Sinobug: Macrophotography of John Horstman- 01.04.13
Here’s the latest natural inspiration from our resident zoologist and London based editor, Justine Aw.
My fascination in animal behavior stems back to the creepy crawlies I spent hours watching when I was young. Inverts were a bit of an obsession of mine (I was even a member of SASI as a child!), and as a result I’ve still got a soft spot for them. I’m lucky enough to dabble in entomology in my volunteering behind the scenes at the Horniman Museum and biodiversity work for Mudchute Park & Farm, but it doesn’t quite satiate my appetite for ‘bugs’. That’s where blogs like John Horstman’s Sinobug come in. I discovered the blog through reddit’s whatsthisbug (a guilty pleasure) and have been a loyal reader ever since! I mean, sure I’ve encountered a fair few cool insects along the Rio Negro, but Horstman’s images coming from Pu’er, China are mind-blowing. Not only are they incredibly beautiful composites of textures, colors and patterns, they’re even shedding light on some of these species scientifically. See some of our favorites on the next page!
I especially love the series of Limacodid (cup moth) moth caterpillars, which bizarrely include slug-like caterpillars that can be either heavily armed with rows of protuberances bearing stinging spines (nettle caterpillars) or non-spined forms where the surface of the larvae may by completely and eerily smooth (gelatine caterpillars).
Yunnan is renowned as a flora and fauna mecca, a place that Horstman describes as ‘China’s Amazon’; and if his incredible photographs are anything to go by, it certainly contains some of the brightest, boldest and strangest insects I’ve seen! A further testament to the incredible biodiversity is the fact that the majority of Horstman’s images were taken just in the last year. Moreover his subjects are not found by the result of intensive sampling; he tells us, “I haven’t had to go trekking into deep jungles or travel vast distances to find what I photograph. All are taken within a few kilometres of my home.” However, it sounds as though the area is undergoing rapid change with increasing human disturbance, “When out walking the hills surrounding Pu’er, you are effectively never alone. There are fungus collectors, orchid collectors, bamboo cutters, lost locals, pine tree resin tappers, firewood collectors, adventurous teenagers, hunters with slingshots targeting birds and squirrels, people going to the toilet….and the list goes on. Even if you don’t see them, the trail of trash and their mobile phones give them away.”
However, there are few macrophotgraphers out in Pu’er and those he encounters are unsure of what to make of him and his equipment, “…there are some awkward moments when paths cross particularly as I am armed with a huge camera and flash diffuser (probably unrecognizable as a camera to many) and I appear to have an interest in something others have never noticed, don’t care about, see as an annoyance or can’t see even if it is right in front of them,” adding “I think though that would apply anywhere in the world, even if I was standing in the middle of Times Square, outside Buckingham Palace or on a beach in Sydney.” As the girl who uses London’s public transportation stations as glorified moth traps, I can assure you, this is definitely true, I’ve certainly had my share of odd looks!
A portrait of the photographer and mantis.