On a balmy, summer evening, a male Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) sets out in search of a mate.
Stag Beetles are Britain’s largest terrestrial beetle. Although they are often associated with ancient woodland, they are far more commonly found in urban settings such as the one pictured above.
An endangered species, they are generally found in very localised populations, mostly across the South-East of England.
Their life cycle spans some 5-6 years, although the vast majority of this is spent underground in the larval phase. They emerge as fully developed beetles in early summer, and will live for only a couple of months at most, during which time their primary task is to find a mate.
They generally appear around sunset, and continue to be active until after dark. The males in particular can often be seen flying, they are noisy and quite ungainly in flight.
Using a wide angle lens (a Sigma 15mm Fisheye) has allowed me to show the beetle in the context of its urban surroundings.
Off camera flash has been used to expose the beetle correctly in the dark, and to help freeze any movements the beetle made during the exposure time, which was relatively long at 1 second.
I wanted to be able to get the lens right at the beetle’s eye level – something that took some creative thinking. With the beetle on the path, it was impossible to get the camera low enough to achieve this. While I wouldn’t usually advocate moving a subject for a photo (just because one can pick up an insect and move it, I don’t necessarily think it is something that should be done), the only way I could think to achieve this was to construct a false path out of a thin piece of board and some quick set tarmac, and place the beetle on it. With the camera resting on the actual path, this brought the beetle up to the level of the lens.