In the early days of Whole Lotta Bugs, George Wakeling @georgewakelingphotography was one of the first people to clearly demonstrate a sincere kindness and genuine enthusiasm toward fellow photographers within our arthropod macro community on Instagram. I could tell from his comments and interactions on other photographers' posts that he really valued building friendships and encouraging them in their photographic efforts. Since then, I have been acquainted with plenty of other encouraging photographers through Whole Lotta Bugs. But George was one of the first of these bright stars, who is still shining in the community to this day!
George’s outspoken encouragement toward the arthropod macro world isn’t his only strong suit. He is also an excellent photographer who excels in the craft. I had the privilege to ask George a few questions about his journey in photography thus far, and this is what he had to say…
George: My name is George Wakeling and I was born and raised in Laval, a suburb of Montreal. I eventually moved to Montreal to study. I received my master’s degree in molecular biology at McGill University. I have been a photographer for the past fifteen years.
WLB: What are some of your earliest memories about your interests in photography and macro photography?
George: I started to do some casual photography at the age of fourteen on a trip to Barbados with my family, using a point and shoot camera. For years, I would only use a camera to document my trips. In my forties, I was looking for a hobby that would be intellectually and emotionally rewarding and I decided to learn more about photography. I bought my first DSLR camera and took a few photography courses.
Learning about the technical aspects of photography played a key role in unleashing my creativity. With a better understanding of the technology and of the different ways to manipulate light, I had gained access to the right tools in communicating what I saw in creative ways. This got me excited about exploring non-verbal expressions and about telling the stories that unfolded before my eyes. From there I started exploring different photography styles such as landscape, wildlife, cityscapes, nightscapes, and pet photography.
A few years ago, I watched a documentary on bees that was filmed with high magnification lenses. I was fascinated with the bees’ anatomy and behaviors. This made me want to try out macro photography. Despite the many technical challenges inherent to macro photography, I quickly became hooked on it. No other type of photography had given me so much joy and such a powerful sense of accomplishment. I have been doing macro photography for the last four years and I’m passionate about it!
George: My favorite arthropods to photograph have unusual shapes or colors. I love to photograph treehoppers. These are without a doubt nature’s most bizarre insects. They are easily recognized by their vertical face and grotesquely enlarged thorax which may extend anteriorly over the head to form one or more spines. Those spines can then expand posteriorly over the body to form a hoodlike covering.
Another insect I love to photograph is the jagged ambush bug. It’s a chunky bodied insect with enlarged, raptorial front legs, somewhat resembling those of a praying mantis. It has an unusually angular body with jagged body contours. To me, it looks like some sort of miniature dinosaur and that never gets old. It’s also a powerful ambush predator that can take down an insect that is ten times its size!
George: There are many reasons why I love arthropod macro photography. One reason is that I like to be challenged when doing photography. Since I prefer in situ macro photography, arthropods keep me on my toes as most of them are always on the move. I enjoy the challenge of having to reposition my body to adapt to my subject’s pace and environment in order to obtain a composition and angle that I like. Having to adapt to my subject’s behavior like this, I’m always in physical contact with things found in nature. I find that very soothing. Also, all that moving around keeps me in shape which is a nice plus!
Photographing arthropods also requires me to be in the moment and to therefore get out of my head. It kind of forces me to take a temporary step back from any difficult projects or life situations that I might be going through. And then, after a little bit of time spent photographing arthropods, I can get back to those pending life challenges or tasks with a refreshed mind.
One of the other major reasons I like arthropod macro photography is for the sheer diversity of textures, shapes and colors found in arthropods. For example, I am fascinated by the complex architecture of arthropods’ exoskeletons (their ‘skin’). I enjoy seeing up close how hairs and other tiny elements are neatly and strategically arranged to form complex structures in the exoskeleton and other body parts. On any given day in the field, I can capture a lot of images that are fundamentally very different. I marvel at this diversity!
I also like photographing arthropods to raise awareness of the importance of having arthropods around for our wellbeing. Arthropods often have an unjustified bad reputation or are deemed insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I want to contribute to changing all of that. Through my macro photography, I want to show people the intrinsic and undeniable beauty of arthropods. I hope it inspires some people to change their perception and to become interested in the fate of arthropods. People need to realize that the food and water humanity relies upon are underpinned by insects and other arthropods. Without them, we are doomed.
WLB: Thanks, George! It was a privilege to get to interview you and to learn some more about the inspiration behind your amazing photography!
You can find George and his work @georgewakelingphotography on Instagram. George also had a lot to say about some of his favorite camera equipment, which we are saving for an upcoming blogpost. So if you like George’s photography and you would like to learn more about the equipment he uses, then stay tuned for that!