-By Lily Kumpe, Victoria, Australia: The morning begins with a light chorus of cicadas, soothing at first, but by mid-day the cicadas will swarm so thick their urine will sprinkle on us like light rain as we are simultaneously vexed by their deafening love songs. The urine, the love songs— I know it sounds bad, but this is exactly where I want to be. I’m taking photos with John Tiddy in Eastern Australia and the cicadas are a welcome bonus.
For a while now, John Tiddy, Seth Patterson, Clay Bolt, and every other “Meet Your Neighbours” photographer has held celebrity status in my mind. Looking at their photos, I find myself falling suddenly and deeply in love with the beauty of a snail shell, the design of a moth wing, the intricate egg case of a praying mantis. Seeing species against a stark white background, isolated from their environment, brings new elegance to even the most everyday subjects.
On the day of the cicadas, I stole John’s secrets to tank and bird photography, and came away with some great pobblebonk frog photos. John has built a box with the interior painted white to reflect light onto his background piece of acrylic. This works to give him impressively uniform light, covering the length and width of the entire background.
The branch John uses as a bird perch has a hidden compartment he fills with either seeds or worms, depending on his subject’s diet. I was amused to hear that nothing pleases a male wren more than a mirror. Apparently they find themselves more irresistible than worms.
One thing John said that really stuck with me is that rather than kill or remove creepy-crawly things, his human neighbours will often capture them for John to photograph. This is brilliant! Everyone gets involved. I hope our neighbours in Denmark, Western Australia will do the same. Now that I’ve started field-studio photography, I’m hooked. The greatest fulfillment comes from a deeper engagement with the world around me. From love sick cicadas to the complex lives of ants, who knew there was so much life and drama unfolding in miniature around us?