I’m pretty sure Henri Cartier-Bresson didn’t have insect mating in mind when he coined the photographic term “decisive moment,” but I can’t think of a phrase that better describes these momentary opportunities that often happen by surprise. More often than not catching insects mating at the decisive moment is just dumb luck, although it helps a lot to be watching for it and to be ready to shoot when it happens.
All of the conjoined insects you see here were total surprises to me. The flies, already connected to one another in flight, landed near another insect I was shooting in my back yard. The two long, end-to-end beetles appeared under a leaf I was brushing aside while in pursuit of a spider. The pair of blue-eyed damselflies united at the edge of a pond I’d staked out in search of dragonflies. The two soldier beetles, which are seemingly under the watchful eyes of another beetle, seemed to come out of nowhere.
These spontaneous discoveries are as fascinating as they are fleeting. I had no idea that new life could be created in so many ways until I stumbled upon these pairs as early in the year as April and as recently as October. All but the damselflies were shot with a tripod and a 90mm macro lens with extension tubes. I used a handheld 70-200mm lens with a 500D close-up filter to shoot the damselflies.
It pays to be a keen observer and to try and anticipate when and where you might run into mating bugs, but like Cartier-Bresson, being ready to pull the trigger on the shutter button at the decisive and often unexpected moment is the key.