Goldsmith Beetle related to Wright Brothers

goldsmith beetle Cotalpa

I was exploring the sand hills of Weld County when I saw this portly beetle buzzing through the air.  I jumped in its flight path to see what it was. He flew right into my shirt and fell to the ground. At first I thought it was a June Beetle, but the color was too light. Goldsmith Beetles fly like the first powered airplanes; barely controlled, listing to one side, then crash landing. Because he knows that he can fly, but not well, I picture him wearing a tiny pair of goggles and screaming as he pummels through the air. The Goldsmith Beetle is quite a rare beetle in these parts, and uncommon elsewhere. They spend up to 2 years as fat, squishy larvae underground. Widely scattered adults find each other by smell, flying in the direction of pheromones from the opposite sex.
photographing insects inside studio macro
This beetle was too fidgety to photograph in situ so I brought him inside for a macro studio shoot. Even then I only had about 1 minute to photograph him before he started moving after I took him out of a dark container and placed him on a stick. Because of this, you must have all of your camera settings dialed in before placing the subject. A focus stack was requisite to capture this beetle’s amazing structure. The tarsal hooks, sculpted dorsum, and royal shag of setae look impressive from a macro view.  I shot him with with my Olympus E-M5 II using focus bracketing and flash. With in-camera focus stacking I don’t need a macro focus rail or tripod. Cradling this small camera in a bean bag on the tabletop is much faster. When using focus stacking with flash, the camera limits me to a 1/20th shutter, so I have to shoot in relatively dark ambient light. I’m really loving my cheap little Neewer mini flash that cost about $35. Its recycle time and battery life is far better than my expensive Nikon flashes, and exposure consistency in both TTL and manual is perfect. I’ll probably write a review soon. For a flash diffuser I used a plastic lamp dome that I cut in half. Here’s my review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.

Equipment used:
Olympus OM-D E-M5 II Camera
Olympus 60mm Macro Lens
Neewer Mini Flash
Olympus Flash Cable
Flexible Arm


Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 Macro
Filter: none
Configuration: normal
Extension Tubes: no
Image Stack: 22 images
Stackware: Zerene
Aperture: f/4
Shutter Speed: 1/20th sec
ISO: 200
Light Source: Neewer Mini Flash with DIY diffuser
Stabilization: Beanbag
Subject Size: 25mm
Species: Goldsmith Beetle (Cotalpa spp)
Location: Weld County, Colorado

insect macro photography studio setup flash focus stacking

studio insect macro photography