My "light arena"
My idea was to create a well-lit space to contain live insects while I photographed them. After trying several smaller, simpler setups, I constructed a larger version that I've used almost daily for many months now.
The arena consists of four twelve-inch circline flourescent tubes mounted securely inside a cavity consisting of two pastic oil-change pans painted white on the inside and turned face-to-face. I cut a circular opening in the top to mount a clear, frosted, plastic wastebasket, adhereing it with clear plastic packing tape, and made smaller openings in the other end for electric feeds to the lights and a small electronics fan. When I flip a switch, the fan comes on to cool the setup and the circline tubes illuminate the inside of the wastebasket. What I have described so far is all mounted with bolts, nuts and washers atop an upturned, sawed-off plastic bucket with ventilation holes in it, which contains the ballasts and small fan.
A wide funnel-like section of a round plastic deli tray fits down into the wastebasket opening to shade my eyes. Its mouth accepts a quart-size, clear plastic deli container. In the bottom of the wastebasket I placed a disc of colored foamcore art board for background. I eventually found that there was just barely enough space between deli container and wall of wastebasket to put my ring flash turned outward for indirect lighting. This yeilded better color and allowed me to freeze motion better. A final improvement was to coat the inside of the deli container with Insect-a-Slip (available through BioQuip.com) in order to keep climbers from scaling the walls.
Here are some photos that illustrate what I have attempted to describe. They are all linked and have rudimentary-to-lengthy comments on each one: