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Favorite gadgets

Updated: Feb 23

I love gadgets. Especially the gadgets that help me find and document critters.

Here are some of my favorites:

The essentials: a smartphone with macro lenses, and a spoon

A spoon: spoons are the most useful thing when you go out and document little critters. They are great for scooping things out of water and taking closeup macro shots. Where to get: eat some ice cream, keep the spoon.

A damselfly larva on an ice cream spoon

Aquatic critter set: in addition to you plastic spoon, regular aquarium nets (different sizes), white plastic trays, and white mochi trays are great for collecting aquatic life for observations and documentation. Don't forget to freeze or sun-bath your equipment for a few days between samplings, to avoid cross-contamination of the habitat, by moving invasive species and pathogens from site to site. Where to get: aquatic nets from the pet store, white trays from art store or the Container Store, and eat some mochi for the perfect tray! You can download the little aquatic bug flier on our website here.

Observing macroinvertebrates in plastic containers

Slide-on smartphone macro lens: I love the slide-ons, as I don't need to remember to grab it, it's always there. I also don't need to find the exact spot to connect the lens - it simply slides on to the right spot. I used two brands - Shiftcam and ulanzi. I found ulanzi to be better built and last longer. Where to find: unfortunately, both options are no longer available on their official websites. You might find them on eBay and AliExpress. Make sure you get the right one, as it comes with the entire case. It has to fit your phone.

ulanzi slide-on macro lens on iPhone 11

Higher magnification smartphone lens: I use a uHandy lens to collect, view, and photograph tiny aquatic organisms in the field, such as water fleas and ostracods. I use a plastic 3 ml pipette to place the critters on the lens. Where to find: Amazon.

Kuangren Macro Flash: you won't only look like a strange bug, but it's also a great solution for adding light to your macro shots. At least on my Sony alpha camera, I need to use it on manual settings, but once I got use to it, I cannot use anything else. Please note that they are not highly reliable, and it might take you a while to find the right one (they are sold under different names too), but they worth it. Where to buy: Amazon.

For a diffuser, you can improvise something, or try these Neewer mini soft box. Where to buy: Amazon.

Kuangren Macro Flash and 2 Neewer mini softbox

Underwater & sturdy camera: like many of my friends, I use an Olympus Tough TG-6 camera for my underwater photography - in tide pools, creeks, and ponds. But it's also useful as an all-weather camera, with a great macro option and a built-in GPS. I highly recommend adding a flash diffuser. Even though it's not my preferred camera for every activity, I find it very useful and fun to use for certain activities. Where to find: Olympus website.

From left to right: uHandy super macro smartphone lens, 3 ml pipette, plastic container, field guide, smartphone, spoon, extra-juice for your phone, camera + macro lens, Olympus Tough TG-6 camera

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