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Stories by Alex Wild

Ants and the problem of impostor mothers

In honor of Mother's day, I present a portrait of a Tennessee winnow ant with her mom.But wait! This scene is not as heart-warming as it may seem. This mother has a dark past of murder, impersonation, and trickery.To explain the story, I'll start with a perhaps oversimplified observation about ant families...

May 12, 2013 — Alex Wild

My longest blog post ever

A South American Mischocyttarus paper wasp hangs out on its characteristically long nest. The nest is made of chewed, processed plant fibers, similar to those of our temperate paper wasps but taking a much more unusual form...

May 9, 2013 — Alex Wild

With depth of field, more is not always better

In the comments, HBG_Dave makes a salient observation : I’ve always wondered why I like your photographs even though my personal theme has always been maximum sharp focus (not that I get it very often) and I tend to consider any blurring as a flaw...

April 22, 2013 — Alex Wild

Thrifty Thursday: Patterns in Nature

Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs taken with equipment costing less than $500. [iPhone 4S - $336] The best camera is the one you have with you, they say.

April 11, 2013 — Alex Wild

A Martian landscape in four billion pixels

Stop whatever you are doing now and click on this :It's a massive image composited from several days of captures by the Mars Curiosity rover. The level of detail is astounding.

March 29, 2013 — Alex Wild

Then, and Now

I started photographing insects about 10 years ago. Here's a shot from the beginning:And a congener, from this week:Aside from the obvious improvements to technology, what has changed?

March 15, 2013 — Alex Wild

Thrifty Thursday: The Ant and the Watery Lens

Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs taken with equipment costing less than $500. [iPhone 4S - $336; water droplet - free]One year ago I posted a short note describing how to turn your cell phone into a microscope using a droplet of water .I haven't used the technique much since, but this afternoon I turned on the faucet, grabbed an ant, and captured this macro shot of the insect as she rested on a backlit leaf...

March 7, 2013 — Alex Wild

A simple diffuser for Canon's MT-24EX macro flash

My standard macro kit costs several thousand dollars (camera, $1800; lens, $1000; flash, $600; various accessories, $300). Yet, most of what I consider the more unique aspects of my style are down to a mere few cents of tape, paper clips, and plastic diffusion.Consider:A homemade diffuser inserted below the flash heads makes a sizable difference...

March 4, 2013 — Alex Wild

Thrifty Thursday: The iPhone and the Grasshopper

Thrifty Thursdays feature photographs taken with equipment costing less than $500. [iPhone 4S - $336]The ubiquitous iPhone isn't designed for macro photography, but when the subject is as large as this 3-inch lubber the little camera's optics do just fine.The challenge of making this photo was not optics but lighting...

February 28, 2013 — Alex Wild

A more realistic focus-stack

Why is this beetle so crisp?The clarity results from the image being not a single photograph but a composite. I took 50 exposures at different focal depths and merged them in a file sharp enough to cut diamonds.This extra-clean look is increasingly common, and for a reason...

February 27, 2013 — Alex Wild

Most zombie ant photographs are upside down

Since we're on the topic of zombies, a public service announcement:Most zombie ant photographs are upside-down.Few insect natural history stories capture public imagination as much as "zombie ants"...

February 21, 2013 — Alex Wild

Art of the Living Dead

Swarms of army ants naturally inspire fear, of course, but to people who know ants this painting is even more terrifying.Hashime Murayama has not only drawn army ants, but undead army ants, their reanimated corpses lurching towards us in eerie procession...

February 16, 2013 — Alex Wild

The Spider Assassin

Here's a Belizean bug that doesn't look like much:I'm serious. In the field the insect looked like so little I thought it merely debris in a disorganized spider's web.

February 13, 2013 — Alex Wild
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Scientific American Unlimited

Scientific American Unlimited