Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 35 comments

Shadows of Bugs Mating on Witchgrass 0308

Here you see a pair of bugs mating on a blade of witchgrass, Panicum capillare. Okay, so you don’t actually see the bugs because they’re on the opposite side of the blade of grass, but their shadows discreetly tell the story. It reminds me of the way Busby Berkeley used this technique six minutes into the Pettin’ in the Park number from the movie Gold Diggers of 1933.

Like the previous photograph, this one comes from July 29 in the southeast quadrant of Wells Branch Parkway and Dessau Rd. on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 10, 2014 at 5:25 AM

35 Responses

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  1. Very nice comparison. But where’s the cute kid?


    September 10, 2014 at 6:03 AM

  2. This is pretty awesome! You have captured this pretty well…


    Sid - The Wanderer

    September 10, 2014 at 6:10 AM

    • I occasionally see shadows of insects on leaves, but this may have been the first time one of those shadows was of two insects mating.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2014 at 7:20 AM

  3. You have an amazing eye. I loved the snail and all your photos. So nice to have a little gem in my mailbox every day. I aspire to look for the smaller things in nature as a result of looking through your eye. Maybe my photography will reach farther. Thanks ever so much.


    September 10, 2014 at 6:11 AM

    • Thanks for letting me know, Dianne. It’s fun to go out in nature and find little things like these bugs mating and the attractive snail from last time. Let’s hope you and your photography do reach further because there’s a lot out there for the taking.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2014 at 7:24 AM

  4. Un beau jeu d’ombres, bravo.


    September 10, 2014 at 7:31 AM

  5. That was quite a funny video.

    Jim in IA

    September 10, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    • Good old Busby Berkeley. Over the years I’d seen the whole film a couple of times on Turner Classic Movies, and that’s how I knew about the relevant scene. Hard to believe that was 81 years ago already.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2014 at 11:19 AM

  6. What a delightful shot, I have never seen romance behind a green grass blade ever! This in a one in a million I must say and congratulate you for this amazing accomplishment worthy of some sort of trophy! Love the Love!


    September 10, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    • Thanks for your enthusiasm and virtual trophies. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen shadowed insect romance anywhere else either. I just spent a few minutes searching on the Internet but all the hits I got photographs of mating insects on a blade of grass showed a conventional view rather than one in shadow—except that I got two hits for my own post (that’s fast work, Google). Someone must have done this before, but I’m still glad to have thought of doing it myself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2014 at 11:31 AM

  7. Brilliant!

    Alex Autin

    September 10, 2014 at 9:37 AM

  8. Should I be blushing? Awesome photo, Steve!


    September 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM

  9. Ooops…sorry for the interruption.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    September 10, 2014 at 1:37 PM

  10. Very discreet of you but great shot. 😀

    Raewyn's Photos

    September 10, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    • It’s been said that discretion is the better part of valor, so I guess this picture makes me valorous.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2014 at 3:32 PM

  11. I think it is virtue, Steve. And yes, you are quite virtuous….even if you are supplying folks with can openers. That mischievous little kid reminds me of Puck.

    I’ve seen a bunch of silhouettes like this but yours is the first with romantic bugs.

    Steve Gingold

    September 10, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    • Oops…it is valor. 😳

      Steve Gingold

      September 10, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    • That can opener was quite a touch, wasn’t it? It says a lot about Busby Berkeley, who put together plenty of scenes that are known for their voyeurism.

      I think I’ve done other shadowed silhouettes of insects, but until this one I can’t remember any with a romantic duo, and that’s what makes this one special.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2014 at 7:47 PM

  12. This reminds me of the time when I was a child and saw two butterflies in a similar pose. I rushed into the house and told my mother “There’s a Siamese butterfly on the bush out front!” She checked it out and told me “No, they’re only mating.” And that was my introduction to sex.
    It got a lot better later.


    September 11, 2014 at 8:23 AM

  13. Oh, this is very clever, and I love the Busby Berkeley reference!

    Susan Scheid

    September 11, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    • Sounds like you were already familiar with him. He was a great innovator in Hollywood movie choreography. Too bad more people don’t know about him now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2014 at 10:09 AM

  14. That Busby Berkeley clip is priceless. Cyrus, Spears and the Kardashians might do well to watch the can opener scene a time or two. They could learn something. Beyond that, I couldn’t help noticing a couple of great examples of geometric patterns in the dance numbers — another reason to enjoy his work. I didn’t realize that was a signature feature of his films, but so it is. Math is everywhere.

    The photo of the bugs is terrific. At first, I thought you’d captured my bête noire, the love bugs. After comparing the silhouettes with a photo of love bugs, I decided not. For one thing, the love bugs’ antennae are much shorter and extend from the front of the head, and the legs don’t look quite the same.

    No matter. It’s still a fascinating photo — and much more pleasing than a swarm of love bugs.


    September 11, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    • Busby Berkeley almost certainly wasn’t the first person to use an overhead camera looking straight down, but he employed that technique to great effect in a bunch of movies to reveal the moving geometric patterns that he had his dancers assemble themselves into. Speaking of inventiveness, Gold Diggers of 1933 is also the movie in which Ginger Rogers sings part of the song “We’re in the Money” in Pig Latin (honest!). The film is worth renting for the other songs and dance numbers in it, even if the plot is hokey (you can fast-forward from one musical part to the next).

      In addition to shadowed silhouettes, I took conventional pictures of these mating bugs from the other side, so I knew they weren’t love bugs, but I didn’t take the time to try to identify them. It’s wonderful how much research this silhouetted view obviated.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2014 at 2:56 PM

  15. This discreet portrait of your shady couple kindly ensures that its publication won’t be a bugaboo for them.


    September 12, 2014 at 9:21 PM

    • I like the punning way you described these insects as a shady couple, and the publication deterrent as a bugaboo. Good for you!

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2014 at 10:18 PM

  16. […] summer, from a site on the Blackland Prairie only about a mile away from this one, I offered up a different look at bugs mating on the same species of grass. I wonder whether witchgrass might turn out to be an aphrodisiac for people as well. If any of you […]

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