Cicada mania is here! These fascinating yet freaky little creatures seem to be the topic of conversation everywhere I go, and with good reason- they have been living under our trees for the last 17 years and are in the final weeks of their lives. The last time they were here, I was 7. I remember walking through a parking lot that seemed to be covered in shells as if they were snowing. It freaked me out, and I’ve been low key dreading this summer for the last 16 years.
However, as a photographer, this opportunity is not one to be missed! Fellow member Bertha Bishop shares my creeped-out factor but was just as eager to get out and shoot them. So as a way to overcome our dread of these little bugs, we have set out to capture them in all of their eerie beauty.
Here are some tips for capturing this once-every-seventeen-years phenomenon:
1. Wear close-toed shoes and pants
Okay, so this technically doesn’t help you with photographs, but if you’re squirmy like me this tip is a MUST! I had cicadas crawling up the back of my legs while filming a few, and it freaked me out.. If my strap wasn’t around my neck, I probably would have dropped my camera! The less distraction you have around you, the more you will be able to focus on taking good photos.
2. If you have a macro lens, use it!
I was able to take a nice photo with my regular lens, but once I got my hands on a macro lens, it was on. Macro lens are different from regular lenses because they provide 1:1 magnification (read: life-size.) This allows you to get really close to the subject and focus well. I was able to get more interesting photos while maintaining a reasonable distance from the cicadas.
3. Tripods are essential
When photographing bugs, especially on a macro level, things can get a little icky. More importantly, macro photography requires a steady hand when shooting because the slightest movement can throw an image out of focus. As I was holding my camera and trying to capture the cicadas, my breathing was making it incredibly difficult to properly focus on a macro level. Even at an aperture of f/11, it is very easy for your image to be thrown out of focus if your hand is shaky. Use a tripod, or even a gorilla pod if you have it, to stabilize your camera so you can focus and get all of the little details.
4. Use a narrow aperture
I got one nice image shooting at f/2.8, but the detail and clarity was a lucky shot, and I was using a tripod. With an aperture of f/5 and below, you will be able to get more of your subject in focus. This difference will really be noticed once you have your images on the computer.
5. Find an interesting composition
Cicada photos will be a dime a dozen this summer. With everyone taking photos, make sure to set yours apart by using thoughtful composition. Bertha suggests that you incorporate the backgrounds and textures of nature- lead your audience’s eye straight to the cicada by using the tree bark lines, shoot through leaves, or pick out a mass of cicadas and focus on one certain bug.
Go outside and enjoy the bugs while they are here. If you would like to improve your bug photography make sure to come to the Sunday Funday Mohican Walk on Sunday, June 12 where there will be plenty of cicada action to capture with Tog pros eager to help!