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A seeing eye – Insect in amber 2006

An insect trapped in Baltic amber - fossilized tree resin from ancient forests

An insect trapped in Baltic amber – fossilized tree resin from ancient forests

The Baltic region is a rich source of amber, dating back 44 million years to the Eocene epoch. Amber is a fossilised resin and more than 100,000 tons of Baltic amber arose from umbrella pine resin. After stormy weather, amber gets washed up on Baltic Sea beaches – including Poland – and is also found along shingle beaches in England between Felixstowe and Southwold.

An insect in amber presents a challenge for photography. Any with the body parts folded over one another rarely make good subjects and are best rejected. Multiple insects are also tricky if they become trapped at different angles or overlap. The amber surface should ideally be as flat as possible without any scratches that would distort the trapped insects.

Occasionally larger specimens can be found with their legs and wings clearly separated. This unidentified insect, purchased in Poland, shows one of  many extinct animal genera that have become trapped within Baltic amber.

Translucent amber looks most dramatic when it is backlit. My own preference is to use a daylight-balanced lightbox, when I manually spot meter the light passing through the amber. The result is a chunk of amber that appears to glow like an outsized brown sugar crystal.

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  • December 19, 2015 - 12:29 pm

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