Butterfly Photo Project
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.