At Meet Your Neighbours, we believe that images matter. Whether it’s for public outreach, reporting and accountability, site documentation or evidence gathering, professional imagery is the key element in your communications effort. Today it’s pictures, not words, that get your message heard. And the better the pictures, the clearer it is.
Meet Your Neighbours is a worldwide network of specialised photographers documenting biodiversity against pure white backgrounds, in the field. Working with a MYN photographer provides your programme or expedition with the sort of professional imagery expected by the public and appreciated by funders. World class research deserves world class visual support and the field studio technique used by MYN photographers is the best way to provide this.
If you’d like to learn more about our services, or to find a MYN photo close to you, please email Clay Bolt at email@example.com to learn more or flip through the guide below to learn more or download a copy for your records.
Meet Your Neighbours contributor Kevin FitzPatrick has been featured by Make Magazine for his incredible custom mobile BioBlitz Photography vehicle. Check out the video! If you’re a photographer you might want to bring a napkin; you’ll soon be drooling!
Brachycephalus pitanga is a recently discovered toadlet species that has been described only in the last decade. Their striking coloration is probably related to skin toxins, but despite their vivid coloration, their size is so small
that if you are unaware of their occurrence in the area it would be easy to overlook them while walking over the leaflitter. These pictures were taken in the Atlantic Forest in southeast of Brazil, inside a private reserve called Guainumbi where I spent three days. There, with a simple change of altitude from 1000m to 1150m, I started finding many of these colorful frogs on the ground during the day. They don’t come down from their cloudy forested hilltops, which acts as islands for these species. Since they are slow movers and so tiny measuring less than half an inch, I used my compact and simpliest setup for the MYN background, a white icecream tub.
-by João Burini, Brazil
The goal of my Meet Your Neighbours project is to raise awareness of the diversity of species living along the Los Angeles County coastline and motivate their neighbours (you and me) to protect the fragile marine environment they share. I find many of my subjects during low or minus tides, when the underwater world of tide pools is briefly revealed. Using a field studio, consisting of lighting and macro photography equipment, I am able to capture features that would otherwise remain unseen. Each photo session is very brief, and every animal is released back into the habitat where it was found. In addition to photographing rarely seen species, I enjoy bringing attention to ubiquitous life forms, such as algae, which are crucial to the ecosystem. Our neighbours at the beach are threatened by pollution, climate change, overfishing, habitat destruction, etc. and desperately need our help.
-by contributor Sheri Mandel
Shoulders-back-chest-out-chin-in-head-up, I need to lay the law down here! When it comes to the technical specifications for Meet Your Neighbours pictures, we’re needing uniformity so that ALL the attention is on the subject rather than the prowess of the photographer. We want a picture of a broad-hipped danglefly from Australia to have just the same look as that of a hare-lipped hoghopper from Florida so the pictures are only about the the animals portrayed.
Since the start of the project, we’ve shifted the goalposts slightly (to make your life and ours simpler) but one thing that has not changed is our requirement for a background that is 255 in each channel: pure white. It is this that makes MYN pictures so useful to designers as they can lay the image straight out on a page without having to do any cutting out. This also allows us to create the species composite panels that are gaining popularity as a way to illustrate biodiversity (not least through David Liittschwager’s One Cubic Foot project). It’s also vital to get the balance of front and back lighting right: enough back light to show translucence, enough front to fill shadows but not overwhelm the backlight. Noticeable shadows ruin the atmosphere of the picture and the front light must be diffused: twin undiffused flashes are too harsh.
Now, I confess that there is a little divergence of opinion between Clay and me about the necessity of shoot bugs on a transparent set held at a distance from the backlit white background. He has produced many great pictures with the animal sitting directly on a piece of white acrylic whereas I, and others, have made just as many spoiled by over-lighting from underneath. This is the second most common problem I see when editing MYN submissions, easily solved if the subject is placed on a transparent set and held at some distance from the white background. I address this issue on page 25 of my ebook.
The most common problem however, is framing. In short, the more “unconcluded elements” present in the picture, the more limited its uses. Unconcluded elements arise when things in the picture are cut off: part of the animal, the branch it’s sitting on, stems and other plant parts, you name it. One delicate plant stem meeting the edge of the frame is fine. But if there are a lot then it can’t just be placed on a white page without putting a frame around it: it looks weird otherwise (page 38 of the ebook). If you’ve cropped in tightly to boot then you’re sunk because a frame is going to look like it’s crowding the subject. Please, keep things as simple as possible within the frame: we’re trying to photograph specimens rather than make regular photos that just happen to have a white background.
So, here’s a quick rundown of the technical specifications we need:
• 8 bit, Adobe RGB ,JPEG saved at “Maximum” quality or “12″.
• Keywords and description need to be applied in the appropriate fields (this is most easily done in the Library module if you’re using Lightroom.)
• Files should be named using this protocol: your name, the country the images were shot in then the file number.
• Backlit pure white background, 255 in each channel, to each corner of the picture with diffused front fill.
Easy! We’re happy to look at submissions from anywhere in the world not already covered or species groups not covered in the geographical areas with an existing photographer .
-By MYN Co-founder Niall Benvie
Big congrats to MYN contributor Paul Harcourt Davies who has won the Royal Photographic Society Gold Award for Best Portfolio in the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition for several of his MYN images. He will be receiving a RPS Gold Medal and £2000 in winnings for his this honor.
Meet Your Neighbours photographers have been sharing their work all over the world and this past weekend two events of special note took place: In Jacksonville, Florida MYN co-founder Clay Bolt and contributors Paul Marcellini, Nate Dappen and Krista Schlyer presented during a 2-hour at the North American Nature Photography Association’s annual Summit. Across the Atlantic, Dutch contributor Joris van Alphen presented in Amsterdam during PIXperience. In fact, Joris’ presentation featured the largest MYN panel to date at nearly 200′ across! He presented images from his recent expedition to Borneo with the Dutch edition of National Geographic. Way to go Joris!
It’s been a slow start, but at last I’m making a little headway with photographing small birds in the field studio in our garden. Most species have shown an extraordinary reluctance to sit on the perches I provide – preferring instead to feed on the ground. This normally creates a lot of discomfort so instead I relocated a section of turf 18 inches above the ground on a crate, allowing me to shoot “at ground level” from my plastic hide.
One Lumedyne head behind shone through a 4′ x 3 ‘ piece of opaque acrylic with front fill from a Speedlight coming through a piece of Flyweight envelope diffuser.
I’ve edged the crate with the turf a little further forward for the next shoot and am hoping the the tree sparrows our garden attracts will start to feed there soon.
I have to say that I’ve always loved having good pictures of small birds but loathed the process of taking them. Here’s my hide, only 6 metres distant and even with a 500 mm (albeit on a full frame D70o) the bird needs to be made part of a bigger composition. Put on the x1.7 converter and I run out of focusing points. Now, that D800 I was so reserved about last year could solve a lot of these problems for me…
by MYN co-founder, Niall Benvie
Earlier this year I joined the Meet Your Neighbours (MYN) photography project and I’ve taken many MYN style images since then. But one of the features of the project that first attracted me to it was Niall Benvie’s use of composite panels to show a selection of the biodiversity in a particular region or location. Free from background distractions, these composites perfectly illustrate the variety of species in that region. I also like the way they show the sheer variety of colours, patterns, shapes and sizes of those species.
Naturally, therefore, I was keen to produce some composites of my own but I’ve struggled to find time until now. For my first attempt I really did want to show my neighbours i.e. the species that I have photographed in my own humble, suburban, back garden.
So please, meet my neighbours….
Please see here for a larger version.
The panel contains the following (in a clockwork spiral, starting top left): a sleeping Nomada bee, Common Centipede, Jumping Spider (Sitticus pubescens), Honey Bee, Common Green Lacewing, Globular Springtail, Seven-Spot Ladybird, Tawny Mining Bee, Sitona species weevil, Mullein Moth caterpillar, Ground Beetle (Pterostichus madidus), Pill Woodlouse, Black Millipede, Hawthorn Shieldbug and another Seven-Spot Ladybird.
I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed preparing this panel. The fact that the original images all have perfectly white backgrounds made the preparation of the panel relatively easy. I simply roughly selected each subject, turned them into ‘smart objects’ and then copied them across to the main panel. Then it was just a matter of making the panel look reasonably balanced and, probably the most difficult bit, scaling the subjects so that their relative sizes are (roughly) correct. I’m sure I’ll produce others in due course.
-by Matt Cole