Monday color 19

short focus Chinese mantis Tenodera aridifolia sinensis consuming katydid on butterfly bush Buddleia davidii
This has appeared before, but it remains a nice color image so I’m using it again. Plus it has callback value!

The surreal effect was generated by shooting in natural light at f4, which produced an extremely short depth-of-field that let most of the frame go into soft focus while only a few portions of the subject stayed sharp. But there’s another detail to the effect that is visible – or, specifically, not visible – one that I actually talked about just shy of a year ago. You see, mantises display a ‘false pupil’ dark spot, making it look as if their compound eyes are actually more like our own, and this shows in nearly all photos of them. However, it isn’t a surface feature, but one at a slightly different focal distance than the eyes themselves – different enough that, in the short depth-of-field in this shot, it all but vanished. It can just barely be made out right towards the tops of the eyes, easily missed among the indistinct reflections from the overcast sky.

It shows up again with a little higher depth of field as seen here, taken at the same time, but with a flash unit and at f16.
Chinese mantis Tenodera aridifolia sinensis eating katydid on butterfly bush Buddleia davidii
Since the head is at a slightly different angle now, the false pupil has shifted down, producing a seemingly-startled look from the mantis. It’s also easier to make out the raindrops on the eyes from the brewing storm, one that chased me inside shortly afterward. It’s easier to believe in the storm from the lighting of the top photo than the unnaturally bright flash lighting here, though.

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