The Peacock Katydid Shoot (12 Oct 2015)

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Mark Fernley, Co-director & leader of Untamed Photography set out to explore more of South America’s lush but highly threatened terrain, namely the forested region of the Yasuni National Park in the east of Ecuador.

‘When I set foot in this lush green environment I could not help myself focusing on the small alien looking species inhabiting the forest from the tree canopy to the forest floor. After settling into my room and being welcomed by the Yasuni staff of the research station along with their local friendly Tapir, I did an initial circuit to get my bearings and a feel for the place. Each day gave me a new photo opportunity, species such as Dancing Spiny Devil Katydids (Panacanthus cuspidatus), Climbing Crested Forest Toads (Rhinella margaritifera), Forest Giant Owl Butterflies (Caligo eurilochus),  the Harlequin Beetle (Acrocinus longimanus), Amazon Tree Boa Constrictor (Corallus hortulanus), Black Skinned Parrot Snakes (Leptophis ahaetulla nigromarginatus), and Smooth-fronted Caimans (Paleosuchus trigonatus)  to name just a few!’

‘Every day was memorable, each becoming an epic ‘photographic macro shoot’ (mostly with flash). One day however was particularly memorable and one which I must share! I set out in the afternoon after a long night walk, trekking the forest alone. Through flooded trails, and up onto the ‘terrafirma’ and back into the again flooded aguahal I stumbled upon a photographic gem. It was a Peacock Katydid and it stood motionless in front of my lens. This is a variety of Katydid that is one of the look-alike species, which appears to imitate a leaf, in this case a dead leaf approx 12cm in length. I quickly set up my equipment including my Canon 60mm F2.8 lens attached to my Canon 70D. Batteries were put into the ring flash that was held at a tight angle to capture the shadows that the leaf mimic had to offer. I began to get some great shots of this huge insect but it was the beginning of something spectacular.’

‘Getting closer to the subject which was initially quite still the Katydid decided to turn its body from a side view to a back view. As its back was facing me, it then fanned its wings in a motion like a peacock, displaying beautiful colours that showed two false eyes, ones that actually imitated an owl’s face. I sat there staring at this wonderful display marvelling at how such a disguise had evolved. I snapped into action and with my Canon lens EOS 60MM F2.8 connected to my Canon 70D Body and ring flash captured some great macro shots. One shot using the third rule was a stunner, really capturing the colours, the open space to the left giving me the ability to keep the insects legs in frame.’

By Mark A Fernley