Opposite: A monarch caterpillar chomps away at the leaf of a swamp milkweed plant. Above, clockwise from top left: A blue dasher
dragonfly on a water lily leaf. A squash lady beetle larva, just over three-eighths of a inch long, munches on a squash leaf. A blue dasher
dragonfly rests on a flower framed by water plant leaves. A small frog, about the size of a peanut M&M, is almost swallowed up by a water
drop as it sits on a blade of grass. A tiny grasshopper, about half an inch long, clings to a flower stem.
“Part of the process is learning about insects,” he says. “I want
to identify them. I guess that’s the journalist in me.”
The studying isn’t restricted to entomology. Trying to capture
images of the little critters also helps the seasoned pro learn more
about his craft.
“Macro has allowed me to be a better photographer,” he says.
“Photography is about seeing. Macro photography is about inten-sive
seeing. That’s one of the appeals about photography, is there’s
so many different types you can get into. If I spend the rest of my
career doing macro I won’t learn everything. The more I learn, the
more I know I need to learn.”
He passes on what he knows by conducting workshops and
speaking at meetings of camera clubs.
“I love sharing my knowledge,” he says. “While working as
manager of the store, that’s what we did on a daily basis. Tips and
advice. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your secrets and help-ing
other photographers too.”
Teaching classes is one way to make up for the loss of the steady
paycheck. Allen also does freelance work, including high-end real
estate and collection photography for insurance and archival pur-poses.
He’s working with a company to market his bug photos as
“There’s all kinds of ways to make a living with a camera,” he
says. “I’m exploring what they are.”
One thing he won’t do is get back into the wedding photog-raphy
business. Insects might be elusive, but at least they aren’t
“Bugs are cooperative subjects. They don’t complain about
anything,” he says. “Maybe I’m getting eccentric. I talk to my
Whatever the future holds, he’s certain it will include macro
“I can see myself doing macro for years to come,” he says. “It’s
intoxicating. There’s always the possibility of a great image. When
you get a close-up detail of something that’s no bigger than your
fingernail, it’s an accomplishment. There’s always a way to keep
improving my bug pictures. Getting closer and closer and closer.
Before, I was happy to get a butterfly. Now I want the face of the
butterfly. I’m looking into microscope lenses, so I can get the eye
of the butterfly.”