Macro- Shooters Wait Your Turn?

Tropical Greenstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at 'The Wall,' Mission, TX

While we were at the “Wall” (the entrance to the Retama Village walled development in Mission, Texas) the word went out, “Tropical Greenstreak!” A cell network exists, and the cars began arriving, more and more cars pulled up on the grass. This is a ‘stray’ to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Hundreds of folks have moved here from different parts of the U.S.. Fortunate to retire healthy, they chose to resettle here, and enjoy the squadrons of common, rare, and very rare butterflies that show up here.

A squad of enthusiasts surrounded the bushes that this tiny Gossamerwing chose to nectar on. They all formed a semicircle, most some 10 feet from our star here. All were using long lenses. Uh oh! Jeff shoots . . . Macro-. It got interesting. I cannot focus on this beauty from 10 feet away., Macro-, for such a tiny, tiny butterfly can produced images 1:1 . . . as long as you are no farther than say 24″ (inches) from this Tropical green streak.

So, the kid from Brooklyn went low, and kind of duck walked under the enthusiasts, and approached, too low to block their cameras. I asked G-d the whole time, please don’t let this gem fly because of me!! Sure many of you have seen me in photos shared here on I’m in my majority, it’s true. But like many guys, I think young, and truth be told, the scrapper of a street kid is still to be found within.

I sensed that the small crowd behind me was, how can I say, “upset.” Me, I was as careful as if I was trying to snatch raw wildebeest from a napping lioness. This hairstreak did not flee, and continued off and on to nectar.

I stepped back as carefully as I had gone in, low and robotic. I stuck around there for many minutes, the crowd continued to change as some came so me went. I went in again, for with film, you never know what you reap. Again my old street sense told me that the folks behind me were the other side of upset with me. Macro- folks are just not what the locals have much patience with. I shot-out again, and once again backed away, low and pleased.

Later I asked someone who had been there, what the folks were thinking, when Boy Brooklyn made his approaches? “Selfish” is what they were thinking (sharing?). That bit, because I don’t ever want to be thought of that way.

Why did I do what I did? 1) I had to if I wanted to see this butterfly (I don’t carry binos, too much weight, bulk). 2) Our audience here grows, steadily. I want You to see and examine and admire these butterflies, and to do that, Jeff went in low and straight, and if this sweetie had been a lioness, I’d for sure have a good 18% chance of surviving for another day.

Brooklyn stokes the anger of the Retama vigilantes.


Bergamots Now!

Bergamot Bloom photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania 7/31/14

Bergamot is in bloom now. Raccoon Creek State Park in Hookstown, Pennsylvania has a more than 100 acre meadow that features a large stand of them. Be there at the right time in the morning, and you’ll enjoy the show: Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Great Spangle Fritillaries, Silver Spotted Skippers, Monarchs, Pipevine Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails will visit Bergamot for its nectar.

Those stands of Bergamot are so sweet to the eye. The sea of pinkish purple (?) is a crowd pleaser, though I’ve never been there to hear what others think of that view.

If you’re there between about 9:45 A.M. and 10:40 A.M. the butterflies arrive from all directions. I’ve long wondered what’s in the nectar that is obviously being pumped in those 55 minutes? I’d think it included several sugars, some proteins and trace hormones, pheromones and fragrant hydrocarbons. Got a degree in Biochem? What’s in the nectar of a Bergamot bloom? Jerry?


Why My Wardrobe?

Earring Series - Jeff Zablow with Black Swallowtail 'Earrings' - on Arm, at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

Admission: Yes, I do revisit this series, captured by Sylbie Yon, that morning at Virginia’s (Yes, Virginia’s) Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia (2.5 hours west of Savannah and 1.5 hours east of Atlanta). I Love what I see, the serendipity of it all, and the bittersweet emotions triggered when butterflies evoke those evocative memories. Butterflies bear much emotion on their sylvan wings, and those of us who lost, and know the loss, sometimes connect extraordinary butterfly experiences with the warmth of loss. And tears well up, they do.

But that’s not why we’re here now. Of late, has made new friends, some of them very enthusiastic, determined to photograph butterflies well, and share their hard earned success, as it comes. So we correspond via FB, and if I see the right opportunity, I might discuss with them strategies to employ, e.g. One of my favorites? Good images of horses, cats, birds, snakes, dogs, big cats, osprey, elephants always employ clear, comely views of the eyes. I urge the newbie to seek good eye capture as well as good wing share. Or, I’ve deduced that y’all honestly don’t want to look too long at the butt of a butterfly. You just don’t.

So here, let’s consider, Why do I dress as I do in the field?

Hat: I seek out green hats, for they don’t spook butterflies, resembling as they do the vast green of habitat. Turned around (brim to the back)? To not scare butterflies and to avoid producing shade.

Head Band: I sweat much in hot, humid locales, so the band captures the sweat before I am blinded by sweat salt. Band color? My preference is colors that do not startle or look so dramatically in contrast with habitat.

Shirt: These are green 100% cotton long sleeved shirts from LL Bean. They wash well, suit me in the heat, and the green seems to not startle butterflies.

Backpack: Coco locos for snack/survival, new/exposed film, miscellaneous bag, pouch for 2 water bottle, zipped side pocket for whistle (like your Phys Ed teacher had), another side zippered pocket for cell.

Jeans: Light blue if possible (to see ticks crawling on them) and thick enough to prevent insect abusers, and my jeans tucked into my socks. Don’t much care how that looks to yachters, jocks or Good ‘Ole Boys.

Socks: Frieda A”H was a very good shopper, and she once found me some 7 or 8 pairs of Gold Toe wool socks, reduced a lot, in Gabriel Bros (near Pittsburgh). They are still . . . unbelievable.

Boots: My most recent are excellent, Merrell boots, lightweight, dry quickly (If only Merrell would get it right with lace length). Biters love striking at my ankles, and this reduces that threat, as well as assuring that a bite to the ankle would only have the belligerent eating boot, and not JLZ.

Kneepad: I always wear my Tommyco kneepad on my left knee. Kneeling to shoot butterflies often finds your knee in briar, rocky trail, serious vegetation, etc, and my trusty Tommyco makes the difference.

Miscellaneous: I do carry steel with me (2), they rooted in my youth on the streets, and those 2 80-pounders who menaced me back in Pennsylvania, and turned and left when I had the sun glint in their eyes from the impressive blade.

And finally: Smile. I try to smile a lot in the field, for often, a lot, I thank G-d for the opportunity to view and shoot such incredible beauty.



The ‘Betty’ Butterfly?

Cloudless sulphur butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at "Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch," Eatonton, GA

When you’re out in the field as much as some of us are, it’s can I find this one, will my search for that one reward? The Lower Rio Grande Valley was just that, every step, each turned corner, frought with excitement. Reminds of the time when poor as dirt Jeff worked as a messenger in NYNY (to pay to eat while in college) and was given a package to deliver to the Radio City Music Hall dressing room, to one of the  . . . . Rockettes. So I’m 19 years old, and when I get to the dressing room with the package, the guy watching the door tells me to just take it right in, and I look at him and think (((WHAT!!!)). So I go in with the package, and TBTold, I could barely breathe what with the . . . . . . .  . . . .  . . .  . . . .  . . . .  . . . . . . Given a choice, I’d still choose the RCMHall dressing room over the National Butterfly Center, but Oh! how similar they were to me.

With all this seeking/searching/scoping and scanning habitat for butterflies, rare, protected, short of flight butterflies, it often strikes me that we sure overlook lots of ‘common’ species. Photographing in the Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat I ( Eatonton, Georgia ), the extensive beds of Senna produced squadrons of these Cloudless Sulphur butterflies.

Each day from June to October, these gorgeous, big yellow butterflies surround you almost, and soon, you ignore their presence. When I searched the Media Library of, I stopped here, for it struck me, made this think how we rush past these beauts, with their large white as milk spots, and almost never choose them to share with you. Why hesitate to share? For fear that you, our audience will recoil, thinking Oh yeah, and discount them on sight, as though she’s the Betty, the girl in the Archie comic book series, living next door to Archie, but might as well be invisible to the catchable red headed hero.