August 8, 2011

The Endearing Katydid

One afternoon last week, Mark said there was a katydid on the sliding glass door in his office. Well, it took no convincing at all for me to leave the fascinating world of small publishing to investigate a large bug that masquerades as a green leaf. Little did I know, how endearing this little creature would seem to be.

I grabbed my "big" camera, a Canon EOS Digital Rebel (nothing fancy to you photographers out there, I'm sure, but the best camera I've ever owned…I am in love with it), and scuttled into "Shakes, Shivers, and Dithers' " domain, parking myself on the floor in front of the glass.

Katydid had no idea she was there to teach me the finer points of the "M" setting on my camera and how to use f-stop and ISO more effectively, without losing my cool. There was no way to get what I wanted without fussing extensively with the settings, and then when I did get the light right (what did people do before digital cameras?) I had issues with the focus. And then I remembered the manual focus switch near the lens, which my son, Jesse, had shown me on his last visit. (I wish I'd remembered that a week earlier when trying to get a good shot of a spider web…)

(Photo 1) Here you can see Katydid and her (or his?) shadow. I like how you can see her wings and how much they resemble a green leaf. From what I've read, I think this is a young katydid because the back legs are not that long in relationship to the length of her body. Maybe this is why she was not at all afraid of me…I continued to snap photos...

(Photo 2) When I figured out the right setting, I got the background (above) dark and I started to see the incredible detail in Katydid's underside.

(Photo 3) Later, I took one of the full body shots and enlarged it on my computer. Voila, a portrait!

(Photo 4) When I saw the photo above on my monitor, I thought Katydid definitely shows some talent for acting. This looks like a pose from "A Chorus Line."

(Photo 5) This is my very favorite photo of all…. the happy katydid.

I ended up taking 76 photos in all, over a period of about 15-25 minutes (I lost track of time). Twelve of them came out pretty well. (see settings below)

The most incredible part of this surprise experience, to me, was how I felt…as if this creature was happy to connect with me, to show me her stuff, to stay there while I looked at her, a big black camera in front of my own face; while her's was so open and friendly.

The next morning, I woke up early as usual and went into the family room and there on the wall, near the ceiling, was a katydid. "How did you get in here?" I asked. She was still sleeping.

I left the light off and the two little dogs snoring happily on the couch; then after the sun rose, grabbed a plastic container and transported my favorite bug outside. "You need to be out here with all the trees," I said, as she flew out and floated to the ground. I hope she found her way back into the woods.

I purchased a children's book: "The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs" by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards. Here's what I learned:

  • Grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets are all members of the same order of insects: Orthoptera.
  • Insects in this order go through "incomplete metamorphasis."
  • Adult katydids can fly and jump, like grasshoppers, but also they can sing the unmistakable Katy-did-Katy-didn't song (during summer months).
  • On rare occasions, they are bright pink.

Photo 1: ISO 1600 55 mm f/5.6 1/500
Photo 2: ISO 1600 55 mm f/5.6 1/400
Photo 3: ISO 1600 55mm f/5.6 1/160
Photo 4: ISO 1600 55mm f/5.6 1/100
Photo 5: ISO 1600 55mm f/5.6 1/100

Photos copyright 2011 by Janice Phelps Williams


Cynthia Neale said...

What a face and bugged eyes! I am convinced Katydid is a she because of the way she was posing and enjoying your company so much that she wanted to stay for tea. So many stories and illustrations...and so little time. Thanks for taking the time to capture this insect darling. I must be better with the camera myself for I thought I had captured the gossamer wing hairstreak butterfly, but it came out blurry.

Janice Phelps Williams said...

Thanks, Cynthia! Try the manual focus setting (if you have one) on your camera. That's what I had to do, and it worked.

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