Wilhelm Photography Blog

The Evolution of the Wilhelm Family Christmas Card

 

The making of our Christmas card started out a silly, super amateur, low quality joke about our dog. What used to take part of an evening to create now takes days of shooting and editing for me. All year this card is in the back of my head with thoughts like, “What am I going to do this year?, How can I make it better?, and Why did I ever do this to myself?”  However, once it is done, it is one of my favorite projects of the year because I get to create it with the family. My kids are completely aware of the whole process now and are fantastic little actors. It is exciting to explain my vision, know they are going to actually keep it a secret, and watch them pretend in front of the camera.

I am excited to have this blog as an avenue of sharing my card with friends, clients, and those that I hope to meet in the coming year since I unable to mail it everyone! Come back to see the new card each year!

 

I shot the first card with 35mm film and the next few with a lousy 2 megabyte  point and shoot.  You can see that as our equipment progresses the image quality does as well.  After starting our business and investing in professional gear we have been able to pull off crazier scenarios.

Every year, we hear one of three questions:

1) How did you get your dog to do that?

My answer: Really big treats.

2) What are you doing this year for your Christmas card?

Answer: I can’t tell you! First of all, I don’t usually know. Second, sometimes “plan A” doesn’t work out.  Third, it is a surprise, of course!

3) Can we be added to your mailing list?

Answer:  Our mailing list is getting ridiculous, so I am very glad to have internet and Facebook to share easily with all of our friends, family, and clients!

Here are our cards starting from 2004 in case you want to see them all!

2004 Where’s Wallace

Card Caption: Merry Christmas from Ben, Tonya, and… Wallace?  Wallace? WALLACE?

2005 Merry Mistletoe

2006 The Star of Christmas

2007 A Simple Family Portrait

2008 Up, Up, and Away!

2009 Wallace Saves Christmas

2010 “You aren’t taking a ridiculous photo of me this year!” ~ Wallace

 

2011 “Just Wrapping Things Up for Christmas.”

2012  is a sad year for our tradition.  Wallace passed away in January, but we have a card to close the chapter on this series.

2012 “Sorry, without a dog we just don’t have enough talent to do our Christmas Card this Year.”

2012 Wilhelm Photography

2013 Walking in a Wilhelm Wonderland

2013 Wilhelm Photography Christmas Card

2014 We Got a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Our family got a big surprise this year! Fortunately for me this isn’t our real gift. I just rented the hippo *wink*If you don’t know the song that inspired this you can hear it here: I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oOzszFIBcE)

Hilarious family Christmas Cards

2015 May the Force be with you

I didn’t intend to ride the StarWars trend but it happened anyway. I still can’t believe the Death Star made it into my Christmas Card! Although, I this required some major photoshop work, if you click the image to see the original post, you will know actual damage occurred in my home last year for the making of this card. If you follow the blog, you know that we did very elaborate costumes from Episode 1 this year for Halloween which inspired this design. You can see them here: StarWars Halloween 2015

 

I hope this makes your Christmas merry and adds a good laugh. I love to hear what you think! So feel free to comment, share, and pin away! Watch for my 2016 card!

Mario Bros Halloween 2016

 

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Super Mario Bros Halloween Costumes

Many of you know that I walk in the Halloween parade with my kids each year, and we dress in a group theme. This year, we decided to go as the Super Mario Bros gang. My kids are big fans. I still have an original Nintendo, and we play it together as well as the newer versions. I don’t understand many of the new video games. It seems like they don’t have a point. I mean, if you aren’t saving a princess, you might be wasting your time. 😉

The parts fit each of us well in terms of size. My oldest daughter made a nice tall Luigi in comparison to the short character of Mario. I make our costumes from thrift store finds and craftiness, so I was excited that Mario and Luigi would be easy to put together. I even found their hats at the thrift store which was a big relief! I just had to add some yellow buttons and mustaches- the added bonus was that their costumes were also pretty warm for the chilly parade weather.

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My middle daughter was excited to be the pretty Princess Peach after being the green wrinkly Yoda last year. She already had the light pink dress, so I added puff sleeves and the other details from a dark pink thrift store prom dress. (I really don’t know how to sew, but if I can steal pre-made pieces I can get them attached well enough.)

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So, the difficult costume was mine. As the largest of the group, I was given the task of becoming Bowser the villain of the video game series. Let me tell you…this was hard. I was very lucky to find three yellow pieces at the thrift store that fit me and made the base of this costume.

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Then came huge amounts of felt, duct tape, foam, and just about 60 snow cone cups. I had two hot glue guns running full blast and I burnt all of my fingers but 3. The shell is made from a trashcan lid that is padded and covered. My head was the real sticking point. I tore the head apart four times and thought I’d never pull it off. I started with an old bike helmet an just kept gluing. The lower jaw actually moved with my jaw (I was a bit proud of that.) I thought I did a pretty good job, but I heard one kid call me a rooster and another said, “look mom, I found a pokemon!”

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We decided to see what we would look like if we were inserted into the older versions of the game…

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If you enjoyed our Mario Bros theme this year, be sure to let us know! Shares are a Halloween treat for us so go ahead and SHARE. And if you get some video gaming time…go save the princess!

 

 

Merry Christmas!

I didn’t intend to ride the StarWars trend this year, but it happened anyway. If you follow the blog, you know that we did very elaborate costumes from Episode 1 this year for Halloween. You can see them here: StarWars Halloween 2015

I was one week into December and still had zero plans for the Christmas card. That is when my friend’s son Noah showed me that he has last year’s card on the fridge. I looked at the photo of my three kids on the back and panicked. Not only did I not have a plan for the card, but I had been so busy this year that I didn’t take a photo of the kids for the back of the card. The most recent images I had were from Halloween. Between that and my friend’s son talking about how Darth Vader should be on my card, the idea was born.

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The next two weeks, I tried to figure out how to make the tree look like it fell over after being sliced with a lightsaber. I came home one day to find my tree on the ground with balls smashed to smithereens. I was a bit heartbroken, but obviously this meant less photoshop. We bought lightsabers and cleared the evening for our annual photo shoot. I spent the rest of the week repairing ornaments. I was able to fix all the ones with sentimental value, and we all agreed that our star was lame and needed replaced.  I added snow to the back images for that Star Wars classic Christmas effect- hehe

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So, the Death Star made it into my Christmas card… Not going to win any awards for beauty this year!

I hope that makes your Christmas Merry!

Need to see the previous years? Check out our

Christmas Card Traditions Blog

Moth Madness

I have been creating a collection of moth photos, and I am very excited to introduce to you several kinds of large moths in our area.  These tremendous moths, despite their size, are rarely seen due to their nocturnal behaviors. They are much more lovely than you would expect from the porch light sightings where we commonly get a glimpse.

My four moths all come from the order of Lepidoptera but will represent some different families within that large encompassing order. First, lets look at the Saturniidae family. Saturniids include the largest of the moths including giant silk moths like this Polyphemus Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This moth is easily identified by the eye spots on the wings. So much so that its name was given in reference to the Greek myth of Cyclops Polyphemus.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

It is easy to distinguish between males and females. The above image is of the female with less feathery antenna and below is a male with very pronounced and bushy antenna. They detect the pheromones of the female.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Males will fly for miles in one night to find a female.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

My next moth is from the same order and family, but it is the only moth with this color pattern. This yellow beauty is the Imperial Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This is the only moth to be yellow with a tan/lavender or brown/pink pattern on it’s wings.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

The caterpillars of the imperial moths dig underground to form their cocoons so you will not find them hanging on vegetation in your yard.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This one was missing an antenna when I found it.  I wondered if that would affect his quality of life. However, I found that these moths do not live long as adults. In fact, when they reach the adult phase, their mouth parts are so greatly reduced that they do not feed. They focus on reproduction and live only a week or more.

My next two moths are still in the Lepidoptera order, but come from the Sphingidae family which includes hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms.

This is the Pandorous Sphinx Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

These moths fly at dusk and have an incredible camouflage pattern.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

These adults drink nectar and are sometimes seen in meadows or along forest lines in the evening.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

When adults emerge from the cocoon, they pump their wings to disperse fluid and extend them.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Although the caterpillars stage is destructive due to its ravenous nature. This guy has been known to devour even poison ivy which is a big plus to most folks.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Also in this family is the Big Poplar Sphinx Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Another guy with one sad looking antenna. I had a hard time researching this one.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

 This was an unusual find. I had a hard time identifying this one.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

To identify this one, I have contacted an expert in this field, and he has already responded. My guess was close. When I identified this moth, I thought it was Genus: Pachysphinx and Species: Occidentals. This is more likely the Species: Modesta which would be found on the east coast. I am glad to have him correctly identified and excited to have my sighting logged and soon added to http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com!

For those of you who want the full classification to find out more…

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)

Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)

Class Insecta (Insects)

Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)

No Taxon (Moths)

Superfamily Bombycoidea

Family Sphingidae (Sphinx Moths)

Subfamily Smerinthinae

Tribe Smerinthini

Genus Pachysphinx

Species modesta (Modest Sphinx)

 

If you enjoy my Macro work or moths- let me know! 

L is for Ladybug. These are by far my most popular macro subjects. I hope today you enjoy them and learn a bit about them! This is a great one to share with curious kids.

This year, my kids and I found a ton of ladybug larvae while collecting aphids (it is amazing what you find when you search for a garden pests such as plant lice!) Many people do not know that ladybugs go through a complete metamorphosis from egg (which hatches in five days) to adult.  Let me show you what to look for next time you are in your garden.

Lady bug eggs. Tiny. This cluster is on one pine needle so you have to really be looking for them!

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This is a lady bug larva. Although larvae only grow to about one centimeter long, when they hatch they eat like crazy for three weeks. They don’t eat plants so don’t kick them out of your garden; ladybugs chow down on pests like aphids.

Lady Bug Larvae

After getting their fill, they enter into the pupa stage and attach themselves to a leaf or stem for about 5-7 before emerging as ladybug adults.

Becoming Lady

Becoming Lady

They will have their spots within twenty-four hours of emerging, and as they reach maturity their wings often darken from an orange to deep red.

Lady Bug and Bud

Lady and Umbrella

Ladybug and Umbrella

I was just discussing with a friend how this beetle is usually liked and considered cute unlike any other beetles or insects for that matter (with the exception of butterflies.) Funny how some polka dots and the name “lady” have changed our perspective.

Center Ring

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Lady on a Flame

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Lady on the Edge

Ladybugs are definitely a favorite for me to photograph!

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My daughter found this ladybug, “that is really different looking.” She is referring to the unique spots of an Eye-spotted Ladybug which are black with white rings around the spots.  The spots are designed to look like eyes which warn and scare the bugs that might be predators.  She was too pretty not to photograph so I thought I’d share my two favorite shots from the mini session with her.

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By a Thread

I also have a ladybug image in my Enchanted Forest Collection

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Share, Like, Pin!

J is for Jumping Spider #AtoZblogchallenge

I get it. Spiders are creepy. I don’t like them sneaking up on me, but the jumping spider is worth taking a closer look. He’s fuzzy, has big puppy dog eyes, and can hug you with not four, but eight legs! What’s not to like?

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

The jumping spider is easy to distinguish from other spider families. The rectangular head and eye pattern is a dead give away. This one was wet so you can really see his head shape without that crazy hair sticking up.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

I see these guys scuttling across my picnic table all the time. They are diurnal, so they are actively hunting during the day. Don’t let that worry you. You are not on the list. Most spiders have the potential to bite, but the jumping spider tries to avoid you and is not considered a medical threat. Gentle. Remember? Like an eight-legged teddybear. Not convinced?

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

DSC_0466You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Jumping spiders come in an array of colors. Some have vivid iridescent chelicera which are the green-blue mouthparts you see below.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

I am sure you were thinking “fangs” not  “mouthparts.”  And all though I know it won’t make them more endearing, there are fangs at the base of the chelicera. Jumping spiders don’t make webs. They live up to their name and pounce on their dinner. They rely on the back legs for their super jumps which propel them 10 to 40 times the length of their own body size.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Just because they don’t spin webs doesn’t mean they don’t have silk producing spinnerets. They use strands of silk to create safety lines when jumping. They also build themselves shelters to lay eggs and survive bad weather. You can see the dragline in the photo below.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday DSC_9580

Still see him as just plain scary? Let’s talk about how he sees you…

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

The jumping spider has four pairs of eyes and the sharpest vision of any creature his size.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Here they are…

Jumping spider eyes- incredible!

The large front eyes (AME) have the best visual acuity, but due to the distribution of the four sets, he virtually has a 360 degree view of the world! Incredible.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

As far as spiders go, this is as lovable as it gets- at least for me. I see how they are misunderstood. But let’s view them more like the movie villains of old. Sure they make a good monster movie, but they aren’t really larger than life. They want to be left alone as much as you. Before you squish a jumping spider, take a look at those big round eyes looking up at you! Then just try to catch that bugger- he is fast!

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Even if you hate spiders…if you like me and my art – LIKE, SHARE, AND PIN

I am also on Twitter now- Come and Follow me!


Untitled-5The plan for me and my kids each Halloween is to enter the town parade as a group. This year it rained on our parade- literally. We had a back-up plan and shared our costumes at a local nursing home instead. Fortunately, I also get to share my costume work with you. So, thanks for joining me and for the your comments and shares so far.

This year, we went for a Star Wars theme. My son and I are characters specifically from Episode 1. Before the Star Wars die hards tell me how awful the prequels are, let me just say that I like the original three best. Let’s face it, they had Harrison Ford. That is all the argument I need. It also means that the next movie will be just fine too. 😉

I knew it was going to be tricky to make costumes this year. I usually put together a homemade combination of thrift store finds and my add-ons. This year had some surprises.

I was Queen Amaidala

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I was actually going to cheat and buy my costume this year. I ordered from Amazon, but there was a mix-up and when it came it was a child’s medium. Reordering would have been a waste since when I saw the costume it was just a thin cheap dress with cuffs at the sleeves and one decorative sash. I knew I’d never be happy with that. I found a red bride’s maid dress at the thrift store for $4.99 and I went to work chopping away anything I could save from the kid costume. The rest was made from large pieces of red felt (left over from last year’s hook costume) and more hot glue than has ever been worn before (I am not much for sewing.) 

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But really, let’s talk about the hair. I almost gave up on this costume twice. My first attempt at the hairpiece for this costume is in the trash. Long story short there is a styrofoam wreath form broken in half with a pool noodle that has been scored and cut into about fifteen pieces duct taped around it. I then spray painted the entire thing black and started cutting apart cheap black wigs and carefully wrapping and gluing the hair tracts around my noodle form. All in all, three wigs died in the making of this. Compared to that, the make-up was easy. It is just the  “mime who got lazy with the lip stick” look.

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I chose the Queen because I knew my son was a naturally convincing young Anakin Skywalker. It wasn’t hard to get him suited up as a pod racer.

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This was another thrift store and spray paint project, but it went together easily.

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He wanted me to make a pod-racer, but I told him the force wasn’t with me on that one.

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What would Star Wars be with out Yoda?

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I am pretty proud of my pretty little girl for being a aged green guy this year. Sure he is a master of the Force, but that it not the most convincing argument for a girl who like princess dress-ups.

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Getting to have a lightsaber helped convince her. And once she saw the finished look she was totally onboard.

~When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not~

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Next we have this kid. Actually, this is not a kid. We went back and forth between who would be R2-D2. I couldn’t imagine pulling off a costume that would be easy to move in let alone comfortable. So, we built this guy and put him on wheels so he could be a companion for C-3PO.

He is rough looking, but again this is just a trash can covered in duct tape, spray paint and more duct tape. His light does work though!

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I think I am most proud of my C-3PO costume.

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Except for the $5 mask, this is all thrift store finds and random things like lids, buttons, and string all spray painted.

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Her teeth showing through make me giggle every time.

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That is our Star Wars adventure! Thanks for joining us since our parade was rained out. If you liked this, please share it! And may the force be with you!

H is for Hands

This year, I was with my family on a trip to the mountains. We drove into a little town that was having a fair and took a walk. To my surprise I found a home with these amazing hand sculptures. As soon as I saw them, I started planning my return to photograph them. The crazy thing is that in getting permission I learned the person living there had put the concrete sculpture in, but later abandoned the home. That is all the back story I was able to get. I will let you interpret these pieces on your own. It is more fun that way!

Ruler

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Mist

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Caught

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Bewitchment

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If this inspires you or you want to share your interpretation, you can comment or share!

My blog is Pinterest friendly too!

Watch for extra Halloween themed posts this week!

This week, I thought I’d take a break from bugs and show you something you might have in your backyard, but never see. This is commonly known as the gray tree frog, but that name is more misleading than its scientific name, Hyla versicolor.  The tree frog is a master of disguise and can change from almost white to nearly black with various versions of gray and green in between. It is reported that they change at a slower rate than a chameleon (which I have not seen first hand,) but I can tell you that capturing this one in various colors took weeks because sometimes he would change by the time I picked him up and took him to a good location for photographing. Green was very hard because as soon as I would put him in my hand he would start turing gray.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog

This is Petrie (my daughter named him and cared for him until he resumed life in our yard.) And yes, we know that he is a boy. Gray tree frog gender can be determined by the color of the throat. The female throat is white and the male throat is gray to black.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog Hanging

Also, the female does not chirp or croak. Here is Petrie mid croak.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog Croaking

The gray tree frog is also known as the eastern tree frog due to being found pretty much anywhere on the east coast.  If you are wondering why you have never seen one, it is because 1) they only leave the tree tops to mate,  2) they are nocturnal, and 3) you do not have my daughter who can literally find any creature she wants if she puts her mind to it! (Photo of her at the end)

When I was younger and would watch the Wizard of Oz every time it came on tv, my favorite part was the horse of many colors in the Emerald City. Remember that? I always thought that part was too short! Having a tree frog is like having a frog of many colors right in your hand. Here is Petrie in a version of speckled gray.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (gray)

As Petrie moved around on the bark, he would change to camouflage himself.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (camouflage)

Moss on the tree? That is no problem.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (moss)

If it wasn’t for his bright yellow hind legs, he blends right in.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (climbing)

My favorite color to find him in is green.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (Leaf)

Wilhelm Photography: Gray tree frog (light)

When he is green he tends to have bright turquoise specs on his skin. (I do not alter the color for any of these images.)

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (Colors)

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (Side view)

I don’t think the images due his green color justice, but sometimes he would change faster than I could photograph.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (BACK)

This is what we called “white.”

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Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (white)

There is still a bit of green or gray hue present when he is white, but in contrast to his dark color it is very light.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (brown)

Hard to find him at first!

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I hope you enjoyed Petrie, he is back in his natural habitat. But no sooner did we let him go and my daughter found a really tiny gray tree frog. We will probably keep her around for a photo op or two.  Here is my girl showing off Petrie. This gives you an idea of how big Petrie is.

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Thanks for joining me on my A to Z Blog Challenge!

This creature feature is being revisited for my A-Z blog challenge. The images were taken during one of my families many visits to a family cabin in the mountains. We love to hike and play in the pond and creek near our cabin. One of our (probably strange) family traditions is our yearly creek walk.  We hike a flowing creek, stopping to swim in the deep holes and slipping and sliding our way over brush and other debris.  It has been the source for many humorous adventures especially since everyone in my family goes- my kids, cousins, aunt, mother, and until some recent back issues my grandmother was even there.  The stream in a shady forest is the habitat for my creature feature today. I have seen these iridescent insects in flight on many a creek walk, but we always called them dragonflies. This is actually an Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

The distinguishing feature between a dragonfly and damselfly is the position of their wings.  A dragonfly lays its wings down flat across its body whereas a damselfly holds the wings together and back over its body.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

Out of the 170 of Odonata order (encompassing both dragon and damselflies) the ebony jewelwing is the only one to have solid black wings.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly male

The male and females are distinguished by their colors, and have similar colors to the male and female peacock. The male has a stunning blue green iridescent body and almost opaque black wings.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly male

The female is lighter in color and often has a brown or orange iridescent  look. She also has lighter more see through wings with white spots at the ends.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly female

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly female

The dragonfly is a great predator to smaller bugs along the stream. They eat the gnats and pest insects that always annoy my family during creek walks. Here is a shot of one with his mouth full.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly eating

Up close the damselfly looks very robotic with its shiny geometric features.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly male

With its shimmery flutter the flight of a damselfly can easily be mistaken for a butterfly.  I didn’t nail these shots (in my defense the ARE crazy fast and tiny,) but this will give you an idea of their flight pattern frozen in different points.

Wilhelm Photography Damselfly Flight

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Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

If you enjoyed the closer look at the damselfly, then please share and pin your favorites. And consider seeing one in person- take your family for a creek walk!