Last Updated July 13, 2018

Thomas Shahan

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Thomas Shahan is a macro photographer and artist from the USA. He has a passion for entomolog. As early as his high school days he developed an interest in the jumping spider family. Photography enabled him to capture and share their wonderful personality and diversity with others. After studying art at the University of Oklahoma, he left for Oregon to work in the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s entomology lab as a digital imaging specialist - taking high magnification focus-stacked photographs and scanning electron microscope images of arthropods.

His work featured in an article Spiders in Focus published in the Dec 2011 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Thomas has uploaded useful videos that you can find on YouTube providing advice about macro photography.

"Over the past few years I’ve devoted countless hours to tramping through forests and fields searching for insects and spiders. For me, much of my work is more about propaganda than photography. I want to change the culturally bred fear that many people have that arthropods are pests or parasitic nightmares. In the grand scheme of things these animals are hugely beneficial and they are definitely worth a closer look."

"It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking, ‘if I just had better equipment, I could take better photos’. With my photography I have found that great photos truly come from the photographer and taking the time to understand your subject, not by the camera."

"I find that a 50mm lens attached to a DSLR is really well suited to macro photography; they’re affordable, sharp and give you a good working distance. I’d recommend a set of extension tubes with the 50mm lens connected backwards with a reversing ring. This will give you more magnification. A cheap set of extension tubes is $12, and a reversing ring is another $10. I prefer to use older lenses with a manual aperture ring, and I shoot with them already stopped down. That makes for a really dark viewfinder, which makes focusing difficult, so you can use some auxiliary lighting or think ahead and shoot at bright times of the day."

"Don’t be put off if you don’t get perfect images to start with. Great shots are usually simply the result of shooting a lot. If I had to estimate, about 90 percent of my bug shots are completely unusable – out of focus, poorly lit, or out of frame."

"Macro photography requires a lot of light, and even if you are planning on shooting outside, the sunlight won’t always be sufficient. A supplementary light source or bounced light is often invaluable. I use a cheap flash with a simple home-made diffuser to soften it."


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