Image Focus

Javier Aznar | Soldier Ant Bite

It was late at night and I was deep in the Amazon Rainforest in Bolivia. I was on the lookout for animals to photograph, particularly snakes. However, I came across this group of army, or soldier ants so I stopped for a few moments to take a photo of them, using my Sony Alpha 7R IV .

Army ants tend to move at night and their job is to protect all the other ants in the colony from predators. I put my finger close enough for one of the army ants to come and bite me, which was my intention, as can be seen in the picture. What you can’t see is that at the rear the ant is also stinging the very tip of my finger. After a few minutes my finger became very sore, but worse was to follow. For the next five days my finger was so big and swollen that I was unable to bend it.

With the ant biting me I had a short amount of time to capture the image with my Sony Alpha 7R IV and the FE 50mm f/2.8 macro lens. I really like the lens because it is small and very affordable, which is a consideration when I am trekking through an environment such as a rainforest.

soldier ant sitting on a human thumb

© Javier Aznar | Sony α7R IV + FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro | 1/250s @ f/14, ISO 320

The image you see is how I shot it in-camera. I used the APS-C mode of the camera to get a cropped field of view that would still create an image that was 26.2 million pixels - this meant I got the image I wanted in camera without having to crop when editing the image afterwards. In the dark of the rainforest, I used an external flash with a diffuser mounted on a tripod to light the ant and my finger. With one hand outstretched being bitten I had just one hand to hold my camera, so I set it to the minimum focus distance and very carefully moved back and forth to focus on the eyes of the ant.

The image for me reminds me of just how aggressive and fascinating these army ants are. People don’t pay enough attention to the smaller creatures in the jungle or rainforest, and they are incredible. They are so tiny and yet so strong, and they are very similar to humans in terms of how they have a society of different hierarchies in each colony and each ant has a different role. In this case it was an army ant, trying to protect his colony from a photographer, who was being a bit of an idiot and not only got bitten, but stung as a result!

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Javier Aznar

Javier Aznar | Spain

"To preserve, we must first know and love what we can lose, and photography is a useful tool to sensitise and show what surrounds us. With my camera I try to show animals in their purest form, from a biological point of view and at the same time, artistic"

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