13 November 2006

Unidentified moth

Today's photo is of a moth I saw on my sliding glass door last night. It's taken from inside, so it's the underside of the moth. A good nature photographer should always identify the species of the subject, but I was unable to, even with the use of my loupe to study the moth's markings (yes, the moth allowed me to get that close from the front), and the help of the amazing BugGuide.net.

I took the photo at a focal length of 120mm (on my 70-200 zoom lens) with a +2 macro filter. Because of the difficulty focusing in macro photography, I used a tripod, an aperture of f/10 to maximize depth of field, and ISO 400. I had to underexpose by 2 stops from what my meter read, to compensate for the almost entirely black background. So that meant I ended up having to use a shutter speed of 4 seconds. I also used a black cloth (actually a black dress of mine) to cover myself and the camera (except the end of the lens) so that there would be no distracting reflection in the glass. I felt like one of those old-time photographers who covered themselves and the camera in a cloth to prevent light from contaminating the negative. Finally I cropped and touched it up in Photoshop afterwards, removing out-of-focus glares and smudges on the glass. Overall a satisfying specimen photograph. I'm going to submit it to BugGuide.net to see if any of the folks there can identify it.

6 comments:

Iambic Admonit said...

How did you get the moth to sit still long enough to do all that? :)

Rosie Perera said...

I don't know. I can't believe I was actually able to open and close the glass door several times while it was there, and go around to the top side of the moth with my loupe, completely cover the moth's body with it and examine it. At first I thought maybe it was dead, but it was gone this morning, so I guess it was just asleep. I regret not having taken a photo from the top as well, to aid in the identification. But it was non-descript greyish brown moth and I didn't find the top as interesting for a photograph.

Rosie Perera said...

This photo is up on BugGuide.net now, complete with my copyright notice which I added in Photoshop.

Rosie Perera said...

The moth came back this evening (or at least another one of the same species), and I was able to get a photo of its back. Once again it stayed still for all kinds of maneuverings on my part, but then when I tried to take a photo with a ruler taped on the other side of the glass, it finally decided enough was enough.

Rosie Perera said...

Well, it's unlikely I'll ever get an ID on that moth. There are something like 11,000 species of moths in North America, I've learned. I could spend hours poking through the Moths of Canada section of the Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility website, but I'm not going to. There's even a North American Moth Photographers Group ("a non-profit, self-help organization for the purpose of aiding nature photographers and others in the identification of moths") with a rather extensive website of photos. I had no idea there was such a community of people interested in moths. See what you can discover by taking a photograph a day?

All this talk of moths reminds me of Annie Dillard's beautiful description in Holy the Firm of a moth being consumed in a candle flame and its hollow body becoming a wick. If you ever get a chance to read it, do.

Rosie Perera said...

Well, folks, I think we've got an ID on that moth. I never thought it would be possible. But it looks like it's an adult male winter moth (Operophtera brumata) from the Family Geometridae (Geometrid Moths). See here for more info, and here for photos of the three species of Operophtera occurring in Western Canada. I think my moth is the middle one of those three. Very exciting. Thanks to the brilliant folks on BugGuide.net for help with this.

 

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