Not only are the butterflies visiting in droves, the re-blooming lilac is living up to it’s name! That’s a win-win for them and me!
A photo of one of my end-of-the-summer visitors.
It’s been a miserable week. I came down with a stomach virus on Saturday that morphed into a nasty cold. There isn’t much that makes me crankier than having a bad cold. I have enough things to cope with without having to nurse a miserable cold for a week. Alas, I’m beginning to feel human again and I think I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I still have a barking cough and laryngitis, but some might tell you that’s a good thing. 😉
Oh, and my 70-200mm zoom isn’t zooming. Ug. It’s gone back to the factory to be looked at, so we’ll have to see how that turns out. I hope it’s something simple and I can get it back by the time the leaves start to turn. Otherwise …. well, I just might have to consider an alternative.
We’re getting into my favorite time of year to take pictures. I love fall morning and late afternoon light. I know those are generally the best times to take photos anyway, but there’s something different about the fall light. I don’t know what it is, but I always seem to get better pictures and struggle a lot less when I’m shooting in the fall. And I love how the dewy mornings give me lots of opportunity to go web hunting.
Anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile knows I love finding and shooting spider webs. I don’t have a thing for spiders and in fact, I usually do my best to avoid them. But I love their aerial artwork and I enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph their webs. It’s not easy, and I often find myself ankle deep in water or mud or standing in nearly shoulder-high brush and weeds (amongst God knows what other kinds of critters … but I try not to think about that!). Still, nothing quite thrills me as much as seeing the results of my efforts. Oftentimes I can’t shoot some of the best webs I find. Either they’re out of my reach or I can’t get myself (and my gear) in the right position where the light will allow them to show up. Or sometimes the background is just too obnoxious. The photo below is an example of that.
I found this wonderful web suspended between two old coneflower plants, but the background was really tough. Because the fog was so dense, I tried to position my tripod so I could shoot the web against the backdrop of the tree. Otherwise, the web wouldn’t show up and would vanish into the background fog. Unfortunately, this meant I had to have the distance between my camera, the web and the tree just so … which proved to be nearly impossible. Mind you, I was standing in the middle of a very dense, wet garden and trying not to trample too much in my quest to get things just right.
I finally got a couple of decent frames … not exactly what I wanted, but I was running out of time. So I did my best, then headed back inside to feed the dogs and get ready to scoot out for a riding lesson. Later, when I finally had a chance to download what I’d shot I was (somewhat) disappointed that I didn’t manage to capture the entire web against the backdrop of the tree. However, upon closer inspection I discovered a butterfly in several of the shots. When I was shooting I never got close enough to the coneflowers and web to actually see the butterfly. In fact, I think at the time I just thought the thing on top of the flower on the right was a dried leaf. (Age and bad vision … Ug!) But here’s the proof: it was a butterfly! A special little treasure, hidden in the frame!
This picture was taken a little over a week ago. The big Swallowtails have pretty much left the area and the ones that remain have seen better days. Same with the butterfly bush … it’s been trimmed back in the process of dead-heading and only a few nice blossoms remain. I did see another Monarch yesterday, but it was quite windy and I didn’t try to get any pictures of it. The air is starting to feel like summer is over which, if it wasn’t for winter, would be a good thing!
My two butterfly bushes always attract an assortment of butterflies, but yesterday was the first time I’ve ever seen a Monarch on one of them! I just happened to be out working in the garden when I noticed this little guy, and ran to get my camera. No dogs knocked me off my feet and I was very happy to see he was still there when I came back with my camera in hand! Monarch wings make me think of stained glass windows. I did a little research to make sure this was a Monarch and not a Viceroy, but it’s not; it’s the real McCoy! Do you ever see Monarchs where you live?
…a different view.
The light and footing have been abysmal so I’ll have to be content blogging yet another photo from last summer. It’s been frustrating to have so many limits on where I can walk, which goes to show how much I take for granted that I can just grab my camera and go find something interesting to shoot on or near my property. Hopefully, the next few warm days will do a bit to improve the limitations that have been imposed since the first week in Jan. There are still very few places (of interest) where you can pull off the road and take pictures. Snowbanks have made the roads so narrow that it will be awhile before I’ll be able to do that again. Several of the access roads to local parks have been closed since the first cataclysmic storm hit over a month ago and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to venture into those spots until spring. So much for taking great winter landscapes I guess.
July 9, 2010. 5:00 PM EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 200, 85mm, 1/320 sec, f/4.5
Lens: Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
Lightroom 3: Crop, minor Brightness/Contrast adj.
Some little girls collect dolls, but when I was young I had a butterfly collection. Dead butterflies. When I was around seven years old our family visited friends who had a butterfly collection. One whole wall of their den was covered with frames that contained neat little rows of dead butterflies. I was completely taken by the vast arrangement of colors and sizes and stood gazing at them for a long time. On the way home I asked my father if we could start a butterfly collection and he said he supposed we could. I didn’t know what this new hobby of ours would entail, but I was excited by the prospect that it would be an adventure that I could share with my Dad.
The first thing I had to learn was that collecting things required patience. Unfortunately, patience is not one of my strong suits. Dad somehow managed to procure a butterfly net which, if I remember correctly, looked like a large piece of cheesecloth strung on a bent clothes hanger. The net was attached to a long wooden handle that grew heavy quickly when repeatedly wielded overhead. Which lead to the second hurdle: netting butterflies required a basic level of dexterity and finesse that most seven year-old children lack. Not to be deterred, I skipped outside to practice my swing and look for butterflies. Who would think they might be so hard to find? I was soon convinced all the butterflies in our neighborhood had relocated elsewhere.
The next step was a bit more complicated. Once captured, I had to kill my specimen. For some odd reason I simply accepted this as part and parcel of having a butterfly collection. I mean, I couldn’t collect live specimens, right? I wasn’t very sure what the killing process entailed, but the thought of having a big frame full of beautiful butterflies far outweighed the fact that I was going to have to get my hands a little dirty to achieve that end. Turns out this was where having a doctor for a father was a BIG help!
Dad brought home a half dozen or so hypodermic syringes. This was before disposables so all hypodermic syringes were made of glass and the needles were packaged separately in several different gauges. It’s hard to believe now, but dad sat down with me and showed me how to draw up a syringe of rubbing alcohol. He then showed me how to hold the butterfly, carefully pierce the thorax and inject the alcohol, which quickly killed the butterfly. There was a small learning curve here: too much alcohol and the wings would absorb the excess, damaging them. Too little alcohol and the butterfly suffered. I took this part of the project very seriously because even though my new hobby involved killing, I wanted to do it humanly. Once the deed was done the butterfly was gently opened up and carefully pinned to a matting board where it would remain until rigor mortis set the wings in permanent flight. When I had a dozen or so specimens we purchased a frame and memorialized the butterflies under glass.
As crude as this hobby sounds, I did learn a great deal while creating a rather large butterfly collection. I got pretty well known around our suburban neighborhood for being the “butterfly girl” and sometimes we would get a call if a neighbor found a particularly rare specimen they thought I might want. My most coveted two specimens were a gigantic Cecropia and a gorgeous Luna moth, but I had many rare and unusual moths and butterflies in my collection.
Eventually I outgrew my interest in butterfly collecting, and looking back, it’s hard to believe I once caught and killed so many for a hobby. I’ve planted several butterfly bushes in my garden and I’m delighted to see how dozens of butterflies are attracted to them when they are in full bloom. I guess I still like “collecting” butterflies only today, I prefer the live version.