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Macro Photography: Garden Life in Extreme Close-Up

Through macro photography, this Quebec resident captures a fascinating world hidden right in his own backyard.

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Snail captured through macro photographyPhoto: Russ Hayes

Macro Photography in Your Own Backyard

You don’t have to travel outside of Canada to encounter some exotic and unusual-looking creatures—they’re right here in our own backyards. I believe that the majority of Canadians are unaware of the hundreds of varieties of insects that are alive and thriving all around them. Yes, they see common flies, bees, wasps, mosquitos, ants and spiders, but if they were to take a closer look, they would be very surprised by what is lurking in their backyards and gardens.

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Honey beePhoto: Russ Hayes

Honey Bee

I purchased a macro lens for my camera in 2014 that allows me to capture extreme close-ups of my subjects. Purchasing this piece of equipment instantly changed my world of photography. It opened up a whole new perspective on insects, and even ordinary objects, that surround us in our everyday life, but remain relatively unseen by most eyes.

Find out what you can do right now to save the bees.

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Ladybug larvaPhoto: Russ Hayes

Ladybug Larva

Ordinary items such as raindrops on a clothesline, spiderwebs and small feathers become extraordinary under a macro lens. It takes a very steady hand, or a tripod, to manually focus on the subject with this lens. You can use auto focus, but when you are ten to 20 centimetres away from a subject, the focus area is quite exacting.

Don’t miss this incredible gallery of the most elaborate spiderwebs ever found in nature.

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Jumping spiderPhoto: Russ Hayes

Jumping Spider

As with a human subject, I try to be sure that the insect’s eyes are primarily in focus. This gets a little tricky, as you don’t want to scare away the insect while getting closer. I don’t tend to feel fear while trying to capture a close-up shot of a wasp, for example, as I am so focused on getting the picture. I also believe they are mesmerized by the clicking noise of the shutter.

Check out more gorgeous garden photography from across Canada.

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Common flyPhoto: Russ Hayes

Common House Fly

I was immediately surprised and amazed at how insects appeared through my camera’s macro lens, including the common house fly. Sure, they are generally disgusting, but are also built like some sort of super flying machine, with suction pads on their feet and alien-looking head parts.

For more fun with scale, check out this gallery of big things across Canada.

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Crane flyPhoto: Russ Hayes

Crane Fly

One of my first encounters was the crane fly. It has extremely long legs and a head that somewhat resembles a horse’s head, because of its very long snout called a rostrum. It also has defined knobs sticking out of the side of its body. These are called halteres, which control the fly’s bodily rotation in flight.

Find out why Point Pelee National Park is a shutterbug’s paradise.

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Painted lady butterflyPhoto: Russ Hayes

Painted Lady Butterfly

Every day I would scour the backyard vegetation for anything that moved. On frequent walks in the nearby woods, my camera at the ready, I would be on the lookout for insects. On one such walk something large flew across my path. I thought it was a hummingbird, but it actually turned out to be a cicada. Amazingly, it landed on a branch a few feet away and I was able to get a shot. That was the only time in the past four years that I’ve spotted a cicada, so it pays to be prepared.

Our neighbours wondered what I was always doing in our yard, camera in hand, suddenly focusing my camera on something unseen by them. I put together a slideshow of about 200 close-up photos of various insects, added a soundtrack and invited them over to view the 20-minute show. Everyone was amazed. What excited me most was that they didn’t have any idea that these insects were part of their everyday life.

Check out these tips for attracting butterflies to your backyard.

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CaterpillarPhoto: Russ Hayes


Through spring, summer and fall, every day introduces new and exciting insects in various stages of their lives. It has been four years now and I still discover insects that I haven’t seen before. Since I have become more tuned-in to the nature around me, it’s incredible the things I notice and am able to photograph.

Can you spot the animals camouflaged in these photos?

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Cuckoo waspPhoto: Russ Hayes

Cuckoo Wasp

Developing a keen eye has brought amazing photo ops my way: the excitement of spotting a monarch butterfly; the amazing colour of the blue cuckoo wasp; fascinating ants tending their aphid farm; the unbelievable assassin or robber fly, which catches other flies and prey in-flight—and so on! I try to share my favourite daily photographs on my Facebook page, as I like to introduce my friends and family to the miniature world around us. I believe I have opened their eyes to numerous insects that they were unaware existed here in Canada. Some are beneficial to our gardens while others are invasive and cause a lot of damage. Either way, I am always intrigued by photographing them.

Find out which insects you actually want in your garden.

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Twice stabbed stink bugPhoto: Russ Hayes

Twice Stabbed Stink Bug

In Canada, we get a respite from dealing with insects in winter, but they are a hardy bunch and always return, in one form or another, in spring. When they do, my camera and I are always waiting.

Next, take a look at this stunning flower photography from across Canada.

Originally Published in Our Canada