The Rhyme of the Ancient Butterfly Photographer

This summer has been an unmitigated failure as a butterfly photographing season.  Whenever I’ve gone out with my macro lens and monopod the butterflies have been non-existent.  I think I’ve gotten a half dozen shots of a monarch or two.  But other than that it’s been the tiny butterflies or nothing.

So today at about 4pm I went out without my camera just to get a snootful of air and wandering by a garden that was in the afternoon shade I see this tiger swallowtail in perfect condition.  The wings are vividly colored and there are no tatters at all.  And maybe because it’s in the shade it’s completely unconcerned with my presence.  Usually butterflies constantly scan their surroundings and reposition to avoid threats or even leave suddenly if they feel threatened.  This one is unphased by my presence and I’m standing there behind it looking at the perfect shot of the flat open wings, without a camera!

I head back to the house mumbling and swearing about my lousy luck and I grab my rig and head back out.  And it’s still there.  But sure enough, as soon as I get into range it takes off.  More grumbling and swearing.  Now we’re in the more typical situation with the butterfly playing ring around the rosy with me, always keeping a flower between me and it.  Well, I had had enough.  Instead of my usual magnified view trying to get the perfect focus I set the autofocus to continuous and the trigger mode to multiple-hi speed and I machine gunned my way through hundreds of files while I actively chased that stupid insect around the yard.

Was I successful?  We’ll see.  But it was satisfying to use modern technology to defeat the annoying strategies of a creature whose brain is about the size of a poppy seed.

“That’s one small step for a man.  One giant leap for mankind.”

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”

Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens on Sony A7 III
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War Pig
War Pig
1 month ago

Beautiful. I have noticed a paucity of butterflies in my area. Ditto for June bugs and woolly worms (woolly bears to some). My neighbor’s wife plants a load of flowers but the mass of butterflies is missing. The deer take an active interest in her plants, though, so she had to buy some deer repellent.

1 month ago

We are finally getting some more butterflies around here (in NC). There have been several tiger swallowtails flitting around the back yard the past few days. One even smacked me in the face Saturday afternoon. My boys have enjoyed watching them when they’re out on the trampoline. They’ve also been seeing several dragon flies hanging around. Of course, I learned all this AFTER the one butterfly tried to eat my face off… it is a TIGER swallowtail, after all.

War Pig
War Pig
1 month ago
Reply to  photog

I once took my younger daughter, age nine or ten, to the Cincinnati Zoo. While we were there, the elephant took a dump and she laughed bad said :Ewww”, At that time a hippo (they shared the same enclosure) came over and started snacking on the elephant dung, still steaming. My daughter had a fit. I told her that the hippo did what he would do in the wild, recycling nutrients he could not reach that the elephant could. She was having none of it.   “But he’s in a zoo! He gets fed every day! There’s no excuse for… Read more »

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