Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 24 comments

Exuviae of a cidada; click for more detail.

Two days ago I was looking at the blog Backyard and Beyond and learned a new word: exuviae. Entomologists (biologists who study insects) use this Latin plural to designate the cast-off exoskeleton of an insect that has molted. The word came at a good time, because when I was at Bull Creek last week I discovered not only a tiny grasshopper that looked like it was wearing military camouflage, and not only dozens of roughstem rosinweed plants in full flower, but also on a leaf of one of the rosinweeds the exuviae of the cicada (or maybe I should say ex-cicada) that you see here. Such sloughed-off “skins” often last for quite a while, during which time they’re exposed to the elements and can get as dirty as this one.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(For the technically minded, points 1, 2, 5, and 8 in About My Techniques apply to today’s photograph.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 18, 2011 at 6:55 AM

24 Responses

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  1. This is a fantastic, terrifying picture. That eye will haunt me to the end of my days.


    July 18, 2011 at 7:40 AM

  2. Revolting…but in a very compelling way! The background petals appearing to radiate out from the ‘monster’ are a stroke of compositional genius…

    The Central Scrutinizer

    July 18, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    • Thanks. Sometimes I feel like the only thing that matters is background, background, background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2011 at 1:10 PM

  3. It looks like an over-sized and horrifying dust mite! Thank goodness it is only an exuviae!


    July 18, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    • I’ve been thankful not to be the size of some of the little creatures I’ve photographed in the wild.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2011 at 2:00 PM

  4. Stunning but … a little scary picture!


    July 18, 2011 at 1:33 PM

  5. Great shot Steve! I like the flower in the background 🙂


    July 18, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    • Thanks. I did my best to position the camera so that the rays of the rosinweed would lead in to the subject at the center.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2011 at 7:00 PM

  6. Being an insect enthusiast, I do not find this photo terrifying at all. Rather, I would describe it as beautiful! Nice catch!


    July 18, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    • Thanks for your comment and your different perspective. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The subject of this portrait, though no longer a beholder, certainly has a large—and you’ve said beautiful—eye.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2011 at 9:56 PM

  7. Definitely alien looking, but beautifully photographed.


    July 18, 2011 at 10:09 PM

  8. Nice shot. It seems sad, but also beautiful at the same time.


    July 19, 2011 at 9:04 AM

  9. Love the composition of this shot- and the subject has tons of character 🙂

    Watching Seasons

    July 21, 2011 at 12:55 PM

  10. My 4 year old grandsons have been obsessed with cicadas since they emerged last spring. Now, they collect the “exuviae” and bring them inside, putting them down wherever handy and forgetting about them. I found the last collection on the kitchen counter, looking for all the world like they just wanted to know what was for supper.


    July 26, 2011 at 6:17 AM

    • The risk in having them on the kitchen counter is that they might not just want to know what’s for supper but unintentionally become part of supper.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2011 at 6:47 AM

  11. […] * That was the same productive visit that led to pictures of a camouflaged insect, a roughstem rosinweed in full flower, and the exuviae of a cicada. […]

  12. […] the exuviae of a cicada, these empty snail shells linger in the landscape for months and years, gradually getting covered […]

  13. Steve, I love it! And the eye on your shot and on my shot still is large and reflective and clean.


    February 3, 2012 at 2:31 PM

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