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Photo Series-the Praying Mantis

Praying mantis/mantodea

"Mantodea (or mantises, mantes) is an order of insects that contains over 2,400 valid species and about 430 genera in 15 families worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae.

The English common name for any species in the order is "praying mantis", because of the typical "prayer-like" posture with folded fore-limbs, although the eggcorn "preying mantis" is sometimes used in reference to their predatory habits. In Europe and other regions, the name "praying mantis" refers to only a single species, Mantis religiosa. The closest relatives of mantises are the termites and cockroaches (order Blattodea). They are sometimes confused with phasmids (stick/leaf insects) and other elongated insects such as grasshoppers and crickets." Wikipedia

Insect photography can become a specialization for some photographers. Although this would be a narrow path to follow, when images of insects are required by any publication they will usually turn towards a specialist rather than to a generalist. So it may be that these photographers have found a niche and make a living from it.

One of the many fascinating insects that lens itself well for photography is the praying mantis or more simply the mantis.

The can be approached quite easily and will seem to pose for you . They are also good to be kept in captivity and there are even collectors of these creatures. Many collectible species originate from parts of Asia and are highly sought.

Praying mantis eggs can be purchased in many parts or through the mail. They are easily accessible since they are a natural way to control garden and crop pest and many gardeners as well as farmers regularly employ them plus they are much cheaper and safer to use than many commercial chemical insecticides.

You will need a macro capable zoom in order to get in close plus macro shots tend to reveal features which are usually too small for our eyes to clearly see.

A ring flash unit which fits right in front of the lens should also be employed since a regular flash might be to powerful and end up overpowering the scene, thus creating a washed out effect. A tripod is always advisable since at high magnifications even the sightless movement will show in your photographs.

Aim to capture images of the subjects in action such as when stalking its prey or when dining on one. Praying mantis as well as all other mantis, eat other insects and it is fascinating to see them hunt and catch them.

In the wild there are about one thousand and eight hundred known species of insects grouped from the genus Mantis. Their anatomical uniqueness, mainly its striking and very defined front legs which are bent at a particular angle and thus resembling the praying position in humans is a defining characteristic.

The unique appearance of the praying mantis is distinguished in three different body parts; the head, the thorax, and the abdominal region.

This abdominal region also distinguishes the females from the males because females have bigger sized abdomens that make them larger and heavier compared to their male counterparts.

When you photograph a mantis as it is looking straight at you you get the sense that it is studying you, perhaps sizing you as a potential meal and judging from their fierce reputation as a predator, this is not hard to fathom.

Like with any captive animal, keep your photographic session short. Prolonged exposure to photo lights can end up disturbing them and causing them harm not to mention making them highly uncomfortable.

Photo session of less than an hour at a time should be enough and they should not take place during periods when the animal is accustomed to resting.

Also advisable is to research their eating and resting habits and plan the shoot accordingly. They do not usually keep your 9 to 5 schedule so get used to photographing at odd hours if this is what they are accustomed to doing in the wild.

The best shots usually take place when you find mantids in the wild but this can be time consuming and the weather as well as the location have to cooperate. Many great photographs can be done in a studio.

Simply arrange a suitable glass container like a square fish tank, and set it up with local vegetation and other elements and try to make it look as natural as possible.

If you plan on keeping them for an extended period of time it is advisable to research the best conditions to ensure their comfort as well as their prolonged survival. Then get close to the glass surface with your lens to prevent catching reflections.

Remember to keep your guests well fed and afterwards it is advisable and the right thing to do to release them into the wild so that they can continue to provide us with their valuable insect controlling behavior.

What can you do with your images after the project is completed? Well there are many naturalist publications including those that focus on the insect world that can always use your images.

However to increase your chances of making a sale it is always advisable to accompany your images with a good article which among other things should include information about locations, times of year, mating, predatory habits as well as the inclusion of each subject's scientific name.

Keep in mind that like many other photogenic subjects, mantids have been thoroughly photographed and your images must stand out by themselves first before you add the text. Like text by itself,no matter how good it is, it's not as strong as when it is followed by strong images as well.

© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez


Luis E Gonzalez (author) from Miami, Florida on July 26, 2013:

Pamela99: Thank you

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 26, 2013:

Very interesting article on this unique creature. I really like your pictures.

Luis E Gonzalez (author) from Miami, Florida on July 22, 2013:

Donna Huebsch: Thanks

Donna Fairley Huebsch from Clearwater, Florida on July 22, 2013:

Very interesting, Luis...this is quite a striking-looking insect!

Luis E Gonzalez (author) from Miami, Florida on July 22, 2013:

Ralph Deeds: Thanks

Luis E Gonzalez (author) from Miami, Florida on July 22, 2013:

ComfortB: Thank you very much

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on July 22, 2013:

Thanks, Luis. Fascinating.

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on July 22, 2013:

A beautiful writing on a beautiful creature. As a child growing up in a house next to a field of green in Nigeria. I remember time after time of just watching Praying Mantis and wondering 'what in the world are they doing with their legs clasp together'. They are easy to catch and play with, unlike the grasshoppers.

Thanks for bringing back pleasant memories. Voted up and interesting.