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Don’t shoot until you see their eyes

September 18th, 2008
Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)
Pentax K10D with 100mm macro, 1/350 at f/5.6

When I was a child, I did as children do, and chased butterflies in the fields. Forty years later the fascination, if not the boundless energy, still remains.

Is there any logic to the flight of a butterfly? It certainly is not a straight line. Are they following a physically determined path of least action, surfing unseen micro eddies or vortices in the air to conserve their energy? Or are they showing their overflowing exuberance, feasting in a field of flowers, unable to make (and adhere to) a single choice? I know, as child, I was disposed to the latter, perhaps explaining my fondness for butterfly chasing.

In any case I’m older and wiser today. I don’t chase butterflies. I photograph them. Indeed, chasing and photographing are at cross purposes and nearly incompatible. Photographing butterflies is a patient, quiet task. The technique is straightforward and consists of three easy steps:

  1. Go sit among the flowers.
  2. Don’t move.
  3. Wait.

Let the butterflies come to you. As Ptolemy crumbled before the Copernican revolution, this critical change in perspective makes all the difference. Give it a try!

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous 2008/10/22, 7:56 am

    Small creatures that travel in a straight line are easiest to catch and eat, so most everything has evolved to dodge, even when there’s no obvious predator. It’s a world of wide receivers and running backs.

    Maybe you subconciously like this because it’s a complete change from technical standards, which should be utterly predictable and catchable – giafly.

  • The Open Sourcerer 2008/10/22, 2:57 pm

    Awesome picture Rob.

  • Anonymous 2008/10/30, 7:52 pm

    I prefer to mount them on my wall. As a matter of fact, one of my Riker mounts has that exact butterfly.

    Which is pretty good, because I’ve only ever seen a few like that. They just aren’t that common where I live.

    My favorite is still the Buckeye, though. They’re very weak fliers, but they’re incredibly pretty.

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