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Posts Tagged ‘grasshopper’

When I first spotted this large grasshopper last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge it was so still that I was not sure that it was alive. I gently rustled the vegetation and the grasshopper moved a little, so I knew that it was not dead. As I watched, I could see its mouth moving and I think that it might have been eating, which might explain why it was distracted and did not immediately fly away. The first photo was an unsuccessful attempt to determine what the grasshopper was eating.

I am not very good at grasshopper identification, but my friend Walter Sanford, with whom I was hunting for dragonflies, knew that it was a Differential Grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis). The prominent chevrons on the hind femur are apparently one of the identification features for this species.

differential grasshopper

differential grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you ever stop to look at grasshoppers? A lot of them are really cool, like this giant one that I spotted on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I love how it looks like the grasshopper is wearing a helmet on its head and a suit of armor on its torso.

I am not very good in identifying grasshopper species, but after looking through various internet sites, I wonder if this might be an Eastern Lubber grasshopper (Romalea guttata). This species is found only in the southeastern part of the United States. Virginia, where I live, is not within its listed range, so it is possible that this is a related species. Whatever the case, I definitely love the bold coloration of this giant grasshopper.

yellow grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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There were quite a few grasshoppers yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and this one cooperated for me by posing momentarily. Initially the grasshopper hung upside down as shown in the first image, but eventually it climbed around on the stalk of vegetation and assumed a more upright pose.

I couldn’t help but notice that the background of the two shots seems really different. I think this was caused by the fact that I shot them from very different angles, even though I remained more or less in the same spot.

grasshopper

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This shot from Monday is for Cindy Dyer, my photography mentor, who used to refer to me as her “grasshopper” and taught me some important lessons when I was just starting to get serious about my photography six years ago.

Folks of a certain age may recall that “grasshopper” was the nickname used by Master Po for his young student Kwai Chang Caine in the western martial arts television series Kung Fu in the 1970’s. The name is a reference to a wonderful scene in the pilot episode for the series in which the blind teacher helps to teach his new student that “seeing” requires more than the simple use of your eyes.

Here, from Wikipedia, is a snippet of dialogue with some of the wisdom of Master Po:

Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

In case you have never heard of the Kung Fu television series or want to relive a moment from your past, here is a link to a short YouTube video of the above-referenced scene.

As a nature photographer, I think a lot about “seeing” as I seek a closer connection with the natural world and so many of its inhabitants. My observations have caused me to conclude that the pace of the natural world is different from that of my everyday life and that I consequently have to slow down in order to be in synch with it.

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’ve never really paid that much attention to grasshoppers, but I am starting to discover that there is an amazing variety of them in my local area in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors.

It’s hard to know where to start in trying to identify them, so for now I am content with trying to photograph their beauty, which is a pretty big challenge by itself. Not surprisingly, grasshoppers tend to hang out in the grass and heavy vegetation where they are hard to spot and almost impossible to isolate. Sometimes, though, they’ll hop out of the cluttered area to a more exposed perch and that gives me a change to photograph them.

The two photos here give you an idea of the kind of shots towards which I am aiming. In the first image, I was determined to focus on the eye and it ended up as one of the few areas in focus. I like the effect, however, because there is something special about eye-to-eye contact. In the second shot, I positioned myself to get more of the body in focus. As is the case with so many of my macro shots, depth of field was a real challenge.

I suspect that grasshoppers will never quite rise to the level of dragonflies on my personal list of favorite subjects, but they are on my list now and I will probably stop more often in the future to photograph them.

grasshopper

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I sometimes make up my own names for species that I have trouble identifying and I call this grasshopper that I observed this weekend the Dual-unicorn Grasshopper, because the shape and pattern of the antennae remind me of many of the depictions I have seen of the mythical unicorn.

What is it really called? Almost exactly a year ago, I posted some photos of a similar-looking grasshopper and considered the possibility that it might be a Slant-faced Grasshopper or a Cone-headed Grasshopper. Are those names any less outrageous than the one that I am suggesting?

I did manage last year to find some photos of grasshoppers that looked pretty much like mine that were identified on BugGuide as a Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper (Leptysma marginicollis).

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper? I have to say that those three words make for an unusual word combination. I think I’ll continue to call it the Dual-unicorn Grasshopper.

Dual-unicorn Grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The dragonfly population continues to decrease as we move deeper into autumn, but my little winged friends seem to have been replaced by grasshoppers. Whenever I walk through the fields of my favorite marshland park, I am preceded by mini explosions of insects. Most of the grasshoppers hop far away, but yesterday one of them chose a nearby stalk of grass and posed for me.

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do adventurous young grasshoppers do for fun? Hopping may be ok for the average grasshopper, but this little guy prefers the adrenaline rush he feels when he scales the sheer face of a rocky cliff with no ropes or other climbing gear.

grasshopper

The truth is a little less exciting than my fiction. The angle was not as steep as it looks in the shot and the “rock” is actually a rotten log.

I still choose to believe that grasshoppers like a little adventure in their lives. Who knows what they do when we are not watching?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I looked through my macro lens, I felt for a moment like a matador. The grasshopper in my viewfinder had lowered its head and was preparing to charge me, trying its best to gore me with its fearsome fluted horns. I wasn’t dressed for the part and had no little red cape to bravely wave at the charging grasshopper.

In reality, I am not sure what kind of a grasshopper this is. It looks a little like a Slant-faced Grasshopper, but I have never before seen one with such unusual, horn-shaped antennae. This grasshopper hopped up onto this stalk of grass as I was searching for dragonflies this past weekend. I don’t know much about the developmental cycle of grasshoppers and wonder if this might be a nymph.

In the absence of any scientific information, I think I’ll informally call this the Dual-unicorn Grasshopper, because the shape and pattern of the antennae remind me of so many of the depictions I have seen of the mythical unicorn.

 

charge_blogcharge2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The weather may be cooling, but things are still hopping at my local marshland park.

As I was walking through one of the back meadows last Friday, grasshoppers were hopping every which way as I approached them. Most of them settled back down into the grass and I couldn’t get a good look at them, much less a photo. Suddenly one grasshopper jumped up onto a plant and posed for a moment. I used my popup flash because I was shooting directly into the sun, and I was able to capture a good deal of detail of the insect’s body.

grass1_oct_blog

Shortly thereafter a katydid did the same, but chose to perch at a titled angle.  I had time for only a single shot and did not use flash, so you can see some of the light shining through from behind (though I did have to lighten the shadows in post-processing). I especially like the way in which the angles of the insect’s long antennae mirror the shapes of the branches of the plant. I am not sure of the specific identification of this insect, but suspect that it’s a katydid vice a grasshopper because of the extremely long antennae.

grass2_oct_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When this praying mantis began to straddle a hapless grasshopper, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but suspect that the grasshopper may have been the one that began to pray.

Was the mantis looking at the grasshopper as a potential mate or a potential meal? With praying mantises, the question of mate or meal is a little complicated, because some females reportedly bite off the heads of the males after mating.

As it turned out, the praying mantis ignored the grasshopper and simply climbed over him and the grasshopper’s prayer undoubtedly turned into one of giving thanks.

mantis_grasshopper_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Perhaps the old adage that “opposites attract” applies to grasshoppers too. When I photographed this intimate moment on a leaf, I couldn’t figure out for sure what was going on.

Perhaps the grasshopper was attracted by the bright colors of the Handsome Meadow Katydid and was trying to start a conversation.  Maybe this was a blind date set up by some well-intentioned friends. Is it possible they matched on a lot of points in the insect version of Match.com?

I have photographed grasshoppers and katydids separately, but this is the first time I have them both in a single image. It is fascinating to be able to compare the bodies of the two species and note the differences in the eyes, the legs, and many other parts.

The striking colors of the Handsome Meadow Katydid have always drawn my attention, but I am left with one question to ponder. Do grasshoppers even see in color or only in shades of gray?

grasshopper_encounter_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Who knew that grasshoppers come in so many different sizes and colors?

I used to think that all grasshoppers were the same, but this year I have started to look at them more closely and have already seen their amazing diversity. I definitely do not know enough yet, though, to distinguish among the different species.

Two things really stood out for me in this image of a grasshopper—its coloration and its feet.  The metallic sheen of its body makes it almost look like it is wearing a suit of bronze armor.  I’ve never before noticed the cool little hooks at the end of the grasshopper’s feet, but you can see them easily in this shot.

bronze_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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My goal for this photo was pretty simple—move slowly toward this grasshopper and get a good close-up shot. I think that I achieved my goal. I love shooting with my macro lens.

grasshopper_closeup_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Until I got a really close-up shot, I never realized that the body of a grasshopper had so many amazing textures. Previously, I had naively assumed that the body parts were relatively smooth. Click on the image to see a higher-resolution view of the details of the “shoulders,” legs, wings, and antennae.

I hope that no one opened this posting thinking that it was a culinary one. I’ve never tasted a grasshopper, but assume that it would have a crunchy texture. Who knows, maybe it tastes like chicken, which seems to be the default flavor for exotic animal protein sources.

grasshopper_texture_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I haven’t seen many grasshoppers this summer, so I was happy to get a few shots of this one before he hopped off the leafy stalk for a new destination. I especially like the details of the eyes and the mouth.

Grasshoppers are special to me, in part because “grasshopper” is the term that my photograph mentor, Cindy Dyer, uses for me, her student. Some of you may be old enough to remember the television series Kung Fu from the 1970’s, in which Master Po, the blind monk, called his young pupil “grasshopper.”

I often wondered why he used that particular word and today I came across an explanation in Wikipedia. Apparently it stemmed from an exchange between the Master Po and the student, Caine, in the pilot episode of the series.  There is a lot of wisdom in that final response.

Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

grasshopper1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s the middle of October and grasshoppers are still hopping, though it seems that there are fewer of them than a month ago. This grasshopper was willing to stay still long enough to pose for this informal portrait. The sunlight was coming from the side and the back, helping to illuminate the underside of the grasshopper that is usually in the shadows and there is a nice glow to the grasshopper. I like the effect.

Illuminated fall grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s only a grasshopper, not an exotic insect, but I really like the way that his portrait turned out.

The grasshopper’s pose suggests that he is ready for action and his slightly cocked head helps to give him personality. I was able to get sufficient depth of field and sharpness by using an F8 aperture, ISO 200,  and 1/200 sec and by moving in a bit from the far end of my telephoto zoom (I was at 229mm of a 55-250mm lens). Both the foreground and the background are simple and are made up of a minimum of colors, mostly green and brown. The day was mostly cloudy, so the shadows are soft.

All these elements seemed to work in harmony and I was able to produce this nice, open-air portrait of a grasshopper.

Grasshopper portrait (click for a higher-resolution view)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have become hyper-attentive now when I walk through gardens, woods, and marshes. I have started to slow down and am more aware of my surroundings. A few months ago, for example, I would not have noticed this grasshopper climbing up the stalk of a plant. Now I can look with wonder at yet another fascinating creature, and my life is enriched by the experience.

Climbing Grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early this morning I went out with my camera and I was happy to spot again the very colorful grasshoppers known as Handsome Meadow Katydids (Orchelimum pulchellum). As was the case the first time I spotted these neon-colored insects, I was at Huntley Meadows Parks in Alexandria, VA. I had a little trouble getting clear shots of the entire bodies of the katydids, but I managed to capture some good close-up shots of their faces. I especially like the first shot, taken looking down at him as he was munching on a leaf.

I continue to be amazed at the katydid’s vivid colors and blue eyes. Wow!

Handsome Meadow Katydid Munching on a Leaf

Close-up Shot of Handsome Meadow Katydid

Body Shot of Handsome Meadow Katydid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Just a few days after posting a photo of a neon-colored grasshopper (who turned out to a Handsome Meadow Katydid), I saw another one. Well, actually I encountered a giant sign for a toy store featuring a cool grasshopper that looked a lot like “my” grasshopper.

How many passers-by realize that there is an actual grasshopper with colors as bright (or even brighter) than the one on the sign?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I just got back from shooting and couldn’t wait to post a photo of one of the coolest looking insects that I have ever seen. It appears to be be part of the grasshopper family, but its bright colors and blue eyes really made it stand out as I was walking through the marsh at Huntley Meadows Park this morning. I’m sure I’ll be able to identify him eventually, but want to share him now. Sometimes folks need a little extra pick-me-up on Fridays.

UPDATE: I am pretty sure he is a Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum). I found a photo in BugGuide that looks quite a bit like this one.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A few days ago I posted a photo of a Yellow Garden Orbweaver (Argiope aurantia) that I photographed at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA. I was strangely attracted to those spiders and returned the next day to see if I could get a few more shots.

Here is one of my favorite shots from that day. The spider looks to be gnawing on the leg of a grasshopper that has been wrapped up and seems to be a little dried out. The grasshopper actually looks like he has been battered and deep-fried, but that seems to be a bit over the top, even for a Southern spider. You can also see a little of the zigzag pattern of the web at the bottom of the photo that is typical of the webs of this kind of orbweaver.

Yellow Garden Orbweaver Spider and Grasshopper (click on the photo to see more details)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A few minutes ago I was vacuuming when I suddenly noticed that there was an insect on the screen of my sliding glass patio door.  Of course, I immediately stopped working and grabbed my camera (with macro lens) and tripod.

I decided to try some face-to-face shots, which was a little tricky for the insect (which I think is a katydid) was less that two feet above ground level. I am glad that nobody could see me as I contorted my body with considerably less grace than the Olympic gymnasts I watched earlier this week.

When I looked at my closeup shots of the eyes, I realized they were a little creepy. No, they were more than a little creepy. So, of course, I am sharing them with you. Hopefully this image does not cause anyone to lose sleep or have nightmares and I certainly would not advise blowing this up and hanging it on your wall. (And yes, I know my macro technique still needs work, but I am still just learning.)

Now I can return to my chores, unless some other photo opportunity literally falls at my door step.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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