Insects and spiders magnified

We’ve all seen insects close up but have you seen anything quite like this? Pentax User speaks to Thomas Shahan about his passion for arthropods.

19/11/2010 - 10:56


Thomas Shahan
Here’s a photo of Thomas getting a shot of a Robberfly in August 2009, taken by Flickr member abikeOdyssey.

When it comes to creepy crawlies, most of us will do anything to avoid even looking at one. But once you’ve seen Thomas Shahan’s photographic collection of arthropods you’ll find it hard to look away.

Thomas Shahan, better know in the Flickr community as Opo Terser, is trying to publicise the beauty of these often unappreciated and unnoticed creatures, providing us with a glimpse into a world not seen before. Thomas’ bright, colourful images are a stark contrast to the dark, ugly connotations usually associated with these sorts of creatures which, if you look close enough, can be found everywhere you look you just have to open your eyes.

“I go searching for arthropods just about every chance I get,” explained Thomas, “Photographing them is the hard part!”

Thomas has spent several hours photographing a single spider before – numerous times. They don’t always stick around or cooperate and Thomas’ success rate is around 5-10% and when he may be taking several hundred photographs, it can be quite physically tiring. Also, knowing how to approach bugs and understanding their behaviour is vital for this high magnification macro photography.

“I only photograph live, healthy arthropods in good shape – I never harm them or restrict their movement in order to take a photograph.

“As for processing, I am very careful not to misrepresent or alter the natural beauty of the bug in any way. Aside from cropping and occasionally focus-stacking, I usually only make subtle digital adjustments to the levels, colour balance or reduce noise in the background.

“I use Photoshop to bring out the natural beauty of the subject and will never fabricate details or colours within the images or never physically alter the structure of the arthropod. I don’t want to present a false view of a bug to the public – and if I did, some of the entomologist folks I know would notice and call me out.”

Broad headed Sharpshooter Oncometopia orbona
This guy proved a bit more friendly than the others, and crawled up on my finger and let me re-locate him an a big leaf which I held up to the sky to get the blue background. Once I was done, I put him back right where I found him – on the sunflower near another Oncometopian.

Thomas usually rolls back the saturation/sharpness setting when shooting and, additionally, tends to underexpose so not to overexpose any subtle details, colours, or hairs on the bugs – he can’t afford to lose anything.

When it comes to kit, Thomas uses a Pentax K200D DSLR body and vintage primes for two reasons – they are cheap and sharp.

“I have a set of extension tubes and either a vintage Asahi Pentax Takumar 50mm f/1.4 or a Pentax Takumar 28mm f/2.8 bayonet mount prime reversed on the end of the tubes.”

For lighting, Thomas uses an old Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 3500 flashgun which is diffused by a homemade softbox crafted from a used goldfish box, duct tape, tinfoil, paper towel, and clear plastic!

For Thomas, the main reason for creating homemade kit to help capture these images, except for his enjoyment, is to get more people appreciating arthropods and all they do. As Thomas says: “Photography is an immensely powerful tool – use it for something important. Try to reveal the unappreciated and unnoticed subtleties of life. Use it to accomplish what you physically cannot.”

Go to: to see more of his great images.

Holocephala fusca Robber Fly    Adult male Paraphidippus aurantius jumping spider
These little robbers are incredibly skittish – an absolute pain (literally!) to shoot. They will hold onto their perch (usually the outer tip of leaves) no matter how hard the wind may blow – but as soon as you get anywhere near them, touch the leaf they are on (no matter how gently) they will fly right away.   Here’s a close-up of the adult male Paraphidippus aurantius jumping
spider I found with abikeOdyssey last week while out macro-shooting at Red Bud Valley Nature Preserve near Catoosa, Oklahoma. The image above is actually a crop from a focus stack of five photos taken at about 4:1 magnification with the 28mm at f/5.6 reversed on a set of extension tubes. He was a pretty active jumper with some really impressive chelicerae and front legs.
 Adult female Phidippus putnami   Habronattus Coecatus in Leaves
Here’s a shot of the anterior median and anterior lateral eyes of an
adult female Phidippus putnami. She must have just molted as she was in absolutely immaculate condition – perfectly clean eyes, no lost scales, no messed up hair and she was quite cooperative while I photographed her!
  Taken with the 50mm reversed to the bellows and is full frame. Pretty low magnification for me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to crop it (the eyes are just slightly out of focus any way). Images like this never get as many views but that doesn’t really matter.

Related Photos

George in Georgia USA

Link Posted 03/12/2010 - 21:44
My hat's off to Mr. Shahan! I also enjoy shooting insects and spiders; I think I'll adopt some of his methods. Note that he isn't using autofocus lenses; they really don't help that much. I've had good success with an inexpensive Vivitar 100mm f3.5 macro lens, on full frame it will reach half life size, with its dedicated closeup lens it will reach 1 to 1. Since this lens as an "A" position on the aperature ring it works will on my K10d. BTW, a Katz-Eye screen or equivalent is almost a must for such work.

While I use my K10d I find my LX perhaps better suited for macro work because of its off the film exposure metering and flash metering. I've had more success with flowers (they don't move!) although a little breeze spells disaster. With the LX's mirror lockup and the OFT metering I can lock up the mirror and just wait...and wait..and wait!

A right-angle finder is almost a necessity, especially for those of us getting on in years. I have one which fits both my K10d and LX and MX. It is by Pentax, and has a thumbwheel selectable 2x magnifier which is a great help. They are occasionally available second hand. If you shop for one be certain that it will fit the eyepiece; there are at least two versions.

Again, Mr Shahan has shown that moderately price kit will do the job in the hands of a dedicated shooter.

George in Georgia USA

Link Posted 03/12/2010 - 21:52
I've visited Mr Shahan's website and it is worth a look. He has some videos of spiders, and he appeared on the Today show, the premiere morning TV show here in the states. Have a look!


Link Posted 01/07/2011 - 10:47
Fantastic photos .now thats what i call macro photography ,its so interesting to see these insects close up .we really dont know what we are missing until photos like this come along .


Link Posted 03/02/2018 - 10:58


Link Posted 17/06/2019 - 03:45
Beautiful and little scary. Really sparks the imagination. Science fiction writers and movie-makers could get something out these images.


Link Posted 17/06/2019 - 09:11
Củ cải là một trong những phương thuốc tốt nhất, tự nhiên và an toàn để loại bỏ các loại mụn, giúp trị mụn tại nhà đơn giản và cực ḱ an toàn. Phần tuyệt vời nhất của củ cải trắng là nó không có bất kỳ tác dụng phụ có hại nào tới làn da của bạn. Xem hướng dẫn làm đẹp bằng củ cải trắng tại website: nhé.


Link Posted 02/11/2019 - 16:34
Đá thạch anh mang những câu chuyện về một loại đá có tính năng màu nhiệm luôn được mọi giới dụng tâm, dụng công khám phá với mong muốn t́m ra những công năng huyền bí, nhằm áp dụng những đặc tính kỳ diệu của chúng giúp ích cho cuộc sống của con người.


Link Posted 17/01/2020 - 13:34
Tác dụng của đá thạch anh có lực cảm ứng mạnh, có thể được sử dụng làm bùa hộ mệnh đặc biệt là khi làm việc vào ban đêm, hoặc khi đi vào hoặc rời khỏi một số nơi có âm khí lớn, như bệnh viện, phường, nhà bị ma ám, mộ nghĩa trang, kinh doanh đặc biệt Ở những nơi hoặc những nơi lạnh hơn, việc đeo ṿng đá thạch anh có thể ngăn chặn sự can thiệp tâm linh hoặc tăng cường trường khí của một người để nó ít bị phơi nhiễm với năng lượng tiêu cực. Treo trong xe có tác dụng tránh tà và lái xe an toàn


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Link Posted 13/03/2020 - 10:41
Thomas had invested numerous hours picturing a Spider before today. He had for us. They don’t always stick around or cooperate and Thomas’s success rate is about 5-10% and when you can get hundreds of photos you can find, it can be your own. Also, knowing how to approach bugs and understanding their behavior is essential to this high-resolution macro photo.


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