An up-close look at Gary Allen’s insect images
GARY ALLEN CALLS IT GOING ON SAFARI, BUT HE ISN’T AFTER
BIG GAME. QUITE THE OPPOSITE, IN FACT. HIS PREY IS SMALLER.
M U C H S M A L L E R .
ALLEN HUNTS BUGS.
Armed with nothing more than his camera, Allen stalks the wilds of the New
Hanover County Arboretum, trying to capture the perfect insect image.
“It’s sort of like a safari without having to go to Africa,” he says. “Shoot the
wild creatures among us. You just have to look for them.”
Looking for something that small is hard enough, but finding them is actually
the easy part. After he spots them, Allen has to get close enough to take their
“It’s a challenge to shoot bugs,” he says. “Sometimes I’m chasing a bug that’s
moving, and it’s on a stem or branch that’s moving, and I’m moving. Some bugs
can sense you immediately. Their natural reaction is to flee. Every time I shoot a
bug, there’s probably 10 times it flew away.”
Compounding the challenge is the type of photography Allen is practicing. He
is taking macro pictures — essentially extreme close-ups.
“Getting closer is what it’s all about,” he says. “Generally I’ll get 3-5 inches
It requires a good eye, a steady hand, and a heaping helping of patience, but
the results are worth it. Allen captures images that are larger than life. Literally.
His photos reveal details that can’t be seen by the human eye: the whiskers and
teeth of a dragonfly, the sensitive feelers on a damselfly’s legs.
“It’s a view you’re not used to seeing,” he says. “The human eye can only see
things about 10 inches away. We’re incapable of capturing things that macro can.
It makes you realize there’s more there than you imagine. If you knew how intri-cate
these things are, you might be less inclined to stomp on them.”
Macro is the latest evolution in Allen’s nearly lifelong obsession with photogra-phy
that dates back to 1974, when he got his first camera at the age of 12. He’s
been an award-winning photojournalist with the Raleigh “News & Observer”
(North Carolina photographer of the year five times and runner-up six times)
and an in-demand wedding shooter, named Photographer of the Year in 2004 by
the Wedding Photojournalist Association.
WBM august 2018
B Y S I M O N G O N Z A L E Z