Like most good stories, this one is made of blood, sweat, and tears. Well, maybe just blood and sweat. And clicks — lots of them. Blood, sweat, and clicks… If you have a fear of blood or find mosquitos disgusting, read on at your own risk.
As a macro photographer, I am always on the lookout for new spots to explore. One day in October 2017, I took a day off from my day job and went out with my macro gear to explore a new location in hopes of finding some tiny creatures I had not encountered before.
As I wandered through the vegetation with my eyes focused on the ground, I began hearing the occasional buzz in my ears. I assumed it was just a very persistent mosquito so I ignored it and kept going… only to find myself surrounded by literally hundreds of mosquitos just a few minutes later.
It was horrible. The annoying buzz became a continuous non-stop nuisance, and I could easily see 3 to 4 of these bloodsuckers on every one of my limbs at any given moment. It was as if they were having a party and I was the cake. I couldn’t photograph anything.
At this point, I believe the average sane human being would have called it a day, returned home, and worked on soothing their itchy bites.
It quickly dawned on me that this could be an opportunity to get a very cool photo at the cost of offering myself to the mosquito gods. I began shifting my focus from finding some unfamiliar invertebrates to capturing a high-magnification shot of a blood-filled mosquito in the middle of its feeding.
I prepared my camera gear, put on my sweatshirt and the hood, and made sure that every bit of my skin was covered aside from my left palm. I then knelt down on one knee, resting my exposed hand on it and my right hand with the heavy gear on the other, embracing my chosen fate as mosquito food.
Ironically, at this very moment in life in which I actually wanted the mosquitoes to bite me, they seemed to suddenly lose interest, allowing me to slowly roast in the sun with my stupid hoodie on.
Luckily for me, I had already mastered my sit-and-wait technique thanks to my dentist. After a while sitting still and sweating, my mosquito mojo started to work its magic and some of the flying vampires took the bait.
Getting them in focus at this magnification was pretty challenging because of the shallow depth of field, and the fact that they finished their bites in less than a minute didn’t help either. Unsatisfied with the results, I decided to grant them another round.
During round two, I discovered that there were actually 3 or even more different species of mosquitoes that were very different from each other when viewed up close. Some were just grey, some had black and white stripes, and some had a pair of shiny green compound eyes.
Once I learned of the variants, my goal suddenly tripled as I wanted to get the best shot of each kind. And this is how I found myself busy in this strange experiment for an entire day, covering every aspect I could control: changing the lighting, messing with the background, changing the angle and position of the subject, trying out different compositions, altering the magnification, and trying to focus stack for better depth of field — each change one bite at a time.
I eventually stopped when the sun went down. I had captured over 600 images of my encounters and left with quite an itchy hand, but I was very happy with the results, having fulfilled my goals. The itching went away in a few days, and my favorite shot from this day won 3rd place in a national wildlife photography contest under the Invertebrates category.
Was it worth it? Definitely. Would I do it again? Not sure…
Note: Mosquitoes are considered to be responsible for the largest number of human deaths per year due to the fact they can be vectors of several viruses and diseases such as malaria, zika, dengue fever, and many more. I live an area where the mosquitos are not infected, and I kept that in mind. Doing the same thing I did in an infected area is reckless, not worth it, and may result in a hospital stay (or worse).
About the author: Lior Kestenberg is a 21-year-old nature enthusiast and macro photographer based in Israel. He uses Canon’s MP-E65 extreme macro lens in his exploration of nature’s tiny wildlife, revealing details that cannot be seen by the naked eye. You can see more of his works on his Instagram account.