Science photographer reveals how he shoots his remarkable mosquito images

If you’ve ever seen a photo of a mosquito in a magazine or newspaper, there’s a good chance it was taken by James Gathany.

In a recent interview with The Atlantic‘s Sarah Zhang, Gathany, a long-time science photographer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, explains how he honed his technique for grabbing close-up shots of the flying insect.

Turns out Gathany’s remarkable mosquito macros are the result of some very careful focusing and a very steady hand. That’s because it’s his finger the mosquitoes are always seen resting on.

According to the science photographer, this is the easiest way to do it — rather than shoot the insect on another person’s finger — as this method offers him more control.

Gathany, who told Zhang that his interest in mosquitoes could well stem from the fact that he had malaria as a child, explained that he starts a mosquito shoot by setting up his camera on a tripod or some other sturdy stand before prefocusing.

“Once the mosquito is feeding on my finger … I put my finger in the plane of focus. It’s a very, very shallow plane of focus. I’ll move my finger back and forth to get this focus where I want it — usually on the eyes.”

But what about the mosquito suddenly clearing off before you’ve had a chance to press the shutter? After all, they say never work with children or animals, so presumably insects fit in there, too. According to Gathany, as long as he stays steady and avoids quick movements, it usually works out just fine.

“Once she has found a blood source, and is feeding, then if you’re careful and make no sudden movements, you can move her or the camera, and she will stay where she is. Plus the feeding process is the mode of transmission, and that’s the interesting part for the entomologist.”

Besides mosquitoes, Gathany also photographs “venomous and poisonous animals, including spiders,” though he admits he’s “real careful with a spider,” and worries about getting bitten. Clearly, no fingers are involved in those kinds of shots.

Be sure to check out the entire interview here, where the photographer talks more about his fascinating work.

And if you happen to be in Atlanta, Georgia, between now and May 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is exhibiting a selection of Gathany’s work, so go check it out.

Business

4 women innovators who are using tech to help others live better lives

Meet four women leaders who are not only at the forefront of technology today, but also using tech — from robotics and medicine to food and undergarments — to help others.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 teaser proclaims it's almost feeding time in Hawkins

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Best new podcasts

Feel like you’re drowning in podcasts? In this weekly series we’ll help you pick out the best from the rest of the new and returning shows. This week’s picks include a culture clash and a death sentence.
Photography

Forget folding phones, the Insta360 EVO camera folds in half to shoot 360 video

The Insta360 EVO is a...flip camera? Unfolded, the Insta360 Evo shoots 3D in 180 degrees, folded, the new camera shoots in 360 degrees. The EVO launches with what are essentially a pair of 3D glasses for your phone, not your face, the…
Photography

Obsbot Tail camera uses A.I. to follow the action (or a pet) for you

Want to capture more epic action selfies, or see what your pet is doing while you're gone? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Social Media

Twitter takes a cue from Instagram and Snapchat with new quick-swipe camera

Twitter is giving the "what's happening" treatment to photos and video by allowing users to access the in-app camera fast enough to catch and share the moment. The new Twitter camera is now accessible with a swipe.
Photography

The Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Edge 35 mimics tilt-shift blur for less cash

Want to create a tilt-shift image on a budget? The new Lensbaby Composer II with Edge 35 mimics the look of a tilt-shift lens for under $500. The new Edge 35 optic is part of the Composer Pro II optics system.
Photography

Loupedeck Plus can now edit video, audio with Final Cut Pro

The list of Loupedeck Plus-compatible software is growing. The photo-editing console now works with Final Cut Pro and Adobe Audition for video and audio editing. The controls can be configured to be used on either platform.
Photography

Photography News: Taking a smartphone photo probably saved this guy’s life

A man was snapping a photo in Australia when the smartphone stopped an arrow shot at his face. In this week's photography news, see Canon's plans for a stabilized mirrorless, Hasselblad's newest accessories, Samyang's latest lens, and more.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Photography

Paper designs digitize in real time using an Illustrator-connected paper tablet

Love graphic design, but prefer the feel of real paper? The new Moleskine Paper Tablet - Creative Cloud Connected syncs with Adobe Illustrator in real time, turning paper sketches into digital drawings.