There are a billion ways to get the right shot. Most of them, pros will tell you, involve taking a huge amount of pictures. Macro shots of in-flight insects are no exception — I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to take a picture of a bug flying around but it’s hard. However, what if your shot was pretty much guaranteed to be perfect exposure technically? You could take shot after shot of bees zooming around and they’d all come out perfectly-focused and framed just right. All you’d have to do is pick out the best ones.
Well, Belgian photographer Fotoopa (not his real name) has put together a seriously cool rig that does this. It’s not easy to make, but if you’re dedicated, it looks like this might be the best way on earth to capture bugs in flight.
As far as I can tell, it has a second lens that is constantly checking the in-focus spot of the actual lens, using infrared LEDs and an IR rangefinder. Just get a bug in the general area of the sweet spot and as soon as it flies into the zone, the camera will snap a picture. Because it uses IR LEDs, it even works in total darkness. He’s put together the instructions here, including the board layout and other components. Some of the results, including the above shot, are linked from his Flickr stream.
I’m not going to lie: using this rig, you can get a better shot in 10 seconds than I did after an hour and a couple hundred exposures. Still a nice shot, but if I were a robot camera whose only purpose in life was to get bees exactly in focus mere inches from my lens, I probably would have had a higher success rate.