What is the best way to observe a species?

I have been wondering what you’re methods of observing different species are.

Lately, I have been capturing small animals (ie Moths, spiders, and etc) and taking pictures of them through a glass mason jar (with air holes poked in). Is there a better way of doing this? Also, is there a good camera that can look at the species closer (without harming them).

Also, I do end up releasing the subject after it has its photoshoot done with ;).


For bugs that I find inside the house and want to get rid of, I also trap them with a jar. I don’t have a clear enough jar that lets me shoot through it, so I usually flip the jar upside down and wait for them to sit still, then I lift up the jar. Some smaller bugs like moths might freak out and take forever to calm down, though. This is why most of the time I shoot bugs without physical contact because they’re usually more chilled that way.

I recently bought an Olympus Tough TG5, which has macro mode. It lets me take close up shots like this https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32264431

It also works well underwater https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/31217709


If you want to find/attract moths, and your living environment supports it, look into getting a black light and put a white sheet up at night and shine the black light onto it to attract them. You’ll get other interesting insects too.

If you have trees or even your fence etc, you can attract a lot with a mixture of rotten bananas, brown sugar and a beer. I’m sure there are other recipes on the web.


Hi bookworm86, I’m not sure there is a “best” way to observe–you’ll likely get different opinions from various folks. I like to challenge myself and get my photos without capturing the species. This avoids some problems (e.g. photographing through a glass jar), but creates ones too (getting a decent photo of a fast-moving insect or maybe missing the photo altogether!).

As far as cameras, there are many choices out there. A key question to ask yourself is whether you’re mainly just photographing smaller species (= a camera with good macro capabilities is obviously key), or more of a mix. Your budget is also obviously important, but there are many people here who get wonderful photos with very basic/inexpensive cameras–including the cameras that are onboard many of the phones now. There are also macro “add on” devices for phones that some people have had good luck with. Steve Ingraham writes about nature photography with consumer-level DSLRs that might be worth checking out too (https://psnp.info/psnp_/)

And if your interest is insects, I agree with cmcheatle that a night attraction setup can be an easy/fun way to bring in a variety of insects for you to photograph. If you do, definitely consider using a MV (mercury vapor) light now and then, or use both a MV and a UV (blacklight). Your experience depends a lot on your location, time of year, etc., but I never really had great luck with just the UV blacklight; adding a MV light really brought the bugs in! The trouble is that MV lights are becoming more difficult to buy; I bought mine through BioQuip (bioquip.com).


You can put an insect or spider in a jar in the refrigerator (not the freezer - that may kill it) until it is chilled. That will slow it down for a minute. For observing small things close up, Pentax Papilio binoculars are amazing. They allow you to focus as close as 18 inches. And Christmas is coming…


I have found that small transparent grip-lock bags are a good way to photograph small specimens. It almost completely stops them moving around, so you can get in very close with a camera or hand-lens to capture the fine details. This is much quicker and easier than chasing them around inside a jar, and does them no harm if you’re careful.

Another approach I’ve seen (but not yet tried), is to use two plastic pots or cups that fit inside one another. Fix a piece of soft foam to the bottom of one, and cut the bottom off other and cover it with transparent cling film. A specimen can then be dropped inside the first container, and the other one (with the foam) gently slid down on top of it to hold the specimen in place against the cling film. Apparently this works well with spiders.

Another method is to simply put the specimen in a transparent food container with a completely open top. Many insects (even ones that can readily fly) will just choose to run around inside the box and won’t be able to climb up the sides. If the sides of the box are high enough, even hopping insects can’t get out very easily. This works best if you have a compact camera which you can hold right down inside the box to get photos close up.


Depending on how cooperative the trapped insect is - try the macro in a Mason jar technique. Use the rim of the glass as a tiny tripod while photographing.


If you have access to them small clear pill bottles work great as well.


I’ll try the trick with the bags for the moths tonight ;).


Depends on which quality of photo you expect, if you want to just capture the moment enough to ID it, well, some non-DSLR cameras work quite well, I had Canon PowerShot SX30 IS and it could focus on insects that were almost touching the glass, but of course the quality wasn’t any near with what you get with DSLR, but with those cameras you need to buy macro glass, I’m gonna buy Nikkor 105.
Night is the best time to find tons of invertebrates, and most of them are not even running/flying away from you, if you want to attract insects you can buy UV lamp.

Ok, ty.

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