Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Monday, September 27, 2010

Butterfly Photo Project

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

I've been subjecting my Facebook friends to a stream of butterfly photos all summer long. It's part of a project that I started last spring. I'm sometimes called upon to give talks for various community groups. A particularly well-worn presentation is one titled Butterflies of the American Prairie. I've been giving variants on this talk for many years. It's still in 35 mm slide format. Many of the images are quite old, and very few of them are actually my own photos. This year I decided to change that by upgrading the whole talk to a PowerPoint presentations using fresh photos that I have taken myself.

Karner Blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis)

As I got into this project, I realized that I had a few good images from last year, such as this Karner Blue from northwest Indiana. This photo is what got me thinking about my project.

Hoary Elfin (Callophrys polios)

I began way back in April. My goal was to get all of the images that I will need to create a digital version of my talk. This Hoary Elfin was photographed on April 30 at Illinois Beach State Park. This is a very rare species in Illinois, and flies for just a few weeks in late April and early May.

Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

As the summer progressed, I was able to collect more and more images. Sometimes I went out specifically to take photos. Field work also offered some good opportunities. I spent a lot of time this summer doing butterfly surveys for one of the large Cook County agencies. They wanted me to take lots of photos, and I obliged. Some of them turned out to be useful for my project.

Eastern Tailed Blue (Everes comyntas)

My conservation work has allowed my additional photo opportunities. Sometimes I'm taking pictures of the species that we are working with, as is the case with this Regal Fritillary picture.

Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia)

Other times I found opportunities to snag shots of species that we aren't working with in the lab. That was the case for this Little Yellow, which we found while collecting Regal Fritillary moms for egg laying.

Little Yellow (Eurema lisa)

It's been a rewarding effort. I tried to do a lot more butterfly photography a decade ago. My parents had given me a very nice camera for my fortieth birthday. I always felt butterfly photography to be a struggle. My macro lens was amazing, but I had to get right on top of an individual butterfly if I wanted to use the lens' capability. Butterflies typically do not cooperate with that behavior.Depth of field was always a huge issue for me. The greater flexibility that the digital format offers has really liberated me, and I'm enjoying the photographic opportunities that are opening up.

Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phileus)

The season is rapidly ending, however the project isn't done yet. I now have enough images that I can put together a digital version of the talk. There are a bunch of species that I need, and still others that I'm not yet fully pleased with. I'm very fortunate that I started this project during an extremely good year for butterflies, and look forward to filling in many of my gaps in 2011.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

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At 12:28, Blogger Randy Emmitt said...


Nice set of photos! Never seen a Hoary Elfin, but we do get 4 species of elfins here so I'm not complaining too much.

At 17:03, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful set of images already Doug.
I didn't realise you had the same Red Admiral as we do.

At 16:59, Blogger Ur-spo said...

They are pretty; I see why people are attracted to butterflies.

At 11:35, Blogger rodger said...

The Karner Blue is striking! Nice photo Dr. T!

At 00:54, Blogger Will said...

Apparently I'm in a blue mood tonight--not sad but delighted particularly by the Karner and Eastern Tailed Blues. Gorgeous pictures as always!

At 11:49, Anonymous Tammy said...

The season is rapidly ending, however the project isn't done yet. Its now have enough images that It can put together a digital version of the talk. There are a bunch of species that I need, and still others that I'm not yet fully pleased with. Thanks for sharing this article.


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