In Belize, this past November, most evenings (the dry evenings) the leaf cutter ants began cutting and transporting leaves an hour or two after dark. When we returned to our rooms after dinner, we had to step carefully over the parade of ants and leaves.
We ran around with flashlights and headlamps. And then we pulled out the Nikons and Canons!
Backlight with an off camera flash triggered by a very low powered (1/128 power) on camera flash did the trick.
It took two people and good communications to keep the flash pointed at the same ant that the camera was focused on – without getting the flash or the flash-holding assistant in the frame!
Some of the ants found flowers in addition to leaves!
And there was an amazing amount of teamwork going on – with the bounty being prepped by small ants as larger ants carried it down the trunk and 50 yards through the forest to the colony. The moment rain began to fall, all the leaves were dropped on the spot and the ants scurried (in an antlike, orderly manner) to cover in the colony.
We were also fascinated with stingless bees (the best kind)!
Small changes in shutter speeds and flash intensity changed the way wing motion was conveyed – and how much background color contributed to the image.
Making the background completely dark gave us a chance to see colors in the wings!
And balancing flash and ambient put the bees in an environmental context!
This whole process was way too much fun! Can’t wait to go back next year and play more!