Midweek Mobile 17

In the last sixteen weeks I’ve said more or less everything that I can say at this time about taking photos with a phone. So I will end this series today with an upbeat message. The featured photo of a Yellow-tailed tussock moth (Somena scintillans). The light was good, and the camera has managed to put together a lovely photo of the moth. This is not very easy, since it sits with its wings folded into a high peak. To get a photo like this with another camera, I would have to do a bit of focus stacking. With its multiple fixed lenses, the phone has done that, and given me an image which is as sharp at the peak of its wings as it is at its hairy legs. The colour is also rendered beautifully.

What the phone did here in good light is possibly the future. I hope that in the next few years large sensors become cheaper. If that happens, then I’m sure in a few years we will get used to taking photos like this under all light conditions with the little multipurpose box and tracking device in our pockets. I would like to end this series of posts with that hope for the future.

Phone photography changes our expectation of the interaction of camera hardware and image so dramatically that it is worth rethinking what photography means. I intend to explore this a bit in this series.

The arriviste

When I saw three of these spectacular moths together, they were the first I’d sighted in two years. The satiny look of their wings, with the gold forward edge makes the Cydalima laticostalis a favourite of mine. One of the sad things about our pandemic lockdown was the complete disappearance of moths. Did the virus destroy them? Insects often have analogues of the ACE-2 enzymes that the virus attacks in humans, but are distant cousins of the variant that circulates in our bodies. We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus cannot breed inside mosquitos. So it is unlikely to have been directly affected. Instead, the extreme amount of pesticide sprays used in the health theater of the first six months of the pandemic must have put and end to them. I was happy to see them coming back.

In the next few days I saw more moths: a legume pod-borer (Maruca vitrata), one or two rice leaf-rollers (Cnaphalocrocis medinalis), and the stranger above, which I first mistook for an old friend. I began to find something odd about the whole thing. What I was seeing were moths which were uncommon or unknown in my neighbourhood before the pandemic. What happened to what were once the common ones: the beet webworm moth (Spoladea recurvalis), the banded pearl (Sameodes cancellalis) or the yellow-tailed tussock moth (Somena scintillans)? Perhaps the excessive spraying of pesticides killed them off, and now the city is being slowly repopulated by moths which have just flown in from the countryside around us into what they must see as a new world. I have to make friends with my new neighbours, so can anyone help with ID for the one in the photo here?

They’re back!

The moths I used to see on walls since last winter had disappeared around the time we went into lockdown. They are back again. I don’t know whether this was due to the anthropause, or whether this is a normal annual cycles. I must watch next March and April.

I can still only identify less than half of the most common ones. Here the two I know are the spotted Crotolina podborer (Argina astrea) and the yellow-tailed tussock moth (Somena scintillans). You can roll your mouse over the photos to get the captions.

I really must invest in a field guide to Indian moths. Any other enthusiasts out there? Anyone who can make suggestions about which book to buy for Indian or Asian moths?