With Canon EOS 5D Mark III’s better autofocus capability, macro photography is bound to change. I used to recommend manual focus for macro shoots especially on 5D mark II as most of the time autofoucs used to hunt for focus and used to miss the shots. 5D Mark III coupled with Hybrid IS of Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is very fast and accurate in focusing the insects even at such a close range. I used to get similar results with 7D but 5D mark III surpasses it by a huge margin. Silent shutter is also a boon to reduce the noise activated disturbance on flies. All my previous camera shutters used to startle the flies and jumping spiders at close quarters.
In my garden I have a huge Indian almond (Terminalia catappa) tree. It has nests of weaver ants. Indian Almond sheds its leaves quite often and when its sheds these nests also fall down to ground and we have these weavers all over the place. Fruit bats love the almonds and almost every night we have visitors to this tree. They also tend to damage the nests of these weaver ants. Despite all these weaver ants are persistent and keep building the nest back again and raise their larvae.
I photographed these major worker ants of Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) as they were running up and down the tree trunk. I have used 5D Mark III coupled with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM with Canon MT-24EX macro twin light flash. Even though they were moving quite fast I was able to focus on them accurately using the camera. my older method with 5D mark II used to be to keep the lens in manual focus and then move the body forward and back till I get the focus I want. It was perfectly possible for a relatively slow subject but not on fast movers like these ants. This time I let 5D Mark III camera to auto focus and used AI servo mode. When I used a bunch of 5 or 9 focus point option the result was quite satisfactory. Camera was able to focus and follow the subject without any problem. I also used the focus limiting switch on the lens to concentrate on the near focus only rather than switching all through the focus.
Weaver ants are known for their remarkable cooperative behavior used in nest construction. National Geographic has a nice article on Weaver ants nests and their life style Weaver Ants by Douglas H. Chadwick & Mark W. Moffett.
Weaver ants have traditionally been used in biological control in Chinese and Southeast Asian citrus orchards from at least 400 AD. Here are two interesting PDF documents explaining the use of weaver ants as biological pest control. They also explain quite well the life of these ants
They also been used as food in many places. Here at my place they are called uri in Tulu and chutney made of the ants and the nest along with larva, Uri Chutney is one of the delicacy as well as rich protein source. Their formic acid laden back end is also deliciously sour to suck on so far you are careful about their powerful jaws. Once you master the trick of catching them at the head, you will forget all the fast foods and get addicted to them. Weaver ants are also used in tradition medicine for joint pains and rheumatism.
Here is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s trying out this delicious and amazing chutney made from weaver ants and larvae at the Dhuruva tribe of Bastar.
Check the adventure of National Geographic photographer “Doctor Bugs” Mark W. Moffett on these weaver ants in Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. He has also written a beautiful book on ants called Adventures Among Ants