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Septic tank emptying, France [Alamy image ref. B2TTA8]

Yes, it’s a crappy job, but somebody has to do it!

The origin of the word “crap” did not – as is commonly assumed – originate with Thomas Crapper who, although he was associated with lavatories, did not actually invent the flush toilet. He did, however, increase the popularity of the toilet and developed important related inventions such as the ballcock. The word crap is actually of Middle English origin and thus predates its application to “bodily waste”. Its first use, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, appeared in 1846 under a reference to a “crapping ken”, or a privy, where ken means a house. Its most likely etymological origin is a combination of two older words, the Dutch “krappen” – to pluck off, cut off, or separate; and the Old French “crappe” – siftings, waste or rejected matter (from the medieval Latin “crappa” – chaff).

For “Crapper” reference see… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septic_tank

After that tasteful piece of introductory history, and coming to the subterranean subject of the photo above… a “septic tank” is a holding tank into which all the household waste water and products are discharged into. This waste that enters the tank comes from showers, sinks, toilets and baths… and over time the solids (heavy particles) sink to the bottom whilst the liquid scum in the septic tank is discharged out into a soak-away.

Septic tanks have been around for hundreds of years. In the old days a large hole was dug by hand and then a large watertight chamber was constructed from bricks and mortar. Today little has changed in regard to the function of a septic tank, apart from the construction materials (usually fiberglass) and bacteria that lives in the sewage tank. When I had a septic tank installed in the field next to our remote hillside Welsh house in the late 1980s, the builder recommended three separate concrete chambers (a fiberglass tank could have popped-out of the soggy ground when low in contents) and implied that the waste water emerging from the third chamber could be safely drunk!

However, I never tried that experiment… preferring everything to return to Nature where it belonged, and I didn’t have to have the tanks emptied once during the dozen years living there. But when living in France I regularly saw septic tanks being emptied in both rural areas and in villages and small towns… a huge tractor-drawn “sludge gulper” arriving with an accompanying and familiar odour to tell neighbours what was happening. The image above was taken at a house we rented for a year and I was lucky to be upwind for the best view during the proceedings… the apparent “safe” distance being somewhat distorted from using the wide end of my 14-24mm Nikkor.

The Image was licensed by Alamy for use in a retail book with a 5,000 print-run in the Czech Republic for a 12-month period.

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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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