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’m 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 a business and investing in professional gear we have been able to pull off crazier scenarios.

Every year, we hear one of three questions:

1) 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!

2) 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!

and until our boxer, Wallace, died…

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

My answer: Really big treats.

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 was 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 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 also 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


If you follow my photography, you understand why my card says Merry Macro Christmas. January 2016, I decided to promote my love for macro (close-up) photography by posting a daily “Good Macro Morning” image each week day.  I found that I have lots of friends who don’t think I am totally weird for hanging out with insects. My macro work went from not having a place in my business to winning awards, getting published, and being featured numerous times by other large macro forums. It was a fun year of photo sharing for me, and I am so thankful to all of my great friends who supported me. That being said, it seemed only right that I take a queue from the 1989 movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids cover photo to combine my family and my passion for macro into one ridiculous Christmas card. I was a afraid that the reference might be a bit to old, but my kids knew why it was funny so I went with it. I think the rest is self explanatory. We have an addition to our family this year. Our nephew moved in with us, and we are happy to add him to all our holiday routines.

2016 Back


This one was like a comic strip. I still don’t have an elf on the shelf, and I don’t intend to ever start.



      Stay Tuned for the 2018 Card

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


I was looking through my portfolio trying to find a “K” and came up wanting. This will be short and sweet because I have exactly two images of a Katydid. Quite frankly, the first Katydid shot I capture was entered and won a commendation in the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition, and I figured I wasn’t going to top that anytime soon.

Katydids are in the cricket family of Tettigoniidae. They are also known as bush crickets or long-horned grasshoppers. They are easily identified by their body which mimics a leaf. You have probably heard their loud chirping noise in the trees during the summer months. The males are competing- loudest wins the female.

My two photographs of the Katydid are as different as night and day. That is possibly because one was taken during the day and the other at night.

This one was the one that placed well with IGPOTY.

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This one was taken on tripod, lit by moon light just after sunset. I pumped up the already rich colors and it has a totally different almost cartoon feel.

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Which do you prefer? Let me know!

Next week, is L is for Ladybugs and you will get to see each stage of their lifecycle and some of my most popular art! Don’t miss it!


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

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When I caught the sparkle out of the corner of my eye as I scanned some vines in the yard, I thought  maybe I caught a glimpse of the light hitting the dew. No bug around here is gold and shimmery, right? Wrong. The tortoise beetle is small, stunning, and today’s creature feature.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 1

 A subfamily of the leaf beetles, Cassidinae are tortoise and leaf-mining beetles. These ladybug-sized beetles get the “tortoise” name because of the dome-shaped shield that extends to cover their head and legs. Although, there is no evidence that this protects them.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 2

These beauties have living tissue under the translucent cuticle that allow the already colorful and metallic bodies to change color. I noticed this before even doing my research when I chased a gold one only to find him be a orangey red by the time I set up my tripod.

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My daughter has been hunting for these all week. We learned that the South American version is even more exotic in color and some actually make jewelry out of them which made them even more appealing to her. She notices EVERYTHING, and actually found tortoise beetle larvae. We watched as it moved and lifted a covering up and down as we got closer. Turns out, this covering is created by a “fecal fork” that collecst dried fecal matter and the molted body layers and are used to camouflage the larvae from predators.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 4

These beetles have lots of predators. They don’t roam far. Some have hatched, fed, and reproduced on the same leaf making them both predictable and easy for predators.

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They aren’t considered leaf-miners for nothing. All the holes you see in these images are their doing. This means that your plants are not really going to appreciate them even if they are shiny.

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Those holes make great escape routes. The beetles are great at hide and seek.

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These are fast at maneuvering the vines they devour and fly which made them tricky subjects this week!

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These were a treat for me to learn about and photograph! Be sure to share and pin your favorites!

Thanks for coming back for another Creature Feature Friday. I am excited to show you a creature you are familiar with in an unfamiliar way. Many of us have seen an inchworm before, but I have some that just might surprise you today.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm 1

The inchworm is moth larvae of the Geometridae family. There are over 12,000 species in North America alone.  So, if you think that “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” you would be wrong. In the past, I only recognized the little green ones as inchworms.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

They actually come in a wide variety of colors so that isn’t what you should go by.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Inchworms have 3 pairs of legs in the front and only two or sometimes three pair in the very rear.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Because there are no appendages along the long middle, when they walk, they draw up their rear all the way to the front causing that characteristic loop you recognize.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

It is that funny walk that gives them their name and the nicknames: measuring worms, spanworms, and loopers.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

This next one is my “treasure” of the week.  He is a camouflage looper.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

This inchworm glues bits of plant (in this case petals) to his back to blend in with his surroundings.

Here is the patch of flowers he ruined making his costume:

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

He blends well. I missed him the first day I was shooting for this.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Funny thing is that each day when I went out to look for inchworms to photograph, he was the first one I spotted.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

It was harder for me to see the ones that were colors I didn’t expect to find.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Lavender and green was an especially lovely find.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Now if you don’t know the song  written by Frank Loesser about the inchworm, let me introduce you. I have had it stuck in my head all week so I feel like I should pass it along 😉  It was first  performed by Danny Kaye in the 1952 film Hans Christian Andersen. But I prefer the version he did on The Muppet Show, Season 3, Episode 16, 1978. Here it is if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4klZ-U1Qy14

Help me out! Facebook doesn’t like to share links unless they are considered a “top story.” You can help me get there by simply hitting “like” or better yet… SHARE today’s CFF if you enjoyed it! Thanks!

I was traveling yesterday for some photo sessions and stayed with my Grandmother for the night. We were talking about the upcoming holiday weekend and I was admiring her decorations, and suddenly realized I needed to share the amazing way she has been decorating Easter eggs all her life. I have always seen them on display, so I have often taken them for granted. But a few weeks ago I made a feeble attempt to cut an egg like my grandmother and was humbled as it crumbled in my hands. Although I had much of my camera gear with me, I was really not set up to photograph these correctly on my spur of the moment whim. Please bear with my mixed light and altogether improper light for these images. I know how to correctly photograph art and I couldn’t pull it off with what I had available, but I just need to get photos to share before I left.

 How my grandmother decorates eggs 1My grandmother collected old jewelry, gemstones, and tiny figures for her creations.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 2Many of the eggs shown here are goose eggs. She would carefully cut, add hinges and then completely line the inside with images from old greeting cards.

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Her eggs were hand painted with tiny pictures overlaid. Stands and finials adorn most of her eggs.

The one below is intricately cut around the design. This openwork allows you to see through the egg. The flowers are all trimmed in tiny gold cord.

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Here are several chicken eggs with scenes in them. The tiny designs include a sledding scene, Madonna and Child from an old Christmas card, and children playing on a spring day.

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My grandmother used to go to egg shows and trade with friends each year. This was a bird house she made…

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Most of the chicken-sized eggs were hung on a tree. These are just on stands for the photos.

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She made this one to commemorate her 25th Wedding Anniversary. The finial is made from a locket style ring that opens.

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This dining room egg includes a stained glass window, and furniture custom made from popsicle sticks.

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This egg will always be my favorite. Made from an emu egg. This is made in the style of a jewelry bow and lines with blue velvet and fine stones.

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All of her eggs are hand cut. The scenes were crafted from cards, figures, custom pieces, and silk plants. The outsides were decorated in all manner of pearls, brick -a- brack, sequins, and ribbon. These are just a sampling of her more elaborate eggs, but there are many more. When I hear people talking about decorating eggs, I know they think about dying them in vinegar with a little color tablet, but this is REAL decorating! Hope you enjoyed them. Happy Easter!

Congratulations to K. Auman for correctly guessing (and then having her name randomly chosen from all the other correct entries) that our mystery creature is in fact…a Wheel Bug!

Mystery Creature: Wheel Bug

After years of photographing insects, I have to admit that I never came across one of these creepy looking guys until a few weeks ago. This creature is classified in the Hemiptera order and is one of the largest “true” bugs. Ladybugs, june bugs, and lightning bugs are all actually beetles for example.

Mystery Creature: Wilhelm Photography

Hemipterans have several things in common including sucking mouth parts that can pierce tissue and drink in the liquid, and they are half-winged. The wheel bug has two pairs of wings in which the front half of the anterior pair is leathery and the back half is shiny and membranous like a bee. The hind wings are completely membranous. He can fly, but is is primarily terrestrial. You will hear him coming; this large bug clumsily flies through the air sounding like a little motor.


But the wings are not what you need to know about this bug.  It is those mouthparts you want to keep an eye on!  That long beak-like mouth piece has given this guy quite the reputation. In fact, he is in the Assassin Bug family! That mouth piece is used to spear other insects. He is a terrifying predator to smaller bugs because once stabbed they are filled with a toxin that paralyzes them and then their “juices” are sucked up through the proboscis like a straw.

Mystery Creature: The wheel bug

A bite from a wheel bug is said to be 10x more painful than a bee sting. They won’t attack, but I wouldn’t recommend handling one.


The use for the cog shaped wheel (hence its name)located on his back is pretty much unknown- which is ironic. But it makes him look more intimidating and somewhat robotic.

Wheel Bug

So tell me…Was this bug new to you? Maybe you’ve seen one but didn’t know what it was. I’d love to have you comment and tell me how well you recognized this creature. Even if you answered correctly…I’d like to know if you knew or if you researched it!

K. Auman chose this image from my Closer Look Collection as the 8×10 she will receive for being the winner! Congratulations!

Enchanted Forest: Lady bug

Last week I missed posting my final summer Creature Feature Friday. School schedules threw me for a loop and before I knew it, it was Saturday. But don’t worry.  You won’t have to wait until next summer to see a creature feature; they will just be on a more monthly basis until next June.

I was so thankful for the great response and following my first summer of Creature Feature Fridays that I thought I’d celebrate with a contest! Below are two shots of a creature that was totally new to me this summer. If you correctly guess the name of this creature you will be entered to win an 8×10 of your choice from my Closer Look Collection (you can view them here: http://www.wilhelm-photography.com/p600296708 ) Keep reading for rules!


So here is your mystery creature… To enter the contest you MUST email your answer to me at tbwilhelm@verizon.net by Wednesday Sept. 11th. All of the correct answers will be entered into random.org and a winner will be chosen there. I will only use your email address to contact you if you win.  Hint: If you know the creature’s name, don’t post it below or on Facebook unless you want to compete with more correct answer entries.

I will announce the winner on Friday the 13th and do a proper Creature Feature on our mystery creature so that everyone will know what it is!


Here is a close-up


So, let’s recap…

1. Email the correct name of this creature to tbwilhelm@verizon.net by Wednesday September 11th. PLEASE WRITE “Mystery Creature” in the subject line of your email! OR if you do not receive confirmation of your entry you can send your answer in a facebook message!

2. All correct answers will be entered into random.org so a winner can be fairly selected

3. Winner will get to chose a photo from the Closer Look Collection and they will receive an 8×10 of that image FREE

4. Check back here on Friday the 13th to see the winner, and find out what our mystery creature is!

Be sure to like us on Facebook so you don’t miss updates to the blog!

And if you want to comment here or on Facebook with “I know, I know!” Go ahead 😉