Photos of Insects in Flight Captured with a Custom Laser Beam Camera Rig


Back in 2010, we featured the beautiful macro bug photographs of a Belgian photographer named Frans, who uses a custom laser camera rig to capture insects mid-flight. Inspired by fotoopa’s work, biochemist and photography enthusiast Linden Gledhill decided to pursue the same photographic subject.

Unlike Frans, Gledhill didn’t have the engineering and electrical know-how to create a homebrew trigger system, so he decided to go with a cross beam trigger system called StopShot manufactured by Cognisys.

Using the StopShot as the core, Gledhill built a handheld integrated high speed insect rig using his DSLR and an external shutter created from an old computer hard drive. The trigger uses laser beams that cross at the focal point of a macro lens, and when both beams are broken at the same time, the external shutter is triggered and the flash units are fired. Here’s a photo of the rig:


Gledhill says it’s the short duration of the flash that freezes his insects in mid-flight rather than a fast shutter speed. His trick is to have the camera shutter open and the sensor exposed when the flash illuminates the subject.

The external shutter opens in about 10 milliseconds 10x faster than the DSLR can react and that is why its important to have access to a very fast acting external shutter. If the camera’s shutter was used the insect would be out of the field of view before its shutter could open. Because of this, high speed photographs are typically done in a darkened room to avoid this lag (ie on bulb mode). An external shutter allows insect to be captured in full sun.

Here are some of the amazing photographs Gledhill has captured using his rig so far:

















Gledhill’s custom rig has been so effective that Cognisys has used his prototypes to develop and release a commercial product called the “Cognisys Insect Rig“.

You can find more of Gledhill’s macro insect photography in this Flickr set.

Image credits: Photographs by Linden Gledhill and used with permission

  • Kung’u Kiuna


  • kingkool68

    I see no price on their site for the insect rig which means I probably can’t afford it.

  • Brendan Wixted


  • Sean McCann


  • Joshua Tobias George Barrett

    Genius! Fantastic idea and stunning shots!

  • Andreas

    If you go to the Shop you can see the price for the “High Speed Insect Capture System ” its 2300$

  • kingkool68

    Ah… totally missed that. My theory still stands.

  • Tommy Sar

    AHHH!!! KILL IT!! KILL IT!!!

  • jnm

    Great photos! Let’s just hope no insects were harmed. “Aah! The light! I can’t see anyyythiii*crash*”

  • frank mckenna

    well worth the effort. These pics are superb.

  • Mansgame

    Absolutely beautiful macro work. Instead of taking pictures of a bunch of dead bugs with water on their head, this guy invented a trigger, had lighting, and captured live bees doing bee stuff.

  • Lucas Kao

    Beautiful images, but does the strong flashes of the rig harm the insect?

  • Emrah PEKDEMİR

    How can you kill them, now that you have seen how beautiful they actually are?

  • Lost Boy

    Reinshtein already mentioned himself that all insects in his photos were alive at the moment of shooting. Unless you have evidence to the contrary then I suggest you avoid snide and baseless remarks. Why not address him directly to try and find out his methods?

  • Likesthiswork!

    Thanks for posting these shots. Incredible!

  • carryledwards

    These Photos Are THe Most Amazing Ever. Love The LadY Bugs!

  • niXerKG

    $2300 for the Insect rig isn’t as bad as I was expecting. If I had money to burn…

  • Pyae Phyo Han

    Great photo: Amazing

  • Bob

    Lost Boy: Obviously you misread the above statement. He is obviously saying that other people take pix of dead bugs, but this guy takes pix of living bugs doing their thing. Unless you learn to read, I suggest you avoid snide and baseless remarks.

  • Carlos Garcia

    He is talking about another post in petapixel where a photographer took photos of insects with waterdroplets on their heads.

  • matthewcobb

    Note the free-loading blood-sucking mite on the pale crane fly (9th photo down in the main set).

  • JCM

    WOW! Amazing!

  • True Blue

    Amazing shots and equipment. Some has to stick it to these annoying iphone and Galaxy users. dont try this at home peeps :)