It is so nice to take macro photographs using natural light, particularly early in the morning at first light. Unfortunately this requires near windless conditions, a bit of a rare commodity when you live near the coast.  The alternative is to use flash as the main light source. The short duration of the burst of flash illumination freezes motion. Using my Canon 430EX flash in manual mode on 1/16th power gives a burst of light that lasts about 1/8000th of a second, fast enough to freeze most action. The flash is set in manual mode, because if ETTL mode is used this fires a short preflash to calculate the main burst required.  Human eyes dont see this brief preflash but many insects and some birds have no trouble reacting to it in a millisecond.

Today I went out to some beachside weeds that have yellow flowers and are insect magnets. A very strong wind was blowing, but using flash and the very short working distance of my MP-E65mm lens I was able to take sharp photos with ease. The technique used is to hold the plant stem with your left hand and then rest the lens on that hand also. Subject and lens are thus 'locked together' and maintain sharp focus.

When you look through the insect galleries most of the higher magnification photos have been taken using this technique. The method is also quicker than setting up a tripod and suprisingly when approached smoothly a lens and flash a few cms away scares less subjects than setting up a tripod up at a much greater distance.  

The Blue-banded Bee shown above was photographed using the technique described in this little article.  On a thin springy little perch like this there would always be movement so no chance of sharp images without flash. The background to this photo is a leaf I'm holding between my middle and ring finger while holding the stem the bee is on with thumb and index finger. The dew drops reveal the time of day and show why this insect hasn't flown off.