Teaching an Old Fly New Tricks

fly balancing act

Most children have a bug period, and I never grew out of mine.

Edward O. Wilson


** Extra-special bonus points for the first person to tell me how it’s done! **

Harsi / June 24, 2011 / arthropods, photography, quotations


  1. Lisa - June 25, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

    Ummmmmm…..is this bug on a window — like a house window, and the photo is taken from the inside of the house while someone’s nail holds it down outside??? Hmmmmmm. And do I get at least one point for trying?? 🙂 lol xoXOxo

  2. Harsi - June 25, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    Ms. Lisa, you always get many, many points for trying! But… that’s not how it happened. 🙂 I’m not spilling the beans quite yet, but your inventive guess has convinced me to reveal a few more secrets: #1 I’m holding the camera AND that’s my finger. #2 There is no additional apparatus between the camera and the fly. xo P.S. So sorry for the delay in posting your comment. I didn’t have my computer on for most of the day… trying to get caught up on random things around the house.

  3. Chris - June 26, 2011 @ 11:34 am

    Too easy Harsi! This obviously must be Dolichopus acrobaticus, a fly that is best known for performing these kind of tricks! 😉

  4. Harsi - June 26, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

    Oh, Chris gets definite arthropod-enthusiast bonus points for putting up a decent guess on the classification of this fly… and also several more points for busting out with some taxonomic humor. But… I assure you that my fly was no more circus-trained than any other you might find. 🙂 I’ll reveal the answer tomorrow! P.S. Again, sorry for the long delay in posting your comment. Most of the day spent in bed today… seems I may have managed to catch Ezra’s flu after all. 🙁

  5. Harsi - June 28, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    WHOOPS! I was supposed to reveal the answer yesterday… but my flu-addled brain didn’t remember. 🙂 OK, so here’s the deal. Many cameras have a macro function. (For us arthropod photographers, this is strictly necessary.) My camera has a supermacro function which has a “zero focusing distance”. What that essentially means is that it is possible for the lens to actually focus on ITSELF!! That being said… usually it doesn’t do that and I don’t generally want it to. An inch or more away is a more typical focusing distance. Anyway, I spend a great deal of time photographing insects that I have rescued from the swimming pool — like this fly! They are typically so preoccupied with getting dried off and grooming that they care very little about me or my attempts to take their picture. This fly was happily perched just in front of the lens on my fingertip for many, many shots before this one. This single image was a complete fluke — I just happened to press the shutter at the same moment that the fly decided to move and land on the lens. As my finger is still relatively in focus and positioned just so, it creates the optical illusion that the fly is balancing on my finger. Now, while there was no actual magic involved here, I doubt that I could ever find a way to recreate this shot… and that makes it special, don’t you think?

  6. Chris - June 29, 2011 @ 8:54 am

    No way! I thought about that possibility, that the fly was actually on the lens, but I thought it was such a ridiculous idea that I didn’t post it. I figured that there would be no way that you could focus on it, and I couldn’t come up for a reason for your finger to be there, but now it all makes sense. But wow, I really am impressed!

  7. Harsi - June 29, 2011 @ 9:06 am

    Chris… it IS a ridiculous idea! As I said, I don’t think there is anyway I could ever duplicate this one again. Just one of the crazy, wonderful things that can happen when you spend enough time with critters and cameras, I suppose. 🙂


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