Behind the Photo: A Mantis in Natural Light

A young chinese mantis, Tenodera sinensis, climbs a black-eyed susan. Urbana, Illinois, USA.

This shot of a small mantis is not in my usual style. Most of my photos are lit with flash; here I drew only from the ambient light of early evening. While I like to think I’m being creative with these natural images, I’m really aping the style of a favorite insect photographer, the amazing Rick Lieder. In an interview I conducted with Rick earlier this year, he describes the importance of backdrop:

“If I have a style, part of it is that the background is as important as the subject. If I don’t have a good background, I usually don’t make an image. I think of myself like a stage director or set designer, I’m creating a stage and waiting for something to happen within it.”


Rick Lieder, 2013 interview

With light filtering through a maple tree in the backdrop, I found that slight changes in my position led to drastic changes in the appearance of the photograph. The orbs of light in the backdrop are no accident; I shifted my position around until I had the mantis framed in the middle of a particularly bright spot.

If you’d like a print, this photograph is one of 30 I’ve included in the Holiday Print Sale, running until January 1.

photo details:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 1600, f/5, 1/200 sec

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