When I started photography 15 years ago and started shooting birds, I knew absolutely nothing about my subject matter. Species identification? Hah! For the first several months I was constantly bugging my friend Jim at work with identification questions, showing him photo after photo while he patiently helped me identify birds. After this much time, I’ve photographed most birds you could expect to find in South Dakota, and I have very little trouble identifying birds from sight or from a photo (by ear is another matter…).
It did take a while though to become proficient in bird identification. After all, there are about 430 species that have been seen in South Dakota. Now as I’m getting into macro photography, i”m having the same issue with insects and spiders, but the magnitude of the problem is MUCH worse! In the continental U.S. and Canada, there have been over 900 different bird species sighted, including many stray birds, and many pelagic birds you’d never see unless you were off the coast some distance. In the U.S. alone, there are over 4,000 BEE SPECIES ALONE!!! Many insect species are also differentiated from each other by only very small ID keys. In other words…it’s DAMNED hard to nail many insects down to a given species.
I’m not satisfied taking a bird photo, but not knowing the exact species. With macro photography and insects…I’m going to HAVE to be satisfied in most cases not knowing the exact species, but perhaps only arriving at the basic genus that species belongs to. The photo above of a Carpenter Bee (I think!!) is a good example. There are over 500 species of Carpenter Bees worldwide. .But as soon as I took this photo and looked at it on my screen yesterday, I knew it was instantly one of my favorite photos!
And that’s going to have to be good enough, as I may NEVER know the exact species shown here…