Top Ten of 2008

For the first post of 2009, I begin with a look back at some of my favorite photos from 2008 (idea stolen from Alex Wild and others).  I initially hesitated to do a “best photos” post since I’m not really a photographer – just an entomologist with a camera.  Nevertheless, and with that caveat in mind, I offer ten photos that represent some of my favorites from this past year. To force some diversity in my picks, I’ve created “winning” categories (otherwise you might just see ten tiger beetles!). Click on the photos to see larger versions, and feel free to vote for your favorite. If so, what did you like about it? Was there a photo I didn’t pick that you liked better?  Enjoy!

Best tiger beetle

Cicindela formosa generosa

From “All the better to see you with, my dear!” (September 2008).  Picking a top tiger beetle photo was tough with so many to choose from.  Ultimately, I decided I really like these face-on shots, and of the several I’ve posted this one of Cicindela formosa generosa has the overall best composition, balance and symmetry.  I considered this one of Cicindela formosa formosa – with its half-cocked jaws, it probably has better personality.  However, the one above got the final nod because it is a true field shot of an unconfined, unmanipulated individual.

Best jewel beetle

Aegelia petelii

From Buppies in the bush(veld) (December 2008).  Although taken back in 1999, I just recently scanned and posted this photo of Agelia petelii from South Africa.  I like the bold, contrasting colors of the beetle combined with the soft colors of the host foliage.  Runners up included these photos of Evides pubiventris with its sumptuous iridescent green blending beautifully with the green background (but suffering slightly from shallow depth of field) and Chrysobothris femorata with its intricate surface sculpturing.

Best longhorned beetle

Tetraopes femoratus

From Rattled in the Black Hills (September 2008).  This was an easy choice – none of the other longhorned beetle photos that I posted during 2008 matched this photo of Tetraopes femoratus for clarity, composition, and the striking contrast between the red color of the beetle and the green color of the host plant.  I especially like the detailing of the body pubescence.

Best non-beetle insect

Proctacanthus milbertii

From Magnificently Monstrous Muscomorphs (November 2008).  I do like other insect besides beetles, and robber flies are hard to beat for their charisma.  This photo of Proctacanthus milbertii (which, as Chris Taylor pointed out, literally translates to “Milbert’s spiny butt”), has great composition and nice, complimentary colors.  I like contrast between the fine detail of the fly and the soft background.

Best non-insect arthropod

Argiope aurantia

From Happy Halloween! (October 2008). I didn’t have many non-insect arthropod photos to choose from, but this photo of a female Argiope aurantia (yellow garden spider) would be deserving of recognition no matter how many I had to choose from. I like the bold, contrasting colors and symmetry of the spider in front of the dappled background of this photo.

Best non-arthropod animal

Prairie rattlesnake (Crotolus viridis)

Another one from Rattled in the Black Hills (September 2008).  This is admittedly not the best photo from a purely technical perspective – it’s a little out of focus, and the color is a bit off.  However, no photo could better convey the moment – confronted with a live, angry prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) (among the more aggressive species in the genus).  The forked tongue and rattle – blurred in motion – were icing on the cake.

Best wildflower

Victoria Glades

From Glades of Jefferson County (July 2008).  I had several wildflower closeups to choose from, but I kept coming back to this field shot of pale purple coneflower (Echincea simulata) and Missouri evening primrose (Oenethera macrocarpa).  The eastern redcedars (Juniperus virginiana) in the background are at once indicative of their preferred habitat (limestone/dolomite glades) and also testament to their threatening encroachment.

Best tree

Calocedrus decurrens

From the very simply and aptly named Lake Tahoe, California (March 2008).  Incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), with its reddish, deeply furrowed bark and great height, is one of the most majestic of western conifers.  I was captivated by this tree – beautiful even in death and contrasting nicely with the surrounding green foliage.

Best rockscape

Pipestone National Monument, Old Stone Face

From Pipestone National Monument (April 2008).  “Old Stone Face” is one of Pipestone’s most recognizable geologic features, and the short angle of the sun on this early spring day provided nice detail to the cracks and fissures of the rock – almost appropriately adding a weathered “age” to this old man.

Best landscape

Emerald Isle, Lake Tahoe

Another one from Lake Tahoe, California (March 2008).  Few places on earth are more photogenic than Lake Tahoe, and this perspective overlooking Emerald Bay is among the finest views I’ve seen.  Brilliant blue skies and majestic snow covered mountains reflected perfectly from the still surface, with Fannette Island providing a perfect focal point for the photo.

Best miscellaneous

Water drops, Ozark Trail, Trace Creek SectionFrom Ozark Trail, lower Trace Creek Section (December 2007).  While technically not a 2008 photo, it’s close enough.  This was one of the first macro photographs I took with my camera, and it remains one of my favorites.  A chance occurence of an unlikely subject, created by cold temperatures and heavy moisture-laden air. I like the contrast between the water drops – sharp, round, and clear – with the vertical shapes of the leaf petioles and background trees.  Viewing the image full-sized reveals the reflection of the photographer in the leftmost water drop.

Subsequent edit: Okay, so after I put this post together, I realized I actually featured eleven photos – too much difficulty choosing, I guess. Let’s call it a baker’s ten.

10 thoughts on “Top Ten of 2008

  1. You don’t really expect me to choose a favorite out of this wonderful selection do you Ted? Each has something special about it so it would be an impossible task.

    Maybe Cicindela formosa formosa for me would have just a slight edge as I love that frontal vision of him. 🙂

  2. Ted- Very nice. I think my favorite of your bests is the first picture of the tiger beetle. The way it faces the camera really makes it look like some gigantic alien creature one might see in a movie. The sand grains also give a nice scale reference to the image.


  3. In my humble opinion, from a photographic point of view the best image is the first, despite a small problem of backfocus… It’s a very good photo!

    but for me the most impressive picture, despite its quality, is the rattlesnake… what amazing animal! here in Spain we don’t have rattlesnakes (out of the terrariums), the only poisonous snakes are three species of “Víboras” (Vipera sp.) and don’t make noise… 😛 (rattlesnakes are better because they warn of their presence, LOL)

    Best regards and happy new year.

  4. I think they’re all great. I like the little piece of chert that is the EXACT color of the tiger beetle. Amazing, really. And thank you for my first primer on the OT. I knew so little about it, I’m embarrassed to write. Have a great January! I bet you have some good resolutions, too. Keep traveling!

  5. So far the tiger beetle seems to have it (and it is my personal favorite as well). But, how ironically amusing that the lone dissenter is … “cicindela”? 🙂

    Allison, that little piece of chert always bothered me – at times I’d even considered the otherwise unthinkable option of photoshopping it out. Thank you for showing me the light.

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

  6. Javier — I’ve seen other rattlesnakes before, but this was my first prairie rattler. They are among the most aggressive species, and this is the only time I’ve seen a rattler “poised to strike”. A very impressive animal, indeed!

    Seeing your excellent English, I now cringe at how bad my Spanish must seem on your blog. But then, not many Americans even bother to learn a second language, so I won’t feel too bad.

    Saludos — ted


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