A few years ago, one of the students in our Digital Complete Nature Photo Course was, we discovered, an avid expert on the songs of katydids, crickets, and grasshoppers, and a real lover and expert on these species. He had compiled and marketed a CD of the songs of these insects, and now, he's done himself one step better, for Wil Hershberger, in conjunction with his co-author Lang Elliott, have produced a fabulous book aptly titled, The Songs of Insects.
There are a couple of reasons why I'm raving about this book. One, I like insects, and I like to photograph them. Large, colorful, conspicuous insects are among the most fun to shoot, but the dilemna in doing so is it is often difficult to identify the species. Presently I use several guides, including the Kaufman Field Guide I mentioned earlier, as well as field guide books on butterflies, dragonflies, and miscellaneous general guides. One of these is a field guide devoted to Grasshoppers, Katydids, and Crickets of the US, which I felt was handy (and is) for identification. However, in comparing that book with The Songs of Insects I found that there three common species of Trigs - while only two were shown in the Field Guide. So, what's a Trig? I'd seen, and filmed, my first one just last year, and I only suspected it was some type of cricket, which it is, and which Wil's book so handsomely illustrates.
The images in the book are simply outstanding. Last year, Wil won a Highly Commended (really, a Third Place) in the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition (there are nearly 20,000 entries, and about 80 winners), and the photos by he and Elliott are wonderful - good behavior, SHARP, and well lighted. I've done this type of work, and I just can't imagine concentrating on these subjects -- it is so tough. Additionally, though, many of the species are illustrated against a pure white background, clearly illuminating every aspect of the insect. For identification, you just can't beat that style.
While the book claims to illustrate only the common singing
insects, I felt like an idiot as I learned that there are twelve
species of what I've always lumped as 'annual' cicadas, and 17
species of Katydid types - I've struggled to identify a handful.
As an identification assist, the book will be invaluable, and
as an inspiration for taking better insect photographs, well,
as the commercial goes, it's priceless.
Fully illustrated, and I mean fully, complete with a great CD of songs, and wonderfully indexed, this 228 page book is a steal at its cover price of $19.95. It's available at bookstores, Amazon, and at www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com. You might be able to get an autographed copy, too, by contacting Wil direct at firstname.lastname@example.org:natureimagesandsounds.com You'll love it.
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