Buggin with Bridgey – November 2021

Buggin with Bridgey is a Monthly report of sightings from the Let’s Go Buggin Photography Tour in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.  As the months roll by, subtle changes in the seasons bring sightings of new creatures and this report aims to give people a wrap up of the current animals seen as well as provide an ongoing citizen science account of our wonderful critters that can be seen in the tropical north of Queensland.

Creating Disco Bugs

Creating Disco Bugs Collage Head On Photo Festival Exhibition

November was a bit of a change in routine for Aussie Macro Photos.  I paused the Let’s Go Buggin Tours in Cairns to focus on my Disco Bugs Exhibition in Sydney as part of the Head On Photo Festival. So I thought It was probably appropriate to have my blog focus on creating Disco Bugs this month.

Media around the event started to ramp up in October with The Weekend Australian approaching me for an interview in their Heart of the Nation feature.  You can see an online version here.

Creating Disco Bugs was born out of the urge to come up with an artistic style that I could call my own.   I wanted to take my photography to another level and do something unique and stylistic that could also be commercial.  I had a vague idea of the aesthetic I wanted to create, but I knew that I wanted to incorporate some interesting colours.   It wasn’t until I started to experiment with a variety of lighting techniques and backgrounds that my artistic direction was conceived.

One day, this tiny juvenile Giant Rainforest Mantis (Hierodula majuscula), only 15mm, took up residence in my yard on the grass that was left to grow almost a metre tall.  Once I spotted the adorable creature,  I thought it was a brilliant opportunity to fine-tune the techniques and tools that I was using to create the visual concept I was pursuing.

In fact, this image was the exact micro-second that I realised the artistic vision.  The Mantis posed perfectly on the right part of the flower, at the right distance from my camera and the background to create the bokeh, the sun was at the right colour temperature and I had my camera settings and flash at the appropriate levels.   All the many individual elements came together at the right time and this was the result.  You could say I had a visual epiphany!

Testing Alt Text BG

 ‘Champagne Mantis’ is available for made-to-order prints and as part of my Greeting Card Collection.

Actually, it took four hours over two days with this mantis to formulate the exact combination of elements required to create this look.  Truth be told, I fell in love with this tiny creature over those two days.  It was just the most fantastic model you have ever seen!  I would put my finger in front of it, and it would voluntarily walk on top like a pet parrot…and I would then move it onto a flower and it looked at the camera.  Once I was done with that flower, I would raise my finger, and again, like a well-trained pet, it moved back onto my finger and allowed me to reposition it on another flower…it was the most endearing experience! It showed no sign of being disturbed, so I continued the photoshoot trying to get that perfect shot with different lights and distances between my camera, the mantis and the background.   I literally have hundreds of photos of this individual while I was perfecting the settings and combinations to get this look.  Once I formulated the technique for the Disco Bugs aesthetic…I put this individual back on the grasses where I found it, and thanked it for being instrumental in creating Disco Bugs.

Now that I had the winning formula to create this look I just needed to find the models suitable to participate in the photoshoots.  Luckily I had a flatmate who didn’t mow the lawn very often, and our backyard was pretty much constantly overgrown… but hey, it attracted a lot of insect and spider life!

These images were all of creatures living in the overgrown grasses of the backyard.

 ‘Green Caterpillar’, ‘Pink Ladybird’ and ‘Blue Grasshopper’ are all available as part of my Greeting Card Collection.

Then came a time that our landlord came around to trim some of our trees in the backyard.  He went a bit overboard and created quite a pile of offcut branches.   Luckily for me, he left the offcuts to deal with, and when I looked in the deluge, I found a plethora of jumping spiders and other insects.   My empath instincts kicked in and I started to re-home the creatures around the backyard.  Whilst doing so I kept an eye out for suitable Disco Bug models to take part in a photoshoot.

All these images were the result of those sessions of animal relocation and opportunistic photo shoots.

‘Green Cytaea’, ‘Blue Cytaea’ and ‘Pink Cytaea’ are all available as part of my Greeting Card Collection.

My techniques and tools used to create the Disco Bugs Collection are portable so I took advantage of this situation by setting up a photoshoot at the hotspot in the Cairns Botanic Gardens where I regularly find Feather-Horned Beetles (see my July Blog).   I knew that they would be great subjects for this project and also great models having had extensive experience photographing them for two years.

Featherhorn Beetle in Disco Bugs Photograph

 ‘Champagne Featherhorn’ is available for made-to-order prints and as part of my Greeting Card Collection.

One of my favorite tropical jumping spiders had taken up residence in a lime tree in my friend’s backyard so I was extremely keen to include one of these beauties in my collection.   At the time, this was only my third encounter with this species, and I had limited experience with them.   I’ve since had a few encounters with them and have learned that Green Ant Hunters, aka Cosmophasis bitaeniata jumping spiders, are incredibly active, constantly flicking their abdomen up and down and quickly darting around any surface they are on, and rarely look at the camera, unlike some other jumpers.

In hind-sight I know that this resulting image is a testament to all the hard work and patience I put into this project, plus some lucky timing. The spiders pose on top of the flower, looking at the lens, in-focus and with the right exposure!  For these reasons and the fact they are my favorite tropical jumpers, this is definitely a favorite inclusion in the Disco Bugs collection.

Orange Jumping Spider with Peach Disco Bugs aesthetic photograph

 ‘Peach Cosmo’ is available for made-to-order prints and as part of my Greeting Card Collection.

I know some of you may be curious about what I use as my backgrounds to get the beautiful bokeh effect.  Well, this is part of my ’11-secret-herbs-and-spices’, and the exact recipe is something I had to learn through hours of experimentation, and therefore and I’m wanting to keep this information to myself at this stage.  I can however tell you that the look is created through a fusion of sunshine, artificial light and backgrounds.   No animals were harmed in the creation of the Disco Bugs series, and none were removed from their environment.  All Disco Bugs images, are Single Shot, No Photoshop.

Most of these images are featured as part of the Head On Photo Festival Exhibition at Bondi Beach.

Thanks so much to Moshe and the Head On team for the incredible job putting on the festival. Thanks also to the Cairns Regional Council Arts Development Fund for helping me attend the Festival.

From time to time and as the opportunity arises, I will continue to add to the Disco Bugs collection.  All images are available to purchase made-to-order prints and I have them available as Greeting Cards in my shop:

Disco Bugs Set of 12 Greeting Cards

Bridgette uses Olympus OMD EM1 ii, 60mm M.Zuiko lens and CygnusTech Diffuser.