It was Friday night, around 11pm. I had just returned from the airport after a business trip. It had been a long day. It started around 5:30am that morning, and I was relieved to finally be home as I shambled, zombie-like, up the sidewalk towards my front door. I had taken one step up onto the front stoop, however, when my brain registered something that my eyes had seen just a second ago. That familiar ping! of curiosity had forced its way through the fog of thought that was focused nearly exclusively on "go to bed!".
I took a step back and looked more closely. Attached to the wood of the stoop, just a few inches from the ground, was a cicada, newly emerged from the shell that it wore as a nymph. As if I had gotten a jolt of adrenaline, my mind almost immediately switched from "go to bed!" to "take a picture!".
I excitedly went inside, dumped my travel and work baggage, and began to collect the various pieces of photographic gear that I thought I would need. Do I have a charged camera battery? Which lenses should I use? Tripod? Oh yeah...it is dark outside! How will I get light on my subject? Where is that remote shutter release?
This was a challenging photographic exercise for me. While the cicada patiently sat, letting itself dry on my front stoop, I fumbled through a multitude of attempts at photographing this bug. I tried hand holding the camera at close range, and I tried it on a tripod a couple feet away. I tried it using light from only the ground level accent lights that run along the front of my house, and I tried using a flashlight, propped up on a nearby chunk of mulch (hmmm...maybe I need to invest in an external flash). I thought the flashlight was going to give me my best chance, but then its batteries started fading, and my light slowly dwindled to a pale yellowish glow. For over an hour, I sat...still in my work clothes...in the mulch of my front yard, reveling in the challenge of photographing this bug in the dark of near midnight.
Ultimately, I got something that I liked. I used a 100-400mm lens, on a tripod a few feet back from the bug. Since my flashlight was fading, I used a timed exposure. I feel like I got lucky on the focus...it was dark and the camera had very little light to use for its auto-focus feature. I manually focused the shot, but had to try multiple times...tweaking the focus just a bit after each shot until I felt like I had gotten something satisfactory.
Here is my model, perched on its old skin.