Posts Tagged ‘Nature photography’

As an author I’m advised to participate in social media and project myself out onto the world as a human being. Promote the person, not the book. The consensus of opinion is that if I appear to be a caring, thought-provoking, fascinating…insert adjective of choice…person, that this will help me grow my fan base, and build interest in my writing.

This is all well and good in theory, but I happen to be an intrinsically shy person. I don’t like talking about myself. I don’t feel comfortable posting images of my friends, family and the plate of food I ate for dinner. So, what am I supposed to do? What are other introverted writers blogging, Facebooking and generally yapping about in order to build their audience? Or, are they too shy to come out and play?

My Book Manager at Booktrope has encouraged me to be myself, find the platforms that I feel comfortable with, and concentrate on them. Apparently there’s no need to venture into danger zones that make me cringe and fear being spotted in the crowd. Phew! The next question is, which platforms do I feel comfortable with? And what is my theme? A theme, I’m told, is important; it helps to identify my brand.


As a lifelong photographer, social media sites that are image rich would appear to be my best bet. Pinterest is ideal. I can spend all day pressing the heart button and pinning to a variety of boards. Job done. Not quite. I’m supposed to be letting people know who I am. Maybe my art board says enough. Maybe my choice of paintings lets you know that we share the same aesthetic taste and therefore, if we ever met in person, might find something to sit down and talk about.

I’m getting there, we’re now connecting, relating at a more personal level. You won’t know what to feed me for dinner, but you will know which art exhibition to invite me to.

Then, a few months ago, I revolutionised my ability to stay on top of social media. I knew I had to become more spontaneous with my postings, so went out and bought a smartphone! Yeah, yeah, prior to this I was a Blackberry girl, a much faster, more efficient system, but, quite frankly, rubbish for the likes of Facebook and Pinterest. This new phone was going to transform everything, make it easier. Once I got my head around the darn thing!

It came ready loaded with loads of groovy apps, one of which was Instagram.
Now, I’d heard of Instagram, but never used it, or understood its value within the social media network. Like all enthusiastic self-promoters, I scurried around reading as much information as possible. Okay, the literature says that all I have to do on Instagram is upload a photo, choose whether to add a fun filter or not, write loads of hashtags and post. Easy peasy. Apparently Instagram will make more impact if I stick to a theme. Theme, theme, what is my theme? Everyone says I must have a theme. But, what do I post? We’re back to the three f’s, friends, family and food. To hell with that!

This is my platform and I can post whatever I darn well like. I take photos. I take photos of anything and everything that interests me. So that is what I will post. Insects, reflections, wildlife… “People don’t like scary bugs,” my partner says. “Post cute stuff, people like cute.” I don’t do cute, cute isn’t always available. I do life. This is my life, this is me. Colourful, observant, creative. To post anything else would not be true to myself. At last, I have found my theme…being myself!

Come and join me on Instagram.

Autumn splash #abstract #photography #amwriting #autumn #reflection

A post shared by Toni Allen Author (@listansus) on

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Conehead bush-cricket laying eggs

Yesterday it was yet another dreary overcast day, threatening rain, but I was determined to take my camera for a walk. I needed time to mull over what to do with a particular chapter in the novel I’m currently working on. Once again things weren’t going as planned, and my super dramatic scene was turning out as dynamic as a milk-float with a flat battery. Hey ho, time to switch off and think about something completely different.

So I set out with my camera and macro lens, thinking I might see a grasshopper or cricket at my favourite meadow not far from home. I started by taking a few snaps of a spider, and believe me, the light quality was rubbish. Cranking the ISO up to 1600 was achieving a shutter speed of 125th of a second: not at all adequate for macro photography.

Conehead bush-cricket with egg sacConehead bush-cricket with egg sac

Seeing a few grasshoppers jumping around cheered me up. At least I had a subject. Earlier in the year, to one side of the meadow, I’d come across a colony of long-winged conehead bush-crickets, so this is where I decided to focus my efforts. Indeed, focus would have been a lot easier in brighter light and without sudden gusts of wind beating the long grass against my lens.

After a while I found the coneheads, several of them determined to circulate on one particular clump of grass. My best option was to sit down, so that I could be on eye level with them, and ensure I made as few sudden movements as possible. Then I saw her, a mature female with what appeared to be a dew drop clinging to her body near her ovipositor. I thought this very odd, as although there was moisture in the air, the grass was quite dry.

Conehead bush-cricket laying eggs-1Conehead bush-cricket laying eggs-2

I watched and took a few more photos, trying to keep track of the same female. This wasn’t easy as the wind was swaying the grass, she was moving swiftly from one blade of grass to the next, and each time she relocated I had to adjust camera settings to correct exposure and focus. Half way up one tall stem she suddenly started arching her back, curling round and producing another dew drop from her abdomen. Not water at all, but what appeared to be an egg sac. As luck would have it, of course she’d moved and the light was against me and the wind was blowing grass directly between my lens and my subject. It’s called sod’s law. All I could do was keep clicking the shutter and hoping for the best: absolutely no time to make any adjustments or the action would be over.

Conehead bush-cricket laying eggs-3Conehead bush-cricket laying eggs-5

Once her main dance had abated, I risked changing a few setting and repositioning myself to gain a better angle. By now she’d curled right round into a ball, more resembling a nautilus than a cricket. The dew drop was still clinging to her abdomen, but what she did next surprised me. She was putting it in her mouth. From this point on she proceeded to carry it around, adding something to the clear dew drop and making it slightly opaque. Several times she pressed it hard up against a blade of grass, and I assumed she was deliberately depositing it, or some of it, onto the stem of grass.

Conehead bush-cricket laying eggs-7Conehead bush-cricket laying eggs-8

To my mind she was laying eggs, coating them with something, and then setting them down to over-winter, ready to hatch next year.

I was pretty certain this was the case, until I came home and started researching conehead bush-crickets online. The consensus of opinion from experts online says that, ‘the females lay between their eggs in the stems of grasses in the late summer. They do this by first biting a whole into the stems of grasses or reeds and then insert their eggs using their ovipositors.’

This, of course, threw me, because my female did not directly lay her eggs using her ovipositor, but carried them around in her mouth first. I still believe that she was laying eggs: after all, this is the same meadow that I discovered a pink grasshopper in, so anything is possible!

If I have my facts wrong, please never forget that I’m a writer and photographer, not an entomologist.

The long-winged conehead’s technical name is Conocephalus discolour.

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It was an overcast day, no doubt about it. Pretty grim lighting for Unusual Mothany kind of photography, but I’m not one to give up and leave my camera at home.

So there I was, trudging along the boardwalk at Elstead, Surrey, when I saw it, walked on, then about-turned and did a double take. What had I just seen? A brown leaf resting on a blade of grass where it had fallen off…hmm, no suitable trees in sight. So, then I stared and stared, and stared some more. Would I ever be able to find that particular blade of grass again? Ah yes, there it was, a few paces away.

Approaching with caution, in case whatever it was got nudged and fell down between the slats of the boardwalk, I then crouched to investigate. It appeared to be a moth. I say appeared to be, because like so many of these clever fellas, it was cunningly disguised as a piece of dried wood or a fallen leaf. To be honest, I’ve never seen any moth like it before. I’ve seen moths that look like twigs or leaves, but never this particular species.

Excited, I took a couple of photographs and quickly enlarged them on my screen, so that I could get a better idea of what it looked like and catch the detail. How cute. Its face is almost cat like, with a dinky little upturned nose. Furry like a cat too, yet it’s got a back fin that would sit well on any dinosaur. Most unusual.

Unfortunately, my new friend, ‘dinosaur cat moth,’ was in a really awkward position to photograph at a good angle. He was resting quite close to the ground, tucked back in amongst the grass and heather. What little light there was, refused to penetrate his safe hiding hole, and even though he was sitting comfortably and had no intention of flying away, capturing a decent shot was near enough impossible. If you think the photo looks burnt out at the top of his quiff, that’s because he’s bright white on top.

Unusual Moth

Okay, here’s a really mediocre shot of his top view so that you can see what I’m talking about. I’d say he’s about an inch in height, but it was difficult to judge because he’s bent round.

If anyone knows what species he is, please let me know so that I can name him correctly. Feel free to Tweet and share these images around. Help me discover who he is. Someone, somewhere, must know the real name of ‘dinosaur cat moth.’ He sure is cute!

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