As is the case with most of our macro photos, the inspiration behind this series came from getting outside and actively searching for subjects – you can’t always expect to come up with good ideas whilst sitting around!
We were looking for subjects in our garden in the UK when we noticed some mosquito larvae developing in a pot of stagnant water. We did a bit of research into their development and discovered that it takes about 1-2 weeks (depending on the temperature) for them to develop into the adult form that we all know and love! This was perfect, since it gave us a good amount of time to devise a set up to photograph them as they emerged.
Over the course of about 14 days, we maintained a keen eye on their development. We kept the larvae in a glass of distilled water indoors and covered it with perforated cling film – we didn’t want to suffer their bites during the night! Once the larvae had turned into pupae, we knew they were close to hatching. We soon discovered that when we saw one straighten out, we had about 5 minutes until go-time.
We transferred the mosquito into a special pot of water and made final adjustments to our setup. We were using a Canon EOS 5D with a Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens. For the lighting, we had three flash units – a macro ring light and two supplementary speedlite flashes. Additionally, we had two halogen desktop lamps to illuminate the green printed background. Working at such large magnifications meant that we needed plenty of light to keep the ISO low, the aperture small and shutter speed high.
In order to obtain a strong reflection, we had to get an extremely shallow angle with the surface of the water. An aperture of around f/16 provided a sufficient depth of field, however, this meant that we did encounter some softness in our images due to small aperture diffraction. The mosquitoes were only a couple of millimetres long so in order to get the required magnification, we zoomed the lens in to 4x (this means a 1 mm object was projected to a size of 4 mm on the camera sensor).
After a mosquito had fully emerged from its pupal case, it would rest on the surface of the water for a few minutes whilst it pumped fluid into its wings. We took as many photos as we could, but we were limited by the time it took the flashes to recharge to full power. In total the whole process took no more than 5 minutes from start to finish.
It really was an amazing transformation to observe and the project gave us genuine respect for these much-maligned little insects!
Note that no mosquitoes were harmed during the taking of these photographs!