My Twelve from ’12. CB

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2012 has been quite a busy year for my photography business and somehow along the way I’ve also managed to make a few decent photographs too! I have never taken the time to do a photographic year-in-review until now (at least publicly) but have come to appreciate a little self-reflection in my old age. I highly recommend it, even if you keep it to yourself. The fastest way to burn out is to never recognize what you’ve done, or where you’ve come from! Well, before I prattle on any longer, here are my favorite twelve photos from 2012! Hope you enjoy them!

A widow skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) rests alongside a stream on a cool day in South Carolina’s upper Piedmont region.

The birth of a new cataract bog: A Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) grows next to a small pine branch which is lying in a shallow sheet of water traveling over an exposed granitic dome in South Carolina’s Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment. If the branch remains, over time other plants will take root and and a new cataract bog will be formed. A Cataract Bog (technically a fin) is a unique wetland habitat that is only found in the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment of North and South Carolina.

Black Carpenter Ants (Camponotus Pennsylvanicus) tend Beech Blight Aphids (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) beneath an American Beech leaf (Fagus grandifolia)

A Leaf-Cutter bee (Megachile sp.) prepares to land on an Aster next to a Green Metallic Bee (Agapostemon splendens), South Carolina.

After reading Mark Moffett’s book “Adventures Among Ants” I have become fascinated with ants. Much of my year has been spent photographing one species in particular that is commonly known as the Winter Ant (Prenolepis imparis). This image shows a pair of workers whom I observing licking a substance from what appears to be an egg on an oak branch. Workers guarded and visited the site for several days until the “egg” was no longer there.

Yellow Jackets (Vespula maculifrons) fly in and out of a rotten log. These wasps have a bad reputation due to their painful stings and often aggressive behavior. Note: This image has been produced from a layered composite, which was stacked to show the movement of the workers over a short period of time.

The Eastern Hercules Beetle (Dynastes tityus) is one of the largest species of beetle in North and Central America. The larvae feed on moist, decaying wood and can take over a year to reach adulthood.

The small scale of this scene really captures my imagination. This is a tiny worker from an incipient colony of the invasive fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) (and thanks Alex Wild!), whose colony is living in a cataract bog in the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment in South Carolina. The yellow, jelly-like walls are actually composed of a the dripping sphagnum moss in which the colony lives.

This beautiful creature is an Atlantic Brief Squid (Lolliguncula brevis) that I photographed in the wild for The Nature Conservancy in Charleston, SC. It is a very small species with a wonderful personality. It was collected and photographed in the field during a scientific sampling of the species that live in an oyster reef. The image was made in The Field Studio for the Meet Your Neighbours project, which Niall and I co-founded in 2009 (www.meetyourneighbours.net).

Winter Ants (Prenolepis imparis) tending nymphs of the Two-Marked Treehopper (Enchenopa binotata) on a Viburnum leaf. The ants protect the treehoppers in exchange for a sugary substance known as honeydew, which is expelled by the nymphs.

A Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans) sits beside a stream in early spring, South Carolina, USA

This is an important photo for me; not because it is beautiful, but because it came as the result of countless hours of watching and waiting for the winter ants to exhibit their defensive behavior. I worked hard on improving my field-craft this year and it has begun to pay off. Although this species is typically very docile, workers will not hesitate to defend their nests, or their stock of honeydew, in this case, from aggressors such as this much larger Field Ant, another Formica species. Winter Ants posses a powerful defense secretion, which, according to a Stanford study, is most often used when the ants are outnumbered. Photographed in South Carolina.

And, WELL, this final photo makes thirteen from ’12, but I liked the title of the post and didn’t want to change it. I was quite pleased that I was finally able to make a decent image of this small, incredibly cool species:

A green mantidfly (Zeugomantispa minuta) has legs that are adapted to capturing prey like a praying mantis, but the two species are not related. It a relative of the lacewing, which is a favorite among gardeners because of the amount of “garden pests” that an individual can consume in a season.