Beetles! Alfred Russel Wallace’s Specimens.

Hello! Welcome to my Beetles! series. I am the behind-the-scenes photographer in the beetles department at the Natural History Museum (aka the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’). The collection is an enormous jewel box of six-legged beauty, and I’ve got plenty of photos to share!

For the last few months, I’ve had the incredible job of photographing Alfred Russel Wallace’s type specimens from the NHM beetle collections. I was so honoured to be able to see his specimens up close, to handle them, and to scrutinise his tiny hand-writing with my very own eyes! 50 of my Wallace photos are featured on the Natural History Museum Flickr page, and you can see them there in spectacular high-res glory!

Helena-Maratheftis-Wallace-beetles-NHM-small

If you have any interest in science or the natural world, you’ll want to look Wallace up. Wallace was not only Charles Darwin’s co-publisher, he was also an intrepid explorer, a gentleman, a badass and a beetle geek. For these reasons, he easily makes it into my list of All Time Heroes.

November 7th marked the centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace‘s death. To mark the occasion, a statue of Wallace by the sculptor Anthony Smith was unveiled at the Natural History Museum. I was lucky enough to be there, and I listened to David Attenborough, Bill Bailey and Richard Wallace (Alfred’s grandson) say some very inspiring words. (If you haven’t already seen Bill Bailey’s A+ series of documentaries about Wallace, check ’em out here!)

Helena-Maratheftis-Wallace3

Helena-Maratheftis-Wallace2

Helena-Maratheftis-Wallace1

I like that the statue depicts Wallace in his prime: all dressed up in field gear and brandishing a butterfly net with a  look of wonder and delight on his face! He may be looking up towards a shiny beetle, but I reckon we can all look up to him.

To see the full set of beetle photos, click here.

Beetles! A new collection at the NHM.

Hello! Welcome to my Beetles! series. I take photos for the beetles department at the Natural History Museum (aka the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’). There are plenty of photos to share. Stay tuned!

Last week was extra-exciting, as the team unveiled thousands of new specimens acquired for the museum collection. I was invited to take a peek at the new material…and encouraged to take lots of pictures, as usual. Here are some of my favourites. (You’ll be entirely shocked to discover that my favourites were the most heavily coloured and patterned beetles of the bunch!)

Helena-Maratheftis-NHM-new-collection-600-04

Helena-Maratheftis-NHM-new-collection-600-06

Helena-Maratheftis-NHM-new-collection-600-03Jade greens and dusty blues…spots and stripes and abstract prints…gloss and matte and metallic finishes… these little guys give me so much inspiration for my artwork. They are just too cool.

Helena-Maratheftis-NHM-new-collection-600-02

Helena-Maratheftis-NHM-new-collection-600-09Row after row of little white boxes, filled with specimens from all around the globe. These will soon be integrated with the museum’s current collection.

Helena-Maratheftis-NHM-new-collection-600-08

Helena-Maratheftis-NHM-new-collection-600-07

Continue reading

Beetle & Me: The photographer and her subject.

Once a week, I head to the Natural History Museum, slip into the Coleoptera department, and take whatever pictures the department requires. I love it, love it. The collection is huge and there’s so much to see and to photograph. Of course, once my work is done, things often get a bit silly…

Helena-Maratheftis-beetle-and-me-collage

What can I say? I just love hanging out with (dead) beetles.

Click here to see other Beetles! posts in this series.

Beetles! The Cheeky Butterfly Edition.

Hello! This is part of my Natural History Museum series – I’ve been taking photos for the beetles department (aka the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’). I will be sharing my favourite images with you every week!

Last week at the museum, I was looking through drawers of new specimens when I stumbled across trays of butterflies. It was a surprise to find them in the beetles department – butterflies are not beetles! They’re classed as lepidoptera, and they have their own museum hangout! However, after weeks of looking at compact little beetles, I was struck by the sheer novelty of broad, soft wings. I couldn’t help but whip my camera back out of my bag to take a few quick snaps.

Helena-Maratheftis-butterflies-tanzania-07

Helena-Maratheftis-butterflies-tanzania-04

Helena-Maratheftis-butterflies-tanzania-01

Helena-Maratheftis-butterflies-tanzania-02

Helena-Maratheftis-butterflies-tanzania-05

Helena-Maratheftis-butterflies-tanzania-09

Helena-Maratheftis-butterflies-tanzania-06

These particular butterflies were brought back from Tanzania. Aren’t they beautiful? I love the vibrant colours and crisp black lines and fuzzy little bodies. There’s just something so non-threatening about them, which probably explains why they’re loved by even the most passionate  of insect-haters. How can you hate something so delicate and good-looking? It’s just not possible.

Beetles! Metallic & Iridescent Beauties From Madagascar.

Hello! This is part of my Natural History Museum series – I’ve been taking photos for the beetles department (aka the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’). I will be sharing my favourite images with you every week!

I had an extra-good time at the museum last week. The design team needed images of Madagascan beetles, and I was handed the keys to the collection and given free reign to photograph whichever specimens I liked! Lucky meeee! You should have seen me, peering into tray after tray filled with beetles of all shapes and colours, muttering to myself in a state of sensory over-excitement. Unsurprisingly, I picked out a bunch of shiny ones. Of course. (In my defence, they’re harder to photograph, so you can’t say I went for the easy option.)

Helena-Maratheftis-Madagascar-beetles-2

Helena-Maratheftis-Madagascar-beetles-5Above: The spectacular underside of one specimen. So beautiful that I can hardly stand it.

Helena-Maratheftis-Madagascar-beetles-4

Helena-Maratheftis-Madagascar-3Subtle (and not-so-subtle) copper and rose-gold tones, with the occasional flash of green.

Helena-Maratheftis-Madagascar-beetles-6

Helena-Maratheftis-Madagascar-beetles-7

Helena-Maratheftis-Madagascar-beetleThese ones were particularly shiny! Whenever I look at them, I think of molten metal.

Helena-Maratheftis-Madagascar-beetles-1Madagascan wildlife is often unusual and striking, and the beetles are no different. I’m so lucky to have access to the Natural History Museum’s beetle collections – a big thanks to the department for letting me loose in there!

Click here to see other Beetles! posts in this series.

Beetles! Photographing Gold & Stripes.

Hello! This is part of my Natural History Museum series – I’ve been taking photos for the beetles department (officially known as the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’)! I will be sharing my favourite images with you every week, so stay tuned!

Today I’m showcasing some stripy, golden beauties (click here for a detailed close-up). Aren’t they stunning? I love the contrast of soft metallic gold vs. glossy black stripes and swooping antennae. Have a look:

Helena-Maratheftis-gold-stripes1

Helena-Maratheftis-gold-stripes3Helena-Maratheftis-gold-stripes5My (accidentally) matching gold nails and black ring.Helena-Maratheftis-gold-stripes2

Helena-Maratheftis-gold-stripes4

IMG_7059

Nature: Just Too Cool. When I stumble across specimens like these, I can’t help but marvel at how much style nature has. I’m a complete sucker for shiny metallics and bold stripes (in case ya hadn’t noticed), so it’s nice to know that I share the same tastes as mother nature!   Those are my hands in the photos – I happened to be wearing matching nail polish and jewellery on this particular day, which made me extra excited.

Click here to see other Beetles! posts in this series.

Beetles! Photographing Glow Worms at the NHM.

Hello! This post is part of my Natural History Museum series – I’ve been lending my photography skills to the ‘Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division’ (which roughly translates as ‘beetles department’). I will be sharing my favourite images with you every week, so stay tuned!

This week I photographed glow worms. You might be surprised (and relieved?) to hear that they’re actually beetles, not worms! Some of the specimens at the museum are truly beautiful, with ridiculously long and elaborate antennae.

Helena-Maratheftis-glow-worms-600-01

Helena-Maratheftis-glow-worms-600-10

The above specimen is special for two reasons. Firstly, because of those antennae. Secondly – and more importantly – because it is a type specimen. In other words, this particular individual is the ‘flagship’ specimen by which all others of its species are verified. The species’ name and description are officially attached to this one beetle, making it very precious indeed.

Helena-Maratheftis-glow-worms-600-14

Helena-Maratheftis-glow-worms-600-02

Some of the specimens are very old, and I love the delicate, typewritten (or hand written) labels.
Continue reading

Beetles! Behind-the-scenes photography at the NHM.

Hello! I spent yesterday at the Natural History Museum, lending my photography skills to the Coleoptera section of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division (which roughly translates as ‘beetles department’). I was presented with a jewel box of Tanzanian beetles, and was asked to take close-up portraits for their beetle database and. I was also given free reign to take as many ‘arty’ shots as I liked! Let’s just say I was in heaven. Most of the ‘literal’ shots will end up on the NHM Beetles and Bugs Flickr page, so I’ve mostly included creative photos here. Enjoy!

Helena-Maratheftis-coleoptera-beetles-03

Helena-Maratheftis-coleoptera-beetles-07From this angle, it looks like a tiny dragon! (‘You arty people love your weird angles, don’t you!’)

Helena-Maratheftis-coleoptera-beetles-02

Helena-Maratheftis-beetle-pattern2I couldn’t help but create a pattern out of these gorgeous, flame-hued beetles.

Helena-Maratheftis-beetle-pattern1 Helena-Maratheftis-beetle-pattern3I love the subtle variations in shape and pattern. Nature is just too cool.

Helena-Maratheftis-coleoptera-beetles-04Real entomologists wear beetle earrings. Continue reading