My evenings during a shoot are normally occupied with editing and keywording the day’s work. On this occasion, I excused myself the latter in order to write an account of the trip for readers of the Wild Wonders of Europe website. © Niall Benvie 2008.
Day 1. 2nd July 2008
0415. Edinburgh. I’m not really an anxious traveller, but I don’t see any harm in having the alarms set on both my mobile phones. And on the hotel room’s TV. And to receive a call from reception, just to be on the safe side. The main reason I’m keen to check in early is because I expect that I will have to negotiate with the desk clerk over just how much excess baggage charge I will have to pay. I know I have an extra 24 kg for the hold. She knows it too and is in no mood to negotiate. Defeated, I dawdle over to the BMI desk to pay my “fine” like a miscreant motorist who knows he’s in the wrong but wonders why the authorities can’t see it from his Point Of View. Quite frankly, if I was going on holiday to ENJOY myself, I wouldn’t be schlepping 70 kg of luggage around with me. Some sympathy please? Then again, it is 70 kg (the same weight as me, co-incidentally). Making a fuss doesn’t seem so smart while I am wearing a reasonable chunk of it around my person – 15 kg – enough, I’m sure, to make even a Hamas “martyr” wince. That’s in additional to the other 10 kg of “normal” hand luggage. I hold my breath once more at security; “My, isn’t your jacket heavy,” doing my best to look thin and light. Only at Frankfurt did my photo vest attract special attention, interest aroused by the sinister leaden lump of my studio flash’s power pack.
1300. That’s got to be Austria below; all pointy and dramatic after Germany. When I studied geography years ago, I had a lecturer who hated the Alps. Way too eager and pointy and vulgar in his estimation. SO nouveau. He preferred the worn-down, understated old-tweed-jacket look of the Scottish Highlands. How miserable. I can make pictures here, I think, safe in the knowledge that most of the best pictures are to be made from nowhere near the arête-honed summits but somewhere MUCH lower down; ideally from beside a river in the valley. I know for sure I’ve got the right country when I see a T shirt at Innsbruck airport reassuring me that, “There are no Kangaroos in Austria.”
1600. I’ve arrived, via the right hand side of the road, in Fließ, a picturesque Tirolean village with an invigorating smell of cow dung and chickens scratching in yards beside new Audis. Please note: the Tirol is no more representative of the rest of Austria than Bavaria is of Germany, Shetland is of Scotland or Corsica is of France.
Day 2. 3rd July
0715. Fließ (Flee-ehs) In July, Austria (or at least, the Tirol) is a Hot Country. By my Scottish reckoning, any place where I have to shed my last fleece is a strong candidate for this dubious accolade, especially when it is so warm, so early in the day. And not only is the Tirol Hot, it is also Dry; this area receives no more than 60 cm of precipitation a year, less even than the semi-arid east of Scotland on about 100 cm. But it is this heat (the ground temperature can rise to an extraordinary 70 degrees Celcius), long hours of sunshine and reduced mineral leaching (compared, say, to the already base poor soils of the west of Scotland, some of which are soaked in almost 3 metres of rain a year), combined with lime-rich soils, few agro-chemicals and a sympathetic management regime that helps to give rise to the astonishing diversity of plants and invertebrates which qualifies the Fließer Sonnenhänge – the Sunny Slopes – as a wild wonder of Europe.
My working methods for this assignment are probably a bit different from those of most of the other Wild Wonders of Europe photographers. For one thing, I’m not too worried about the light or the weather generally, so long as Austria doesn’t suddenly become a Cold Country. Or a Wet one. Apart from some wacky landscapes I have planned, most of my pictures will be made in a “white” field set with all the light provided by studio strobes. I have two sets: one is simply a sheet of translucent Perspex placed behind the subject (usually a plant), the other a more elaborate curved one with diffuser side panels which not only soften the light, but prevent escape by the subject (usually an invertebrate). Both are lit from behind which provides a pure white background and highlights the subject’s translucent qualities. A second, diffused flash at the front renders further detail. The curved set can be supported to allow me to shoot subjects from the side (such as grasshoppers and butterflies) or directly from above (most beetles, bugs and spiders). Whatever the subject, it is rendered in incredible details without any distractions. These pictures are all about what the subject looks like rather than what it is – something defined its environment.
0945. Dolomedes fimbriatus. Lisi, a student who works part-time for the Naturpark, has found a female, complete with cocoon, for me. And this wolf spider is a bruiser. I don’t feel a natural ease with spiders, what with all those eyes watching me. But as soon as I look through the viewfinder, I am entranced. Let’s see those eyes, babe! More legs! After 10 minutes (the usual length of a session on the field set) back she goes in the collection jar for release from whence she came.
1200. Dr Ernst Partl, an expert in the field of applied artificial intelligence in respect of game and forest management and the director of Naturpark Kaunergrat, has become not only my chief bug collector but also driver as he shows me some of the staggering views my former lecturer so despised. Don’t be such a misery Alwyn. I wonder now if his judgement was clouded by driving himself and experiencing the same frustration as I did earlier in the day: too many fascinating things to look at and too many narrow hair-pin bends to negotiate.
1500. Now in the protected area, the Sonnenhänge meadows, the procession of other models collected by Ernst begins, : various species of grasshoppers, an assassin bug, a butterfly similar to the clouded yellow, a wood tiger beetle and more. This is where I will head tomorrow to work myself on more 6+ legged subjects- and some plants too.
Day 3. 4th July.
0915. Anticipating a very late night moth catching, I don’t start work until after breakfast, heading straight out to the Sunny Slopes near the village. Only this morning it is not Sunny and there has been heavy rain overnight. There is very little in the way of insect activity (although I do find an iridescent green grasshopper) so I head upslope to start shooting elements for one of the “meadow panoramas” I want to create. This involves compositing several different plant species all growing together in the same community onto a wide white canvas. The effect is highly pictorial, utterly contrived and illustrates associations and botanical diversity more lucidly than conventional photography can ever hope to. Since everything is shot at the same magnification against a pure white background, with the lighting from the same direction every time, it is simply a matter of making a loose selection of the subject then pasting it onto the white canvas. But amassing the elements is a slow business; often several examples are needed and each specimen must be characteristic of its species as well as shapely. After four hours I have shot seven species.
Don’t be lulled into the belief that this work was carried out in some hazy alpine meadow where the only sound was the hum of diligent bees and the chaotic clanking of cow bells. As it happened, the biggest mix of plants was to be found right by a road popular with touring motorbikes and people, curiously, driving the same sorts of car – first MG’s then Porsche Boxsters – in convoy. Surely if you want to show off your car, the worst thing is to be in a crowd of others just the same. If I had a Porsche, I’d want to go touring with a bunch of Trabants. Already in the Naturpark my brand of photography, with all its paraphernalia, was becoming something of a spectator sport – and no more so than beside a main road. Fortunately, my lack of German saved the need to make lengthy explanations.
Had I been able to, however, I would have made emphatic, unpatriotic complaints about the Benbo Trekker tripods that support my lights and sets. They are a prime example of a great concept (for my uses, at least) being let down by shoddy, corner-cutting design and manufacture. The plastic knobs have to be cranked so hard against the very modest torsion exerted by my lights I fear they will break before the end of the trips. And no matter how much I tighten the main locking lever, the whole rig sags like a giant squid brought too quickly to the surface. I hope forlornly that in one of those Porsches there is a Novoflex executive who, seeing my plight, will promise to engineer me a stand that works properly. But no one stops.
Photographing plants feels a bit lightweight after all the invertebrates of yesterday and as I’m packing up I get a chance to test an idea I have about how I might be able to photograph some butterfly species. I net a feeding black-veined white and introduce it to another piece of red clover in my curved set. After a short while it gets the idea and adopts a pose that suggests it wasn’t coerced – although stubbornly keeps its proboscis retracted. Maybe I wouldn’t want to eat under these circumstances either but after 10 minutes the insect is back where I found it. If only I can get an Apollo – one of the park’s icons – to do this, I’ll be very satisfied. About this time, I recognise a new marker of biological activity; once it gets cold enough to put a fleece back on, then that is the time to catch torpid butterflies.
1800 Ernst calls me: this will not be a moth night. The best conditions follow a hot day and early evening when humidity is high and, more importantly, there is no wind. At least the phase of the moon is right; only the thinnest crescent was visible when it rose. Moths use the moon to orientate themselves and in a competition between the full moon and a mercury vapour lamp, the moon wins hands down.
Day 4. 5th July.
0530.The previous day I had found a location with an uncut hay meadow near Fließ that I thought would be ideal for one of my summit-valley “stepped” panoramas. On arrival, however, the extreme contrast between valley floor and treeline makes the exercise pointless so I continue up the hill into the Naturpark Kaunergrat where I had earlier seen some stands of large yellow foxglove. Few long thin plants fit comfortably in a conventional frame so I choose two specimens ¬– one shot from the side, the other from the front – that I could combine later in a single square frame.
1030. Anna, Benny, Wolfgang and Elke, recreational nature photographers from Innsbruck, have joined me. They know the Sonnenhänge well and are soon bringing me specimen after specimen to photograph. Two caterpillars of the spurge hawkmoth are at different stages of development: the older ones are an alarming red, black, white, and yellow. For any bird dim enough not to read the signs (it feeds on Euphorbia so it is NOT going to taste nice), a menacing spike at the posterior end of the creature re-enforces the message.
1500. Five species of grasshopper later we move on to the slopes where the crew have seen more butterflies than anywhere else. The sun is still shining brightly, ideal conditions for Apollo butterflies. At this site at least, this alpine species is especially fond of thistles and sure enough, we see half a dozen of the large insects within moments of arrival. This is very encouraging but their flightiness is not. Wolfgang explains that late afternoon, once replete with nectar but before descending into the lower vegetation for the night, is usually the best time to photograph them when they can become so placid that they will sit on your hand.
1600. I didn’t have to wait long. Elke has found me an Apollo that is so busily guzzling nectar that I can set up the shot without it showing the least bit of concern. But there’s something not quite right about the picture; Wolfgang puts his finger on it- the balance between the size of the flower and the subject itself is just not comfortable. We need a smaller thistle and another Apollo.
1800. After almost two hours up and down steep slopes trying to find another obliging Apollo, my friends are worn out. Perhaps it was just too hot for them – the Apollos – but within an hour, there are none to be seen. At least I have continued to work on grasshoppers (many still in a nymph stage), adding another 3 species.
2100. Unexpectedly, Ernst appears at the guesthouse; his earlier messages to me didn’t get through, but it doesn’t matter: we’re mothing tonight. Regional entomologist Kurt Lechner and a couple of friends have already hung a large white cotton screen and mercury vapour lamp along the edge of a meadow near Fließ when we arrive at 2130. I make some pictures of the scene then wait to see what arrives. On good nights, more than 100 species are attracted to the light; I’ll be happy if I can photograph any; I’ve not tried using the white set for moths before and fully expect them to hop it straight back to that seductive light.
The whole scene – men waiting expectantly around a large screen, the air charged with excitement and anticipation – was not unlike that in a sports bar as the Big Match is broadcast, only less rowdy and without the beer. And perhaps more fun because of that.
0130 on 6th July. This has turned into a long day. But the moths have been pretty accommodating, most happy to sit on the set while I record every last scale. But by 0130, not only am I exhausted, so is the battery for my flash’s powerpack.
Day 5. 6th July.
1000. It’s a little hard to explain to the owner of the guest house that Ernst had got permission from her husband the previous evening to put boxes of moths in their walk-in fridge overnight. Some things are beyond sign language. So I simply lead her through the kitchen and retrieve the stash. I think she tries not to look surprised.
I’ve never cooled insects before, not least because I can’t be sure I am orientating them correctly if I try to stage a shot. The white set gets round this problem as there is nothing for them to perch on. But within 10 minutes of being loaded into my oven-cum-hire car, the moths are wide awake and remain on set, in most cases, for less than 5 minutes.
1030. I meet Anna and Benny and Wolfgang and Elke again when it is still hot but by 1200 a new weather system is moving in: it becomes appreciably cooler and there are few butterflies – my friends’ preferred subjects. I concentrate on some plants including the houseleek, Sempervivum montanum, which is both rather beautiful and uncommon. But we’re all thwarted when rain arrives from the north west. It is in light showers at first, giving us enough time to photograph an exquisitely marked spotted fritillary, doped by the coolness of the late afternoon and happy to roost in front of our lenses. Then Benny’s camera dies, the showers join hands and we all go home. After yesterday’s 20 hour day, I don’t feel so bad about spending the evening editing my material up to date.
Day 6. 7th July.
0930. I take back what I said about this being a Dry Country: it has rained all night and is still doing so when I go down to breakfast. With 5 minutes to spare, I decide to test a suspicion that has been growing in my mind. In the village’s only supermarket where, incidentally, an entire wall is given over to hair products of every sort, I ask the clerk straight out: “Do you stock any fresh fruit?” ”Well, no.” “Is there anywhere in Fließ I can buy an apple?” “Eh, no.” So, I was right; Fließ is a fruit-free zone, at least at this time of year. I had wondered; I hadn’t once seen anything that resembled fruit- fresh or tinned – at breakfast and was missing it sorely. The prospect of a 15 minute drive to Landeck to buy fruit seems ludicrous. There is nothing for it; I will have to make up the deficit with every mushy pea and cucumber put on my plate. Perhaps the Tiroleans have the same relationship with fruit that we Scots have with vegetables; we serve chips cold the day after they were deep-fried and call them “salad…”
Today is certainly not a butterfly or bug day so I set out to shoot more elements for a botanical panorama. I manage only two speciesbefore the rain threatens to blow up my flash gear (this has happened before, albeit with a Norman rather than Lumedyne system). I loiter in a hay barn – testing the efficacy of my anti-histamine – for two hours until the rain eases and the clouds shred, snagging in trees and around church spires on the other side of the valley (there are a LOT of churches in this part of Austria). All very pretty, but the pictures don’t quite say “Sunny Slopes”. Then the rain starts again. It is doubly frustrating since just before diving into the barn out of the rain I found three nicely proportioned broad-leaved helleborines and some other, more typically “sunny slope”, plants. So, instead, I drive to the Naturpark centre at the top of the hill to take up Ernst’s offer to check email.
1700. It seems that the day’s train of events have conspired, for once, to get me to the right place at the right time. The view from here down into the valley and across the sunny slopes is fabulous irrespective of the light – but doubly so where the wind is chasing the remaining wraiths of cloud out the valley towards me, blowing a window wide enough for the sun to peep through. This starts just as I complete my last email. In many of the resulting pictures it is hard to know which season is represented.
Day 7. 8th July
0500. It’s an unpromising dawn so I turn over and think again about the plan for the day. There will be no support this time so how far I go from the car will be limited by the 35 kg of stuff I need to carry to do my white background work. The forecast is better for later so I’ll keep the afternoon for another shot at the Apollo butterflies. The plants I was unable to do yesterday seem a reasonable bet – as well as keeping an eye open for yet more grasshoppers.
0915.There is nothing casual about this white background photography : there’s lots of gear to carry, lots of time to set it all up and even more to refine the exposure. At the end of it all, often just a single image results. I’ve always been keener or editing before I take a picture than after and the key to making that one successful exposure is finding the right specimen – one which not only displays at least some of characteristics of the species (these pictures, after all, are primarily objective descriptions rather than creative expressions) but that has a natural “elegance” that stands examination and isolation. Showy plants rarely work as well as slender, wavy ones; the blooms that make them eye-catching, in a photo often render then top-heavy, from an aesthetic perspective.
1100. After another short rain delay, I pack up and move back to “Cape Canaveral” – the meadow where we saw several Apollos the other afternoon. It’s windy but sunny and there are several of them on the wing. Only one is immovably drunk on thistle nectar – but is an old, worn out lush that isn’t a good advert for its species. So, it’s back to catching grasshoppers. I really love photographing these fellows but am beginning to wonder if I am repeating myself – I still have to pin down proper identities for those I’ve photographed.
2000. Back for dinner, where Chicken Jordan is on the menu. The highlight comes with desert when I am served one fresh raspberry and one slice of orange that have sneaked onto my plate as a garnish. Clearly, someone has been out of the village.
Day 8. 9th July
0930 Today I have company (and a catcher) – biology student Philipp – who is highly adept at finding models. Outstanding amongst these is yet another grasshopper; this one has greatly thickened tibia inviting the name of “the Pop-Eye grasshopper” (many of those I’ve photographed lack English names, so why not?). A scorpion fly and a snake fly are equally fascinating. Both display a lot of attitude on set, more than making up for their small size. The scorpion fly has an extraordinary set of fused mouthparts that form a “beak” with a bizarre biting process at the end of it. This, and the intricacy of a caterpillar that closely resembles a writhing red cactus, really makes the design of mammals look pretty unimaginative and perfunctory. Clearly, the Creator was worn out by his work on the lower orders…which is perhaps why he overlooked the fundamental incompatibility between a woman’s pelvis and her baby’s head – the best evidence yet that God is a man. It is certainly not a very intelligent design.
1130. I’ve set up in the shade to keep the animals calmer but it is more than ten degrees cooler so I go back to the car for a fleece. When I return, Philipp is talking to a local woman with her children and mother who are interested in what we are doing. I don’t quite know what is said, what hints are dropped and suggestions made but just before they leave, they ply us with apple; fresh, juicy, crispy apple. I try not to eat it with indecent haste.
It’s great to watch the reaction of people, especially children, when they see a small creature magnified on the camera’s. Initial bemusement or disdain for my choice of subject soon turns to awe as they see each elaborate detail sharply resolved. This is quite the opposite process from landscape photography where the object is to make the overwhelming, the sublime, the ephemeral into something that can be taken in at a glance. Hardcore landscape workers shoot large format to resolve as much detail as possible but at the end of it all, it is still a reductive process. Taking something small, and to many people, insignificant or even repulsive and making it visible and fascinating is very appealing and fits in perfectly with the Wild Wonders tagline – unseen, unexpected, unforgettable.
Steadily I work through the specimens Philipp brings until moving on to a different meadow where we find another, cryptically-coloured species of grasshopper that alarms potential predators by flashing red wings as it leaps through the air.
2030. I’m finding it hard to be enthusiastic about shooting landscapes, partly for the reasons I’ve just outlined. But it’s difficult to show people what the area actually looks like when every background is pure white. So I set out to photograph a location Ernst had shown me earlier in the trip, arriving just before darkness obscures the valley. The vistas around here, although all very dramatic, rarely fit into the frame comfortably – there is often way too much interest at the top of the composition relative to what’s happening in the foreground. And photographers certainly were not consulted about the siting of the massive electricity pylons and crucifixes that populate the valleys and summits.
2300. One way to get round this last problem is to wait until everything but the sky is dark then provide my own light. I’ve left my big spotlight at home but once it is dark enough, my head torch is just fine for lighting a hay barn during a 30 second exposure, long enough to “paint” the two sides facing the camera.
0100 on 10th July. I finally finish editing and backing up the day’s work.
Day 9. 10th July.
1000 Lisi has offered to show me some of the really high alpine meadows today, with a view to photographing a different plant community. Although the Kaunergrat visitor’s centre overlooking Fließ and the Sonnenhänge feels lofty, it is nothing to where we are now as we wind up through a forest where the Norway spruce and Scots pine are joined by more and more Arolla pines. We see and hear several nutcrackers – a species of crow whose fondness for the seeds of this tree means that its distribution mirrors that of the pine. When we emerge from the forest, the scene conforms perfectly to the chocolate-box representation of the Austrian Tirol; the sky is deep blue, the horizon is defined by jagged peaks sheltering permanent snow fields while in the middle distance, Austrian farmers (in shorts, rather than leder-hosen) are working in their meadows amongst tiny, rough-hewn hay barns. There are even long-lashed cows watching us. But what the chocolate box picture can’t convey is the sound of these high places. It is very quiet up here, all except for the never-ending clanking of cow bells. And it never does stop because there is always at least one beast being bothered by flies. The longer I listen, the more the sound reminds me of a Balinese gamelan orchestra. In fact, I’m convinced that Austrian cows provided the original inspiration for this unique musical form although I haven’t quite worked out the route for this cultural exchange yet.
Stocking densities are low so a rich diversity of herbs thrives up here. Straight away we find an orchid typical of alpine meadows – the black vanilla – as well as field gentians, the curious lime-loving fern, moonwort and just one fresh bloom of an alpine pasque flower; all the others have long since turned into bad-hair-day seed heads.
1400 Climbing towards the tree line we come into a zone where a wild Rhododendron (ferrugineum) dominates the understorey. It takes a long time to find just the right plant to photograph as many of the flowers are over already, but right beside it is also an ancient larch festooned with an uncommon, acid-yellow lichen from which a potent toxin can be derived.
1730. After dropping Lisi off at Kaunergrat, I return to a spot in the forest where a couple of days before I had seen what looked like a very shapely Arnica. And so it proves, my luck getting even better when an as yet unidentified fritillary lands, voluntarily, on set
1930. This evening I want to go back to photograph some broad leaved helleborines I saw before, near the village. Tucked away in a shaded bit of tangled woodland at the foot of a small cliff, I’m not sure if the orchid’s strange growth habit is the result of local conditions or characteristic of the species: the flower spike seems to become fully upright only at the onset of senescence. In total, I find seven plants and all seem to share the same premature stoop.
2100. As I return to the car I spot the exuvia of a newly emerged Tettigonia viridissima, although the grasshopper itself hops it before I can include it in the shot.
Day 10. 11th July.
1000. Today is going to be a people, rather than a bug and plant, day: Ernst has arranged for some journalists and a cameraman to come to the Sonnenhänge to learn why they are one of the wild wonders of Europe – and to find out more from me out the project. That over and everyone satisfied, we repair to the Park’s restaurant where Kurt and I get down to the task of giving scientific names to the species I’ve photographed. In truth, except for a few plants, Kurt provides all the names. He has that depth of taxonomic knowledge that is increasingly rare as natural history is eclipsed by lab-based natural science disciplines such as biochemistry and microbiology. But unless you can name things, how do you start to understand them and their relationship with other living things? If you can’t do this, how do you plan their conservation? For me, it’s important to put names to, say, all the grasshoppers not because they will mean very much to the majority of people who look at the caption but simply because names are the marker pegs of diversity. I think it takes a particular sort of differentiating mind to absorb the characteristics of other living organisms and unusual intellectual drive to name them, one that isn’t satisfied merely with family or genus. Harvard Professor Howard Gardner in his theory of multiple intelligences identifies these traits with the 8th Intelligence, what he calls “nature smart”. For those of us with this sort of mind, the natural world with all its complexity and connectivity is an endlessly fascinating place; it is the world beyond the comparative simplicity of human affairs and all the more stimulating for it. Perhaps the 8th Intelligence is simply a hang over from times when a deep knowledge of the natural world contributed directly to the quality of our lives.
So, Kurt is MUCH better at identifying anything with more than four legs than I am and after about 3 hours he has managed to put names to most things. The rest will follow once he is in his office with access to more books. Anna and Benny have come out from Innsbruck today and along with Philipp, Lisi and me, sit in awe as one name is conjured after another.
1530. Although the weather doesn’t look very promising, I head to the area I went to with Lisi yesterday to photograph some alpines and then wait for dark to shoot another hay barn. I find some lesser butterfly orchids just as the rain starts. Then Anna calls; they are thinking of returning home and won’t see me again. So I drive back down to Fließ where we are joined by Wolfgang and Elke to witness the start of a local Tirolean festival that seems to feature a lot of accordion music and people falling over drunk. Suddenly I feel at home.
1900.The clouds have closed ranks in the west so I resign myself to having a good time with my friends as we huddle like conspiratorial Viennese sophisticates in the bar as Tirolean revelry swirls around us.
1230 12th July. Get to sleep in spite of the street party outside the guesthouse.
0330. Wake because of the party still going on outside the guesthouse.
Day 11. 12th July
0730 Notwithstanding an extremely short night I head out before breakfast as the clouds caught in the folds of the valley are freed by a freshening breeze. And below the village, I finally find the image that says “sunny slopes” framed, as they are, against the dark, damp side of the valley. I make one quick check of Cape Canaveral again and although it is already very hot and humid, there are no Apollos.
1030. I thought that my grasshopper sessions were over but Lisi has found not only the red winged species I photographed the other day with Philipp but another cryptically coloured one that sports caerulean blue wings, too. I make some hurried exposures on the white set as the rain begins, again. Austria, I now appreciate is actually quite a Damp Country. Lisi shows me an alternative route to the Park visitor centre and from the road, in an uncut hay meadow (one of the few) we spot several flame lilies. It’s hard to believe that these garish orange show-offs aren’t escapees from a garden. But no, they are just as uncultivated as their more dowdy neighbours: they’ve just done a lot of evolutionary self-improvement. To quell the disbelief of viewers I make some pictures of the alpine setting, complete with lilly, Perspex and flash gear, taken in between showers.
1400. Another lay-by, another species of grasshopper. Perhaps even two: both are nymphs and the first I can easily match in the field guide as one I haven’t photographed before. The other has wasp-like yellow and black marking I can’t recall having see on any other species. It too can easily be matched in the field guide but the fact it is a Red List Section 1 species (in Germany, at least, since it is a German field guide) causes me to doubt my identification. I will have to wait until Kurt sees the picture to be sure.
1500. So the assignment started with an assassin bug and has ended, potentially, with a Red List grasshopper. Grasshoppers have been the unexpected stars of this trip thanks to their variety – I’ve photographed 17, possibly 18 species out of 38 in the Park – character and willingness to sit on set. They are also a rather under-photographed group that deserve some of the attention currently given to butterflies and other more conspicuous insects. Wild Wonders of Europe has given birth to a new orthopteriphile.
For their help, companionship and support in the field and with the organisation of the trip:
The Flash Centre, London, for supplying the Lumedyne flash outfit used throughout the trip (the Elinchrom one they loaned was, unfortunately, too heavy to bring).
In sharp contrast was Nikon UK which, in spite of Nikon Europe being a partner in the Wild Wonders of Europe initiative, failed even to respond to requests for cooperation during this quest.