The Natives

Critique Style Requested: In-depth

The photographer has shared comprehensive information about their intent and creative vision for this image. Please examine the details and offer feedback on how they can most effectively realize their vision.

Self Critique

Its hard not to love a Lady Bug, but with the insect moving, a slight breeze and a Macro lens with very little depth of field, its tough to get enough in focus. Is there enough in focus to not be distracting? I love bokeh, but I am not sure the distance flower head at the top left is distracting or beneficial to the depth of the image?

Creative direction

I wanted to maintain the feel of softness these dainty flowers give. I felt like they were compelling enough as it was, but then the Lady Bug really adds something.

Specific Feedback

I’m always open to any and all critique of my images

Technical Details

Nikon D850
Sigma 105 Macro f/2.8
ISO 64, f/9, 1/200


I was photographing wildflowers in a native plant garden in Big Sky, Montana when this Ladybug came along and explained a few things to me. She told me that not all flowers are as beneficial as native wildflowers. The insects that help pollinate wildflowers, have often adapted to feed from certain species. She told me that while invasive species are often pretty (think Ox-eye Daisy) that they crowd out native plants. Then she explained that this takes away not only space for wildflowers, but that it drastically reduces the biodiversity in a region. Insects don’t always know how to get to the nectar in flowers that don’t belong here so they disappear. Then the birds that rely on the insects can not find enough food for their young, so they move on or worse, experience a reduction in their population. I looked around and noticed that in just one tiny corner of this garden, I saw at least 10 different insects. There were Bumble Bees, Hoverflies and other harmless flying insects. I saw tiny blue butterflies and a few moths hiding down in the leaves. There were numerous other beetles with iridescent green backs. This is why it is so important to remove all invasive plants whenever you can and then just an importantly, do what you can to add plants and flowers to your landscaping. She explained to me that every member of a natural ecosystem is important. The tiniest aphid that feeds her kind is no less important than the Deer that graze the meadows or the tallest Fir Tree that provides shade on a hot summer day.

A stunning capture! Ladybugs are frustrating in the amount they move relative to their size, confounding focus and DOF. You nailed this one – quite enough DOF and wonderful detail, in lovely soft light. Gorgeous perch and BG, with subtle detail.

I think I could be very happy with a crop from the left to eliminate the OOF flower, or maybe clone over it with about 50% opacity from the BG to see how that might look. I want to keep my eye on the Ladybug and the flowers.

Your storybook commentary adds unexpected but appreciated context to your images in a very interesting and pleasing way.
As I read, I find myself imagining that you’re sitting there listening to her concerns about the environment she’s living in. I even find myself imagining that she’s using one of her legs to point at various elements as she speaks.
From her perspective, she sees you as a reporter that can get her message out to the masses and she’s hoping that she will see widespread awareness and positive change in her lifetime.

Now what was it you were asking about the image? :roll_eyes:
Oh yeah, right!

  • “Is there enough in focus to not be distracting?”

The lady’s head is all in focus, her wing covers are mostly in focus and the immediate area around her left side is all in focus, the transition between in focus and out of focus is very mild and drawn out so I feel that it all looks very natural and pleasing in my view.
So the answer to your first question is “Absolutely” :slight_smile:

  • “I love bokeh, but I am not sure the distance flower head at the top left is distracting or beneficial to the depth of the image?”

You are questioning this element yourself which tells me that deep down it bothers you, so, just follow your instincts is my answer to your second question.

And since the lady is the “Speaker” in this informative interview, maybe she should be somewhat centered, maybe not perfectly centered but something like the following crop?

Wonderful lighting BTW!

I enjoyed learning from this stately lady through your unbiased reporting, I’ll do my best to help “Spread Her Message” :smiley:

Well done, Paul! :slight_smile:

Funny how the world defaults to “he” with just about everything, but not these. And after A Bug’s Life with Denis Leary playing a ladybug, I just can’t think of them any other way. Priceless portrayal.

Anyway…these little ones are quick and ferocious predators. I’ve only successfully shot them a couple of times and once when one was eating. So great job catching it in a nice pose and with such lovely contrasting flowers. I think the removal of the OOF back flower makes the image more harmonious, but it wasn’t a terrible distraction given the color and placement of the bug.

That said, many “ladybugs” in the US these days are the introduced/invasive Asian beetle. They gather in large numbers around the spring and fall solstices and are a major problem. Almost nothing eats them, but they devour anything they can catch. Looks like you have an actual native beetle here, so woo hoo!

Here’s a nice website I found explaining the difference -

Great information, @_Kris – thanks! I’ve done a screenshot of the markings and will pay more attention the next time I find one. I think the birds generally get to them before I do.

A very nice image of one of my favorite bugs, and an excellent writeup to go with it. I think I like the crop that @Merv did as it does bring her more center attention, bringing her even closer in view. They are difficult to photograph as someone else has stated, so koodoos to you for such a great shot. What needs to be sharp is, and on a fast moving tiny bug, that isn’t easy.

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Thanks so much Shirley. I agree that @Merv crop is very effective!

Thanks @_Kris ! I definitely had to make sure this was a native species! I’m super conscious of trying not to share images of invasive species. I’m also vary careful to be a bit ambiguous about the sex of a creature unless it is obvious, and just to be different will often use the feminine pronouns. Nearly as I can tell this is a 7-spotted Lady Bug.

@Merv , you win for consistency providing amazing replies to posts. You are very thorough and quite kind. Thank you!

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My pleasure :slight_smile:

I’m just having fun interacting with others like yourself! :slight_smile:

Thanks, Paul! :slight_smile: