People often ask me how I “chase butterflies” and photograph them. The answer is that I don’t. They come to me. I keep several plants in my garden that they simply can’t resist: vitex, coneflowers, sage, zinnias, dill, cleome, etc. Then I just wait for them to visit.
Of course sometimes they pick the worst times to drop by! Last night I was uncoiling and attaching two new hoses that I bought yesterday. I walked by the edge of the patio and a large shadow overhead caught my attention. This black swallowtail was circling the coneflowers as if waiting for me to get out of the way. I obliged and as I continued my task I was so tempted to go into the house and get my camera! However, I’ve been fighting my addiction a little and forced myself to get the hose hooked up and start the water before taking any photos.
The butterfly flew away as soon as I approached, but I knew from experience that it would return, so I simply stood near the coneflowers and waited. Sure enough, in a few minutes it came back for seconds. I startled it three or four more times, but each time it returned and I ended up taking about thirty photos. Between the wind, wing movements, changes in camera settings, and changes in the light, I usually take far more butterfly shots than I think I will need. I’m always striving for that “wow” shot!
I don’t always get shots that thrill me. Last night was a good example. There is something wrong with each one of these photos, but I share them here anyway because they are still enjoyable. The most obvious flaw is that they are not quite perfectly clear. I can make lots of excuses: dark colors are difficult to photograph, the wind was blowing, and the butterfly was still for about three seconds at a time. But it might also be operator error: wrong camera setting, impatience, shaking hands. Not important. I know that before the summer is over there will be a “wow” shot that takes my breath away and makes me grateful to have such wonderful visitors.
In the meantime I’ll keep the camera handy and be happy to share with you.
I hope you spend some time with the butterflies today.