Jeff’s BackStory

Gemmed Satyr Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia

Summer 2015, in Georgia. This was an exhilarated Jeff. When I seriously began photographing butterflies, Gemmed Satyrs jumped out at me. They sprung out from field guides. It took me years to connect the memories and thoughts that ignited these nano-ignitors. This instant Gemmed was pointed out to me by Phil, a very savvy Georgia State Park naturalist. We had seen others, but they were in deep shade, on forest floor, their usual habitat. This one was too, but flew here to a spot with dappled sun penetrating, and . . . posed there. Posed, for me. Georgia hospitality, as I was getting so used to.

Rose and Jerry, both extraordinary naturalists, guided me to Gemmeds at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia too. We found several, and truth be told, my ASA 100 Fuji slide film was just not fast enough for that really dark forest floor.

Gemmeds move me. Why? Well when I lived in New York, in the 80’s I would visit the world’s top auction galleries, enjoying seeing  Pre-Sale exhibitions of American paintings and European paintings. Held for generations in homes of the wealthy, their descendants often decided they no longer enjoyed them or, needed the dollar$. You’d see those finest of artworks in the pre-sale, and then they would go up for auction, and end up in homes in Tokyo, London, Santiago or Beijing or Moscow, not to be seen again for coming generations.

At the time, I urged my wife Frieda A”H to come to Manhattan, have lunch with me, and then off to a Pre-Sale exhibition of . . . Magnificent Jewelry. When her slave mother and slave father were liberated from Nazi concentration camps in Germany, they reunited, and married in the camp named Bergen-Belsen, she wearing a wedding gown . . . tailored from a . . . parachute. Imagine that ladies? Among the rations these human skeletons were given, were cigarettes. Hey, they didn’t smoke, their families had never smoked, and now they had cigarettes, American smokes.

Well the Germans who lived in that part of Germany experienced severe deprivation too, the result of the unending military assault on Germany that convinced Hitler to end it. They were desperate for something they could not locate, smokes, American cigarettes. The ragged Holocaust survivors, who were storekeepers before the war, bartered their cigarettes for whatever the Germans had to trade, and that was often, their jewelry. Imagine, Hitler so debased his people that he left them exchanging jewelry for cigarettes. I never smoked, so I don’t know how this can be, be so it was.

So Frieda’s mother, Eda, came to this country with her husband Paul, and 3-year old Frieda, and those stones enabled Paul to once again practice the trade he apprenticed in in Poland, candy making. Eda, now 95 years old, remained fond of jewelry and shared that love of fine jewelry with my wife, Frieda.

Frieda was quite comfortable visiting Sotheby’s and Christies, and she did not hesitate to ask the attendants at those Pre-Sale exhibitions to try on this broach, or that solitaire diamond ring or the other bracelet. (I grew up mostly very poor, and I can say now that this left me very uncomfortable, for I guess understandable reasons).

This brings us to this revelation: I have seen the world’s finest jewelry on my wife’s Spring jacket, or on her ring finger or on her wrist. I have seen multi-million dollar gems up close. I have this personal history with gems. We didn’t buy them, but we examined them, held them and she wore them.

Why do I photograph butterflies? In part because I know, first hand, that the proudest work of the world’s finest artisans does not come close to the exquisite beauty of G-d’s butterflies. Not trying to be preachy here, but this is the wind to my sails.

Gemmed Satyrs then, so rare, so hidden, and so beautiful, evoke and have always evoked much joy, memory, love and yes, sadness for me.

This has been an especially long post for wingedbeauty.com, but one that was, I see, inevitable. Thanks.

Jeff

Southern Dreamers: Miss P and Me

 

Georgia Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch habitat friend, Jeff Zablow and his happy sidekick, Petra taking a moment to enjoy the day. (photo by Virginia C. Linch)

Georgia Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch habitat friend, Jeff Zablow and his happy sidekick, Petra taking a moment to enjoy the day. (photo by Virginia C. Linch)

Petra and Jeff, happily enjoying the wonder that is the Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat, right in the center of Eatonton, Georgia. April 2016, watching the volunteer crew from the nearby Ritz Carlton installing new features to this amazing butterfly destination, smack in the middle of this welcoming Georgia town. Just 1.25 hours east of Atlanta, Eatonton is the home of the writer of the Br’er Rabbit childrens’ books, that my mother read to me when I was a tyke, sitting on her lap in faraway Brooklyn, New York.

We are all smiles because this is our 2nd year, visiting the Briar Patch Habitat. We know that Eatonton and nearby Lake Oconee are for real, welcoming, friendly, genuine, law-abiding and aiming to please. Sounds a bit stuffed with feathers? Sorry, this boy and his dog have been around the block so to speak, and the Putnam County locale is all of the above.

Virginia and her volunteers created this butterfly destination from an abandoned, hardscrabble brownfield. It is now extensive beds of native wildflowers, chosen because they do it! They are 1) butterfly hostplants, nourishing fast-developing caterpillars 2) flowering plants that serve as nectar pumps for hungry butterflies, juicing them up with the requisite sugars & proteins that they need to thrive, fly and look shmeksy! to meet and greet new partners and 3) small and tall trees that offer blooms, shade, escape from predators and night roosts. On a sunny morning, hundreds, yes hundreds! of butterflies arrive . . . and that continues off and on through the day.

Petra (Miss P sometimes) my black Russian, loves this place, and did well (very well) on the 692 mile drive down and back. Truth be told, she loves Georgia.

Want to learn more about this unique destination? Virginia will be very happy to hear from you at Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch on Facebook.

Jeff

Maryland Lady Slippers

Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Chapman State Park, PA

Monday rain. Tuesday? Rain. Wednesday rain. Thursday morning? Drizzle. Five (5) days in mid-shore and lower-shore Maryland. Saw few butterflies, no surprise there, because . . . butterflies do not fly when it rains. An exception to that might be the Northern Pearly-Eye butterfly, which I have seen flying in Pennsylvania in light rain.

This image of a Chapman State Park Pink Lady’s Slipper bloom will suffice until I get my slides of Maryland shore orchids to Kansas, and then have my film slides scanned at Rewind Memories, here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I found Pink Lady’s Slippers in Adkins Arboretum here in mid-shore Maryland, and located others in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland. These Delmarva orchids were lighter pink in color, and a bit shorter of flower stalk. Lush they were though, and FUN to search for . . . and Find!

Petra joined me on this trip, though she missed visiting very tony Oxford, and many other neat destinations in this haven for farmers, the rich, and very serious shellfish fishermen/women.

With the rain and wet conditions limiting in one respect, I also found and shot many very beautiful forest plants, the timing (mid-Spring) was perfect.

Jeff

Anxious Monarch Watchers

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

She was the only butterfly that did that. As I approached her, on that spent wildflower head, I slowly raised my macro-lens toward her. She did it. She turned her head to the right, and looked at me. It never happened before and it hasn’t happened since. What do you make of a butterfly that did what 314,295 haven’t done? I was surprised, very surprised.

I haven’t seen a Monarch yet, this year, in 2016. When I travel to Maryland next week, will I see my first? Will that happen in Frick Park, my neighborhood park here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? Must I wait for the first week in June, when I will be in Chapman State Park and Allegheny National Forest and then, when I’m doing a field walk at the Jamestown Audubon Center on June 3rd?

Danaus plexxipus, has given us fits in recent years. Americans are concerned about our economy, our role in the world, jobs, job security, and the education our children are getting in our beloved public schools. We added to that long list, a legitimate concern that we could lose the inspirational arrival and departures of Monarch butterflies like this one. Social share a photo of a 4th grade class delicately handling monarch caterpillars, and hear a multitude of inspired sighs from millions who love this American butterfly.

I’ve seen celebrities in person: Lloyd Bridges, Mike Tyson, Diana Ross and Kirk Douglas come to mind. Meeting a Monarch excites me as much or more. Honest.

Jeff