(Click on the photos to enlarge)
Like the title says, on Tuesday night I found an adult cicada emerging from it's previous state. After a year of living in the dirt and eating tree roots they crawl up a wall or fence at night and spend a few hours busting out of their skin.
In these times of high gas prices it was a real treat that this one was doing it's thing on my front porch. Some species' larval stages last up to 17 years, but here in South Texas they usually only spend a year or two underground.
The 'pumping up' and drying of their wings is the all-important last step. Here you can see the smaller rear wings through the mains. The body is still soft at this point, 2-3 hours after the process began.
Among the largest insects, they are also the loudest. Surprisingly there is a species of wasp that preys upon cicadas. After stinging one to paralyze it, the wasp drags it up a tree that is on a direct glidepath to it's ground nest and leaps into the air, flapping furiously in an attempt to slow the inevitable crash-landing since the cicada outweighs the wasp by a good margin.
I don't know what happened because i was inside processing the previous photos, but my cicada fell to the ground and was quickly turned into a banquet. Ants are already at work on the still-living giant, and the pillbugs were closing in. By the next day nothing was left but a dry, empty exoskeleton.
Let's talk about depth-of-focus.
I would have loved to stop-down my aperture to get more, and tried that at first, but there were a couple of problems with that.
The cicada was 2" from my porch's ceiling, about nine feet in the air.
It was nighttime, and I was holding the camera high over my head in one hand while trying to light the bug with an LED flashlight in the other, standing on a folding chair.
The shutter speeds with this combination were around 1/30th of a second (at f2 and ISO100, WB=Flourescent because LED flashlights are bluish) which is my personal limit for handholding under the best of conditions, which these weren't.
When your lens is within an inch or two of the subject, even going to f8 won't help DOF much anyway, so getting a noise-free and detailed exposure at maximum resolution was the direction I went.
All in all I thought these came out pretty nicely, and were well worth the acrobatics involved.