#33 – Praying Mantis… ideal still-life subject?

Praying Mantis, France. [Alamy image ref. B3GYAW]

I spotted this insect in a friend’s garden here in France about a day before I really saw it. I should explain… the Praying Mantis will often sit for hours (or for an extended day in this case) waiting for it’s prey to stray within range. They will remain motionless, and extremely well camouflaged, blending-in with their surroundings so well that you cannot be sure if you are seeing what you think you are seeing… if you know what I mean.

Trying to make an interesting image was not easy – more so as I am certainly NOT a nature photographer – but I decided to try to reveal the insect more by using it’s lighter body colouring against a darker shadowed background… whilst keeping the entire length of the insect within the narrow depth-or-field restriction imposed by the close-up position. Luckily, the creature didn’t move a muscle or take a nip at my fingers during my repeated clicks and refocusing attempts, and I got a series of usable images from the session. In fact, having sorted and retouched a selection of shots for Alamy, I returned to the garden shrub a few hours later to find the Mantis in exactly the same position… although I doubt she was thinking, “I’ll wait around for a few more hours and give him another opportunity at making a saleable shot if his first attempt didn’t look too good!”

From Wikipedia“Mantises are camouflaged, and most species make use of protective coloration to blend in with the foliage or substrate, both to avoid predators themselves, and to better snare their victims. Various species have evolved to not only blend with the foliage, but to mimic it, appearing as either living or withered leaves, sticks, tree bark, blades of grass, flowers, or even stones.”

The Praying Mantis has a typical “prayer-like” stance, although it’s name is often misspelled as “Preying Mantis” since they are essentially predatory. In Europe, the name Praying Mantis refers to Mantis religiosa. That’s as much as I know about these creatures having no knowledge or expertise about the Natural kingdom apart from the fascination of what I see through a close-up lens attached to my Nikon. All I can do here is to point readers to an excellent website dedicated to the Praying Mantis here.

Sold by Alamy quite quickly under my “Nature” pseudo to a retail book publisher in France for a 5,000 print-run as a 1/8th-page on a 1-year licence.

As a side note… there are 1,739 images on Alamy captioned as “Praying Mantis” and another 356 with the “Preying” spelling. Are those using “Preying” losing out… or should the 1,739 other images include “Preying” to attract those researchers who use the incorrect spelling?


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