What Jeff Tries To Capture

Close Up of Pipevine Swallowtail  Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow as it perched on Bergamot flower at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, 7/31/14

Let’s use this Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, in part because last month in Georgia I met a good number of these winged beauties. As the years go by, I am happy to share that more and more of us are out there, capturing butterfly images. That is very good news.

When I view your shares, mostly on Facebook, I am often tempted to offer my encouragement, and to . . . offer some suggestions. We know that when a fine butterfly comes along, the excitement is real, and we rush to get some pictures of it.

Let me share what I work to achieve in a photo capture. First and foremost, my goal is to share, so I carefully consider the background. This image had a very yummy! background, and that was a Go! Next I remind myself that the flowerhead or leaf platform ought to be sharply defined, to enhance the overall. Those considerations happen lightning quick, time being sooo limited.

Now to the butterfly. My priority is capture of the eye or eyes. Long ago I thought this through. A good image of a Great blue heron, or a grizzly bear, of a lion, no matter which, they all share sharp eyes. Photos of horses are very beloved, and the eyes are always crisp and defined. My image here met my own threshold of acceptability.

Next, and critical, the wings. We admire butterflies largely because of the extreme beauty of their wings. I have never seen a butterfly whose wings, if well  captured, are not beautiful or beyond beautiful. Wings inspire, connect us with our Maker. When this image came back from the slide processor, the wings assured me that I would be pleased to use this image.

Eyes, wings OK, then on to other goals, I try for good head capture, especially the head coloring (think those Wow! big white spots on Monarch heads) and if it’s doable, the antennae and the tiny palps.

Abdomen improves the whole package, and here the Pipevine’s abdomen boasts white spots and flashes of that extraordinary blue! Legs are one of my last considerations, knowing all along that good legs always please.

Every once in a while there’s a bonus, and that bonus is an unfurled proboscis. My experience is that folks enjoy seeing a curled proboscis.

These objectives meld with time enabling you to respond almost effortlessly to produce images that gain those Oohs! and Ahhs! that so Thrill! us.

What do you think?


8 thoughts on “What Jeff Tries To Capture

  1. sharing your photography subjects and thoughts is a treat that is anticipated when the new article pops up….and is gracious plenty. When you add your tips for catching the winged beauties chased from border to border is more than expected! most photographers seem to guard their ” photography secrets” with as much effort as they hide their most precious possession…your generous spirit hasn’t any problem at all with encouraging others by sharing ideas, well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome. I visited your Illustrations Home page, and well now I am especially pleased with your Comment. Must have seen you in the ’80’s when I managed property in the East Village, SoHo, West Village, Chelsea and more . . . . LOL


  2. Thanks, Jeff. That’s a nice checklist to run through, and I’m sure with time and practice it’ll become easier for me to do. A technical question: do you recall/have written down how far away you were from the subject and what aperture/shutter speed you were using? I’m always challenged by a shallow depth of field, and I always find it unbelievable how a good photographer like you can capture such a deep focus.


    • Thank you Ben. I shoot film (Fuji Velvia ASA 50). I was at 2.8/500 for this one. I go for the objectives I shared here, and if the butterfly continues to offer good looks, I continue shooting. I avoid posterior views, as I have noted that folks don’t want to meet a beaut from that direction. Pipevines are large, so with my macro- lens, I was about 24″-30″ from this one. Enjoy.


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