difficult to hand hold it and shoot a stack. For a bracket I have a magic arm and I attach it to the tripod shoe mounted to the lens. I also have a bracket that I mount it to.
I used a Canon 5D MK II, a 100mm L Series Macro Lens, a 270 EX II flash with a bracket and diffuser. The diffuser is a small SS pet food bowl with white fabric on it. This shot was taken at 1/160th of a second at f/14. I most likely bumped the aperture as I usually shoot bugs at f/11. I find that I actually start to see diffraction come into play after f/11. Not much naturally but if you look at f/8, then f/11 and f/14 you easily notice the difference between f/8 and f/14 so I just keep it in the middle. It also seems to make a difference with the lens. You don't need this setup to get a shot like this. Some of my best shots were done with a reversed lens and an adapter. As far as the 1/160th of a second that I do play with, if I feel that I can get some background in I will reduce the shutter speed.
I like taking photos of bugs as it is an adventure. You have to find them so you are constantly looking for them. Unlike landscape photography where you sit and wait for the light to get good.
I don't do a lot of post processing. I have a preset that I use in LightRoom which I fine tune and then I crop. On some images I will also use Nik Sharpening. I don't spend a lot of time on post-processing. You can only make a bug look so good. If you don't get it right in the camera there is not a lot you can do because of noise and cropping. This was a little different. There was a black and white macro contest so I tried converting some of my bug shots to black and white. Some came out really good, and well others didn't. This one came out well as did a couple of other Robber Fly photos.
In my camera bag
I have two bags, well one is really a box and it is what I use the most. It is a Stanly Fat Max tool box. It is similar to a Pelican case, in that it is plastic and it has a water tight seal (not waterproof I'm sure) it is light weight and incredibly strong. I sold my Pelican cases as for me they were overkill. In it I pack a 5D MK II, 24-105 zoom, 100mm Macro, MPE-65, 100-400 and on occasion a 24mm Tilt Shift. I also have a flash, a flash bracket and diffuser along with some ND filters. Everything is individually packed so when I get somewhere I only pull out what I need and leave the rest locked in the car. To transport what I actually take I use a lightweight nylon bag. Anyway I can go from 5:1 magnification and up to a 400mm zoom with what is in my box.
For what it is worth a couple of years ago I attended a Kurt Budliger photography workshop in Maine (great workshop by the way). Everyone had huge backpacks full of equipment and they were climbing over rocks to get to a good spot on the coast. Once they were there they pulled out a couple of filters and that was it. I packed my filters and an extra lens in my daughter’s old purple and black Jansport backpack. One person actually laughed at me but think about it, I didn’t risk dropping and breaking thousands in equipment that I wasn’t using nor I was I ever a target for a thief.
If your comeback to this is but it works great as a weight to steady my tripod - try tying a string to your tripod head and stepping on it.
My other one is actually a bag, well it is a portfolio bag I think, I have a camera divider insert in it. In it I have a Canon T3i that has been converted to 720 nm infrared . A Canon SL1. For lenses I carry the 10-18, 18-135 and a 50mm on occasion. It all weighs next to nothing and it is tons of fun. Especially the IR with the 50mm shooting simple panoramas.
I am not against camera bags or anything, I have a Tamrac Expediton 3, the 5 and the 7 along with a Domke "Little Bit Bigger" bag. I really liked the Domke bag but it doesn't work well with the 100-400 mm, the 24-105 or the tilt shift. They are all to wide. Before I had "L" Series lenses and the longest lens I had was the 70-300 it was a killer good bag. The backpacks to me now are "why take stuff that you aren't going to use".
At one time I used to put the SL1, the 10-18, the 18-135 and a 28-80 with a reverse adapter along with a 270 EX II flash and bracket in the Tamrac Expedition 3. It weighed next to nothing, but then I got the IR body and something had to give. It ended up being the flash, the 28-80 and the flash bracket. Keep in mind with the backpack if you want to change the lens you have to take it off etc. With a shoulder bag you don't have to.
I have written a little manual on how to photograph live bugs. It is free and posted on www.macroshooting.com. It is called "Three days to Better Bug Photography" In a nut shell it will tell you most of what you read online about photographing live bugs is not true. Most was written by pros that have never done it, or done it well on a consistent basis. Do not read this manual and say "Oh I know that, I'm not going to do the exercise", if you do you won't get better. You really need to do the exercises to prove these things to yourself. I assure you it is not the equipment it is you. I can get a shots like this one with an old $40 lens and a reverse adapter. Or even better is a reversed Nikon Enlarger lens, killer quality but more difficult to master. What you need to understand to do this is that you need to have absolutely, positivity no camera movement at all and the camera has to be at the perfect angle. The perfect angle is really a "Magic Angle" as DOF is virtually non-existent with increased magnification. Because of the non-existent DOF you need to manually focus and put the top, bottom, left and right plane of focus on the perfect spot. This come with practice, not from auto focus. The no camera movement comes from the flash and the line "Flash stops all camera movement" is not correct at all and I can easily prove it. For consistent good shots you really need to be at about a 1/4 or less flash power.