I'm Cynthia Bandurek, ask me anything!

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Hi, I am Cynthia Bandurek, an Ecologist, Field Naturalist, Nature Photographer and a wildlife artist. Since I was a child I have been enthralled by nature. After High School years, led by my innate passion, I decided to undertake Ecology and Environmental Studies followed by the career of Field Naturalist.

While pursuing the career of Naturalist, I discovered Photography, which later became a core part of my life and an essential tool to transmit my knowledge and values of the natural world. I particularly specialized in macro photography and my most outstanding portraits are on arthropods and amphibians.

In 2017 I published the Book: “The World of Small. An approach to the universe of arthropods from an artistic, visual and evolutionary perspective” This book combines science and photography to change the public’s perception of these small living beings, through the photographs we can access a world that our naked eyes can´t see accompanied by texts that revealed the hidden and sometimes unbelievable stories of these magnificent animals.

In January 2021, I made a significant life change by moving from the bustling city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the lush jungles of Costa Rica. This move was motivated by my desire to live in closer harmony with nature and immerse myself fully in its wonders.

I am a Nature First Ambassador and a Contributor editor for Central and South America of Paws Trails Magazine, an online magazine focused on Photography, science, and Conservation.

Website: https://cynthiabandurek.com/

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Hi! When you shoot macro, do you use a dedicated macro lens, or do you use like a 70-200 that would allow you to be further from your subject, and still zoom in to get the close up? Do you think there are advantages on one lens over the other? Or, does it just depend on your subject you are shooting? What do you carry in your bag? :slight_smile: Thanks much!! Your photographs are amazing!

Hi Cynthia! I just finished looking at your website. I love the tones in all your images. Your love of the natural world and care for the environment shows through your images. I do a fair bit of macro flower photography, and occasionally encounter insects and spiders. I struggle to get good depth of field in a single image. Stacking is not always useful, since insects are often moving. I am curious what lens you use and how you manage to get relatively deep depth of field in you insect images. Thank you for being here today!

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Cynthia, first of all, thank you for taking the time to do this. I checked out your website and downloaded the ebook you offered. Thank you. Wow, you have some fine images on there. I enjoy the small universe of nature too, and hope that some of my images help others to respect the little creatures, especially Jumping Spiders. They are my favorite. There was a time of course, that I was afraid of them, but the more I have photographed them, and fell in love with their cute faces, I lost the fear.

My question to you is, what can an average photograph like me do to help others to change their view as I have. Are there organizations that we could post our photos (besides social media, which I don’t do) , where more people can fall in love with the small universe? Like some kind of I’m glad we have NPN, and I am hoping that some of the photographers on here are beginning to appreciate to smaller animal world. Thank you.

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Hi Judy, first thanks so much for liking my work. I use a macro lens (Canon 100 mm 2.8) and even sometimes with the subjects are really small, I Add a close-up lens (Raynox DCR 250 with 8 diopter) That means I almost reach 2:1 of magnification. In the beginning, I used a Sigma 70-300 mm but with the same close-up lens. That reduces the focus distance, so I can get close to the subject to get the magnification. You can use a telephoto alone just when the subject is big enough, such as butterflies or flowers, but when your subjects measure a couple of millimeters (sometimes 1 or 2 mm) you need to get close to them. In my bag, I carry the camera, macro lens, close-up lens, flash, a diffuser, and radio transmitter to trigger the flash out of my camera. Thanks again Judy!

Hi Paul, thank you so much for your appreciation of my work, certainly, I am deeply in love with Nature.

I do not practice the focus stacking technique. All my images are just one shot. Something important to keep in mind when you want to get more in focus is to consider what we called parallelism, which means you need to keep the important parts of your subject (and the ones you want to get in focus) parallel to the focus plane. Then you can opt for closing your diaphragm. When I work with more than 1:1 magnification ratio (Using my macro lens Canon 100 mm 2.8 plus the Raynox DCR250 Close-up lens) I tend to use 18 to 22 aperture. But consider that with the close-up lens, I lose a lot of depth of field). When I use just my macro lens I use apertures like 9- 11 depending on the situation. But my best advice is not to get obsessed with the depth of field, I think the most attractive part of macro for me, is the mood and perspective that the blur gives to the frame.

I hope that helps!


Hi Shirley, Makes me happy that we both have the same mission: Make people love the most underestimated animals on earth. Maybe if you do not want to use social media, you can create a blog, with your images and some information about these little living beings. But I think the most important is to transmit with passion, not only that these animals are fascinating but also they are really important in the functioning of the ecosystems and are in fact in our life as well to the people that surround us, friends, family, colleagues; I have been doing that for years, and now my friends not just do not kill the insects and spiders when they appear in their houses in the city, but also they take care of them and they transmit to other people the value of these animals.

That was the mission behind my book: The World of Small: To make people fall in love with or at least respect these animals, with the images that allow us to enter a new world of details while also telling their fascinating stories and natural history. When people, for example, learn that some beetles that are adapted to extreme cold weather have in their cells a chemical that prevent them from freezing and we realize that we use the same chemical for the same purpose in our cars (Ethylene glycol), but they have been used it for millions of years before us, I think something has to resonate in people minds and change behaviors and attitudes. So telling their stories can add too much value.

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Im interested in your editing techniques. What software are you using. I use Photoshop like a darkroom. Im pretty old school and beat to a different drum photographer. I love your macro photography.
Beautiful compositions. Peace to you

Hi Gill, first thanks so much for appreciating my work.

I use mainly Lightroom to adjust and create the mood, then sometimes for cropping and some other small adjustment I use Photoshop, and I use Denoise Ai (Topaz Labs) to get rid of the noise when necessary. Now I create Lightroom presets that make my workflow faster. (by de way they are available on my website).

Cynthia, Thank you for doing this AMA. The photos on your website of amphibians are outstanding. I am interested in your techniques for shooting in low light conditions in the forest. I see you shoot with relatively small aperture settings for depth of field. Do you use artificial lighting and/ or high ISO settings? I have been to Costa Rica twice and am anxious to return. Photography in the rain forest is a real challenge. Thank you.

Hi Bill, definitely shooting in the rainforest is a constant challenge.

I use Flash for all my macro work, even if I am working on an open area during the day. For frogs there aren´t too many options, most of them are nocturnal so you have to rely on some external source of light.

I use my flash sometimes on camera with a diffuser and sometimes out of the camera with a diffuser as well. And for example, if I am photographing an insect on a sunny day, I set up my camera just to work with artificial light and do not let the natural light get inside my camera (so if the flash isn´t triggered I get no photo, just a black one), and in other situations, I can combine the two sources of light setting my camera to let the natural light get inside, for instance, to get the background with natural light and the subject with the artificial light. Hope it helps…

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Hi Cynthia. I enjoyed listening to your episode on the Wild and Exposed podcast during a recent trip. Keep up the good work.

Since we’re talking about flash, I have to admit that perhaps the biggest challenge I’ve faced over the years in macro is finding the right flash and diffuser. I’ve used everything from twin flashes to DIY diffusers. More recently, I finally landed on a combo I’m fairly happy with, but am constantly looking for new ideas that can improve my close-up work.

What does your diffuser setup look like? Is it a manufacturered on-camera flash diffuser, an DIY solution, off-camera softboxes, or do you switch the lighting up depending on the subject and environment?

Hi Max, I think after getting used to focusing with such a shallow depth of field, the most challenging part of macro is mastering the lighting.

I use different diffusers, I have now an AK- Diffuser but I also work with a handmade one, made with cardboard and white cloth. Depending on the situation and especially the size of the subject.
Just keep in mind that the softness of light depends on the size of the source of light in relation to the size of the subject and the distance of the source of light. (The closer, the softer ad the bigger the softer.) For big subjects such as snakes and frogs is better to use a bigger diffuser.

I use a Speedlight most of the time. Sometimes a twin but out of the lens.

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Hi Cynthia,
I have seen your work and its wonderful. For your images of insects and other small subjects, what is your method to get close enough to photograph them? I assume most shots are hand held but do you use a tripod or other means of camera support sometimes. Thanks so much for doing this AMA.

Hi Larry, All my work is handheld, I never use a tripod. The secret is the use of artificial light to freeze all the movements, the wind, the insect´s movements, and our movements as well. And for getting close to the subject move slowly and have a lot of patience. Also knowing the biology and behavior of each subject helps a lot because you know which species are more confident with our presence and which of them not at all, so depending on that you change your behavior as well.

After 50+ years shooting I am still looking for the ideal insect repellent for skin. What do you like to use when hiking in the jungle? Thanks

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Hi Milton, my answer will surprise you I guess. I do not use repellent for insects, I have had to use it in the past when I was working on swamps as a biologist studying frogs but I decided not to use it anymore. It is bad for animals in the forest and even bad for us…

Thanks for your question!

Hi Cynthia, I love your images and thank you so much for addressing the group this morning although I missed it. Since I’ll be spending three days in Buenos Aires in November, I was hoping you could recommend some nature photography options that are close to the city, or if you were new to the city would you concentrate on street photography and look for nature and wildlife shots elsewhere? I’ve googled a number of parks but would love to hear any suggestions you might have. I’m particularly fond of bird photography and it will be my first visit to Argentina.

Hi Peg, We have several Urban Nature Reserves and they are good for birds. Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve is in the middle of the city and on the coast of Río de la Plata and I think is a good option if you will have just 3 days in Buenos Aires.

You can contact me by email or here, after the AMA if you have other questions I will be glad to help in anything I can.

Thank you so much, Cynthia, this is great information and it’s extremely kind of you to offer more assistance if need be. I greatly appreciate it!