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macro photography

Whether We See It Or Not

It was late at night, and I was hunched over a plastic bowl, armed only with a long-handled, plastic spoon and a blacklight, when suddenly I was struck by an epiphany. The beauty of nature is all around us, everywhere, whether people are there to enjoy it or not. Think about birds of paradise displaying in the depths of the Papua New Guinea rainforest, or marine tube worms in some of the deepest parts of the ocean, or a fairyland of stalactites and stalagmites hidden so deep underground we may never see it. Why does this beauty exist if not for our enjoyment?

ILLG__Scorpion
Scorpions are hardly what normal people would call beautiful.
Taken with a 180mm macro, nothing special.


The bowl I was hunched over contained scorpions, and I was wrangling them into position so Cathy could photograph them. Now scorpions are hardly what anyone would call beautiful. Interesting is about as far as I would go. One of the neatest things about these ancient creatures though, is they fluoresce under ultraviolet light, and glowing scorpions do have an eerie, almost other-worldly beauty about them.

ILLG__Scorpion under uv light
Same scorpion and same rock as in the top photo only under a UV light.
180mm macro, f8, 2.5 sec, ISO 1600, +11/3.


We wanted to photograph glowing scorpions so Cathy could do well in a photo contest, and she did indeed get some great glowing portraits the first time she tried it. In the next contest everyone was shooting scorpions under UV light, so we had to come up with something better. Hence, the multiple scorpions eluding my spoon in the bowl before me. The photography was not terribly difficult once you came up with the idea and got the little beasts to stay still while you photographed them. The hard part was coming up with different ideas and concepts, such as shooting them with a rising full moon. Another problem was the fact that we were outside on a warm night in South Texas with a blacklight, and every flying bug in the county was zooming in on that light. We had bugs in our hair, bugs crawling down our shirts, it was quite possibly the longest 45 minutes I’ve ever spent while engaged in nature photography.

ILLG__two scorpions under uv light
It looks like there is interaction going on, but the scorpions were put together with my spoon,
and they ignored each other. 180mm macro, f11, .6 sec, ISO 1600, -1.


Scorpions have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and humans have been aware of them as long as we’ve existed. And yet, the beauty that was glowing before us was totally invisible to us until the invention of the ultraviolet light. Why do these pointy arthropods even glow at all, and if the world was created for us, why was this beauty hidden from us for so long?

ILLG__three scorpions under uv light
Another artificial situation created by my spoon. 180mm macro, f13, .6 sec, ISO 1600, -1.

There is only one explanation for this phenomenon. Beauty is important to the Creator, to God. Perhaps it is the most important thing. And that’s one of the reasons nature photographers are blessed. We spend our lives in pursuit of this beauty, whether it’s in our own backyards or in some far corner of the world. And more importantly, we go out of our way to share this beauty with others. We are rarely content with only capturing the obvious. We want to photograph landscapes and behaviors that no one else has seen or even knows the existence of. We squeeze through cracks in the Earth, trudge across ice flows, peer into the infinity of space and the invisible world of the unimaginably small. Our pursuit of this beauty knows no bounds or limits.

ILLG__scorpion and full moon
Scorpion under UV light with full moon rising. 180mm macro, f9, .6 sec, ISO 800, -2.

Another important inference we can make from these observations is that God is apparently quite fond of nature photographers. I can think of no other explanation for glowing scorpions, for beauty being anywhere and everywhere, enticing us into locations and situations that enrich both our lives and our souls.

ILLG__scorpion and full moon
Scorpion under UV light with rising full moon. 28-135mm @ 135mm, f5.6, 1/4 sec, ISO 400, -1.