In a 2013 article published by American Entomologist, a trio of authors contemplated the importance of macro photography in documenting biodiversity. In their abstract, they summarize: "Digital macrophotography holds potential as a valuable tool for observational studies and experiments in entomology and ecology.” They continue by describing the benefits of digital macro photography to the scientific community, writing that "Creating a digital collection promotes accuracy of identification, facilitates researchers' familiarity with the insects (especially undergraduates learning to identify insects), minimizes specimen collection, and allows outreach to the local community."
As a conservation photographer, I couldn't agree more. Macro photography is a way for people to connect with the world around them, and the small (and often-forgotten) species that make up the ecosystems that we all know and love. It provides a way to slow down, look closer and appreciate the details in these little microcosms that make up life as we know it. The amount of biodiversity at this scale never ceases to amaze me, and I never seem to visit the same place twice when looking through a macro lens. Even if you aren’t a photographer, keep a hand-lens with you so you can stop and enjoy the details in nature anywhere you go!
Photo 1: Wondrous Woodlouse: An isopod crustacean (also known as a woodlouse, roly poly or pill-bug) explores the depths of a thick mat of moss on the surface of a forest floor. About as wide as a pencil's eraser, isopods are crucial to soil ecosystem health — recycling dead organic matter back into the soil, and absorbing heavy metals.
Photo 2: Apothecia Array: Upon closer inspection, a tree trunk in the Appalachian Mountains reveals a world of color, shapes and organisms that exist right beneath our noses. Lichens such asthis green foliose lichen with brown apothecia (reproductive structures) can be found on every continent! With around 20,000 species worldwide, these ecological underdogs play some very important roles in ecology, cultures, medicine and more.
Photo 3: Water Drop Worlds: A spider the size of a grain of sea salt rests beneath a dew-kissed web that’s stilted between tiny blades of grass beside a lake.
Photo 4: Jumping Spider: A male green magnolia jumping spider explores the underside of an oak leaf in a forest.
Photo 5: A Tiny Forest: A backlit forest of Cladonia lichens grows on a thick mat of moss in Western North Carolina. Lichens are very important (yet often overlooked) organisms with a plethora of benefits — from carbon sequestration to anti-cancer properties in some species.