Wilhelm Photography Blog

O is for Orchard Orbweaver

You might not like spiders, but if you are a bug-hater in general this guy is really on your side. The Orbweaver usually makes his webs low to the ground or in bushes. His main mission is to control the insect population in your garden. Well, his main mission is to eat, but that is a bonus. My favorite thing is the crazy vibrant colors on this species of spider.

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The orb weaver spider’s web is often oriented horizontally, with the spider hanging down in the center.


They are tiny. I am sure that no spider is tiny enough for you, but this guy is atop a hosta bud to give you some size reference.


Hairy legs



I love how clear and iridescent his long eight legs are. This shot captures the morning dew still clinging to the web.


I am excited to get back to my A to Z blogging challenge in the New Year. If you are a fan of my photography or follow my facebook page, I am sure you have seen macro (close-up) photos of bugs, spiders, and plants popping up here and there. I love macro photography, and I love tiny critters! I realize, however, that some of my fans follow my page for my portrait work and don’t love seeing hairy eight legged things showing up in your newsfeed.  I still have to post a favorite now and then, but the majority of my artwork is posted here on my blog. I hope to post more frequently with all my growing styles of artwork. With my nature photos my goal is always to photograph them in a mix of artistic and documentary styles so that you can enjoy the little creations from afar and learn a bit about their mini world.

I have to show you our “babies.” My kids collect praying mantis egg sacks, and patiently waiting for them to hatch. They are easy to spot in bushes in the winter.  This year, we had a surprise in our Christmas tree and on New Years day our tree had about a hundred nymphs jumping across the pine needles.

This is what an egg sack looks like- a bit foamy.

Praying Mantis Eggs Sack www.wilhelm-photography

When they hatch, there are anywhere from 50-100 praying mantises!


And they are SO tiny! We release most of them when we raise them, but keep a few and separate them so they don’t eat each other.  We feed them aphids, that is what the green specks are in the photo below. Since we are raising some of our New Years babies, I actually bought flightless fruit flies that I can farm at home to feed them. It is working well, but I think I am among the very few that have willingly brought fruit flies into my home! Here is a day old nymph on the needles of our blue spruce. A Christmas light is the “sun” you see in this shot.

Sunrise in the Christmas Tree



They are perfect replicas of the adults. As they grow they molt their skin.  It looks like a dead mantis at the bottom of the jar, but it is just a shell of one. They are fascinating to watch.


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This is Praying Mantis Yoga 🙂

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No doubt you will see more of these guys as they grow! Thanks for checking them out! I am hosting a challenge on Viewbug for Praying Mantis photos. If you want to join- it is free! GO TO VIEWBUG CHALLENGE


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, he really needs to find out what is hypersomnia since it seems like he will be getting no sleep whatsoever.

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 or greenhouse, that need energy and maintenance, so instead of spending astronomical monies in utility bills, it’s better to try a solar panel for greenhouse heating.

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



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


Lady on a Flame

Lady on a Flame

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.


By a Thread

I also have a ladybug image in my Enchanted Forest Collection


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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

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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.


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.


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!


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


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


Her teeth showing through make me giggle every time.


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!

E is for Escargot in my A-Z blog challenge because I didn’t want to wait for S. My photo, “Dangling Snail” seen later in this blog was chosen for the Editor’s Picks for the Best of Bugs category hosted by the Weather Channel. You can see it here image #12: http://www.weather.com/news/news/best-of-bugs

So on the heals of that announcement, I thought I would revive my blog on snails this week.

I knew that the success of this blog post was going to be decided by whether or not a snail was going to cooperate with me.  My daughter brought me two snails this week. Considering that the snail is thought of as the slowest animal, you would think that photographing one would be easy. I found out that snails are either shy, or moving in strange circular movements that require lots of shifting and strange shooting postures from me. They are silly little things.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Not to be confused with a slug which does not have a shell, this species of snail has two pair of retractable tentacles in front with the eyes found at the ends of the longest pair of tentacles.  The shell holds all the internal organs and a foot moves the snail forward and provides the suction requires to hold onto surfaces.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature FridaySnails have to maintain moisture. On hot days they will pull their body all the way into the shell. Snails are nocturnal which is why this guy probably wasn’t too thrilled about a morning session.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature FridaySnails are known for the trail of slime they leave behind. This slime is what is allowing him to maneuver these acrobatic feats you see. The slime acts like a glue and is very strong. How strong you ask? Well, I guided him to this flowering hosta stem for some photos…

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

I thought I had finally found a place to photograph him where he couldn’t get away. WRONG. He produced a long string of slime to lower himself just above the ground and then dropped. I couldn’t believe it.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Here are a few facts and myths about snails:  1) Snails move at a rate of approx. 55 yards per hour.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 2) Snails live anywhere from 5-15 years

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 3) Snails are hermaphrodites (they have the reproductive organs of both males and females.)

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 4) Snails are very strong and can lift up to 10 times their own body weight in a vertical position.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 5) Their slime or mucus protects and lubricates the surface they are on so well that they could move across a razor blade without getting cut.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 6) It is a common myth that the slime of a snail is full of bacteria. You should always wash your hands after handling an animal, but they don’t excrete anything harmful.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 1

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection

Although they can be tricky, I find snails to be great macro subjects… First of all, they can’t fly away. That is a big plus, especially if you are new to the macro scene. Patience is key when photographing any insect, but it is nice when your hours don’t involve picking up your tripod every few seconds. That is not to say that snails are slow and easy. They move really fast when you are trying to nail focus on a small depth of field.  None-the-less, they are easier to coax in the direction you want, and don’t offer too many surprises.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 2

Another reason snails are nice to photograph is that they aren’t shy. It usually takes five minutes tops for a snail to “come out of his shell.” They always seem less threatened each time I touch them and have a faster recovery time of reappearing. I often spend two plus hours photographing a subject for a full length CFF so that is a gift to me.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 3

Snails can be really beautiful if you give them a chance. They all have different nuances in their shell design, they have lovely curves, and if you expose them to a flattering light, they have a rare translucent quality that is unique to the snail. Okay, I know many of you look and snails and say, “ewww, slimy.” That is true, but it is irridencent slime.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 4

Snails convey personality. They seem curious. Whenever a creature can come across as having a personality they become a favorite for me.

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This one seems confused.

confused snail



As always, my blog is Pinterest friendly so share and pin your favorites, and check back next Friday!

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


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!

B is for Blackbird is a brand new post and is part of my #atozblogchallenge.

This is the first “visual story” I have created as a fine art project. I really tried to push my editing boundaries and go beyond my normal comfort zones of photography in this. I don’t like to interpret art for people, so I will just leave you with some titles and
the images. The rest is up to you. If you enjoy this, please let me know by way of comments or shares. Enjoy my series: Blackbird.

blackbird 1

The Dream

blackbird 2


blackbird 3



blackbird 4




flight 2


Pin your favorites.

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I’m blogging through the alphabet with some great friends who inspire me. Links to their blogs at the bottom. A is for Ants and Aphids is a refreshed post from over a year ago, but since my blog was hacked this year. I am using this alphabet blog challenge to refresh and recover favorite posts as well as add new ones! Enjoy.



I stumbled onto this creature feature by accident. I was checking bushes for aphids (also known as plant lice) not because I am a responsible gardener, but because I needed to feed them to our praying mantis nymphs (my kids raise praying mantises almost every summer.)  I became distracted and started photographing several semi-translucent red ants that were busy at work on all of the stems containing aphids.  At first I thought the ants were eating them, but then I realized that they weren’t hurting the aphids but helping.  After some research to find out what exactly was happening, I learned the ants and aphids have a relationship of mutualism. The aphids feed off of the plants and produce a large amount of sugary waste called honeydew which the ants love to eat.  In return, the ants actually herd the aphids to the most nutritious part of the plants and protect them from predators.  When they get impatient, the ants sometimes milk the aphid for the honeydew.




Here is one removing a dead aphid from the group. I guess he likes a clean and tidy herd of aphids.



Seems like a pretty good set up for the aphids. They get taken to the best places to eat, protected from the many insects that want them for a snack, and have all of their waste “cleaned up.”  But this is actually more of a hostage situation. The ants like honeydew so much that they can keep the aphids from leaving to the extent that if an aphid grows wings the ant might rip them off to keep them from finding other food sources.DSC_7864

This guy is in the watch tower making sure no one is coming to steal his aphids on the stem below!


If you learned a thing or two from this…LIKE, SHARE, and PIN your favorites!

Looking for more A-Z bloggers? Here are a few of my friends that are already way ahead of me. They are completely different in their blog styles so see if any are up your ally:

Sue’s Simple Snippets

Wit, Words, and the Word

Knit Me a Story

All Natural Bodywork

Encouraging Today’s Christian