I’ve said it so often I’ve lost track of the count: I hate using flash for photography. It sucks the life out of subjects. It looks artificial. Whatever’s in the photo tends to appear lifeless. Pictures with flash don’t represent what the eye saw.
But I live in the boondocks. As one local put it, my family lives so far out in the country that we have to drive to town to hunt squirrels. Which is pretty much laughable yet almost true.
So photographing nocturnal wildlife forces one in my position to use flash. And nocturnal wildlife we have in abundance. As long as you can forgo sleep to see it, let alone photograph it, the nights here are filled with so much awesomeness that it’s hard to imagine.
Several weeks ago and long before sunrise, I discovered a green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) meandering through dew-laden grass. A bit of moonlight showed me its brightness on an otherwise dark ground.
So I grabbed my camera and snapped some photos. With flash. Which pretty much blinded me to what I was seeing, but I was OK with that.
Because I knew where my subject hid and I knew how to snap the photos.
Then, three days later, I discovered three such treefrogs as they wandered about in the predawn hours. Only one of them presented me with a photographic opportunity.
So I took advantage of the chance to photograph the bright amphibian.
And I snapped photo after photo.
Changing angles, I kept taking pictures.
The flash blinded me, of course, and I only knew about the frog I could see in the weak moonlight.
So everything was lost to me. Except my subject. Until I processed the images.
And that’s when I discovered a praying mantis hanging out beside the frog. Even if it hadn’t been dark, the mantis was camouflaged so well that it would have appeared like a bit of grass—which it did.
The mantis only became apparent when I processed the photos later.
Though I can’t tell you the species, I suspect it to be a Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). , Unfortunately, we have several mantis species here and these photos don’t identify it.
Later, once the sun came up, I went looking for the pair. Only the frog remained.
At least so far as I could see. Because the mantis could well have been there, but it so well matched the grass that it might as well have been invisible. Literally and figuratively.