2015 © Stephen Bruno
2015 © Stephen Bruno
While serving 14 months in the U.S. Army in Vietnam my fellow soldiers and I experienced frequent rocket attacks around 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM while sleeping in our hooch. Of course, it was unnerving. All we could do was wait until the rockets stopped hitting our compound. Each of us knew that if even if a single rocket landed nearby, most of us would die.
Initially, I crawled under the small army cot just like everyone else, banging my shins and head and waiting for the end of the rocket attack. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I might just as well lie down on the cot and count the rockets, as there usually were the same number each morning, rather than banging my body trying to get under the cot that provided no protection anyway.
During the day and early evening mosquitoes, carrying a variety of diseases including malaria besieged us. I decided on a creative method to stop the mosquito attacks that kept me awake. I explored the insects indigenous to the area and found that the Praying Mantises in Vietnam were rather large and voracious.
After catching a large Praying Mantis, I tried sewing thread around its thorax and then on objects in the hooch where I lived. There was enough thread for the Praying Mantis to have a great deal of mobility. Initially, I provided water and other insects for it to eat. Eventually, it lived quite well eating the mosquitoes that swarmed around the hooch.
I found a large beaker from the medevac hospital nearby and began raising Praying Mantises. I learned a lot about how they mated, what they ate and how they bushwhacked and ate insects. I learned the best way to feed and provide water for them while they grew.
It was a fascinating experience and stimulated my interest as a naturalist in my off-duty time. The greatest benefit was that I no longer had to worry about mosquitoes buzzing around trying to bite me.
I apologize for the quality of the photographs that somehow survived after all these years. You can click on each image to view it larger. The top image is of a Praying Mantis in its home in my hooch. The bottom image is of two Praying Mantises in the beaker. The images do not do justice to how large and beautiful these Praying Mantises were.
Bald Eagle 2014 © Stephen Bruno
Over my many years of nature and wildlife photography in numerous locations, I have become a curious naturalist. I know a lot about birds and animals because I have studied them for years. Whenever I photograph something new, I return home to my study and thoroughly research them.
I find it interesting that frequently people are in such a hurry to walk through the forest, country, and desert that they appear to miss so many opportunities to observe nature and wildlife. Visit my photography website and view a slideshow of my photography. http://www.stephenbrunophotography.com/.
Once I was photographing a large tarantula when an older couple walked by and the man quickly took a twig and scooted the tarantula off the path and into a pile of leaves. The woman glanced at my raised camera and me and asked if I was photographing the tarantula. I lied and told her no, that I was just observing it. It did not seem to matter much to explain how he interfered with my observation and photography.
Another time I was photographing an Osprey that I had tracked around a lake to a tree high above a well-worn path. Just as I had raised my camera with a telephoto lens and was focusing in on the Osprey eating a rainbow trout, a family walked rapidly passed me talking loudly as they neared the large tree with the Osprey. Unfortunately, the bird became nervous and flew to the other side of the lake. Although disappointing that I had missed the opportunity to photograph the bird that I had pursued so vigilantly, I was amazed that the family never even noticed the Osprey.
There is so much to see when we are in nature if we have the patience and presence to observe. Most people now have a cell phone with reasonable photography capability or a compact camera. If you are not a photographer or prefer to draw, sketch the wildlife that you see and note the location.
Walk with someone who can point out things of interest in the field and explain simple, useful identifying characteristics.This is one reason why I offer photography workshops. http://www.stephenbrunophotography.com/Photography-Workshops
People who view my wildlife photography frequently ask how I get so close to photograph wildlife.
Below are a few of my approaches to photographing wildlife close up:
- Shifting between my vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste.
- Stopping at the nearest desert, forestry office or interpretive center to pick up brochures, trail maps, and wildlife checklists. Asking about any recent wildlife sightings.
- Following my intuition. If the hair on the back of my neck stands up, wildlife could be near!
- Being mindful of recent weather and knowing that temperature, sunlight, and precipitation all factor into reading tracks and wildlife behavior.