Light Deprived Amazing Photo

Ventral view of Erato Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

I cherish those occasional 1 in 5 million (1/5,000,000) moments when you are intent on finding and photographing rare butterflies. Not all, in fact many/most end in frustration.

This is such here. He’s an Erato Heliconian butterfly discovered in a heavily shaded glade in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Images of the ventral side of an Erato are few, and I cringe a tad when I view this one. I don’t Photoshop my work, so this will remain as you see it. There are soooo few such, making this image, the result of a failed in the camera light meter, even more disappointing.

The flight from Atlanta to San Antonio, Texas, and the 4 hours drive to Alamo, Texas took some effort and expen$e. Missing this amazing opportunity? You tell me.

Jeff

Zebra Color, Really!

Zebra heliconian butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

There’s a goodly number of butterflies that thrill you when you spot them. This happens when they are especially fresh from their chrysalis (hard outer shell formed by the caterpillar), when they are handsome examples of their species, and when the day features crisp, clear air and sports a comfortable temperature.

Which rock me, Jeffrey? Monarchs, Viceroys, Gulfs, Red Admirals, Palametes Swallowtails, Malachites, Milbert’s Tortoiseshells, Giant Swallowtails, Goatweed Leafwings, Erato Heliconians, Silver-spotted Skippers, lots of others and . . . Zebra Heliconians.

Suzanne is correct, I shoot film, Macro-. Why? Because I’ve visited too many museums, art galleries, and top auction galleries to praise images that lack real-time-color. I prefer Fuji Velvia film, ASA 50, the same film used to capture this image.

I’m sitting here with the field guide most sought after now, and truth be told, this wingedbeauty image excites with the very same color that you marvel over when you find a fresh, fresh, fresh Zebra Heliconian butterfly in the field.

Where were we? The NBC (National Butterfly Center, Mission, Texas).

Jeff

Why Are Zebras Dangerous?

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

Zebra Heliconian butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

True enough that Zebra Heliconian (Longwing) butterflies fly with the grace and balance of a top ballerina in the New York City Ballet. I can attest to that. I can also affirm that there’s little difference between the curtain coming up at the start of the ballet and that first moment when you spot a Zebra, as we did here in Kathleen, Georgia.

Their remarkable elegance draws you, and that’s why they are vamps, dangerous butterflies.

During morning hours, Zebras are almost unapproachable. They usually do not allow close approach. as they glide amongst Passionflower vines. For those who have never, or almost never seen one, their appearance rivets, and if they are some distance from you, this usually has them in heavy growth, some 8 – 10 feet off trail, lots of us moved to them, disregarding all of the precautions we know and precautions that have been offered to us, wisely.

We have done just that, seeing one, and anxious to score worthy exposures. The operative thought is that we may not see them again that day, that month or for the coming years. So, in we go.

That day in beautiful Kathleen, with seasoned Mike watching, I again and again buffaloed my way into thick growth. The worst of it was that fire ant hill I planted my left foot on, and . . . shot away at the Longwing, until moments later . . . Accch!!!!! I can’t remember if I ended up sitting in the Emergency Room that night or not. I probably did, ’cause fire ants cause my hands or feet to react strongly, blow up to 2x their normal size.

After those !^^#!* fire ants educated me, I dashed out to the trail, and Thanked G-d that they were fire ants, and not a Copperhead or Water Moccasin or Eastern Timber Rattlesnake. Me standing in unknown knee high growth off trail in Kathleen . . . ? Dumb! Careless!

Here then we have one of the most dangerous butterflies in the Southeastern USA, Zebras, whose siren song leads you to unknown risk, possible deadly risk!

Yes I shot with a Macro lens, and no I don’t plan to go long lens.

Jeff

Discovering Those Zebras

Zebra heliconian butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

There were summer weeks when I visited Doak field 6 mornings a week. That 100 plus acre field is a gem, set in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. I got to know several trails in the park well, very well. I knew where to spot Mourning Cloaks, Northern Pearly-Eyes, Harvesters, Milbert’s Tortoiseshells, Comptons too. Monarchs, Swallowtails and Coral Hairstreaks. I’d seen a single Goatweed Leafwing there too, and what I don’t doubt was an Orange-barred Sulphur butterfly.

Wingedbeauty.com’s audience continues to grow, but there was a time that it became clear that offering up butterflies found in northeastern USA was becoming limiting, was not going to be enough to satiate my new friends here and around the world. That’s what prompted my first drive, those 700 miles down from Pittsburgh to Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch Habitat in the town of Eatonton, central Georgia’s Piedmont region, that 2015.

New, amazing new butterflies. The kid from Brooklyn, who grew up watching lions and hyenas on those tiny TV screens, stalking their prey on the African veldt, found his zebras, though they were different zebras, strikingly gorgeous, were those Zebra Heliconian butterflies, first shown to me by Mike in Kathleen, Georgia. They float in the air as the ballerinas did when we had orchestra central seats at the New York City Ballet. Graceful as cannot be believed, you don’t know which is more stunning, their striking coloration or their floating athleticism.

They are show stoppers, necessitating your turning away from Giants, Black Swallowtails and American Ladies when the fly in as they do, unannounced, but show stoppers for sure.

This one was was flying in the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Those wings, that head, thorax and abdomen. Fine work this, No?

Jeff

 

That Rare Visit by an Erato

Red-Rim Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

The 4 or 5 folks who were really excited about  the discovery of an Erato Heliconian butterfly were all very familiar with the National Butterfly Center. It was December 2017, Christmas week, and I was there for the first time. I knew the appearance of a Very fresh Erato was very special, it had to be with the excitement that was riveting the air there. An overcast day, with few visitors besides the handful of us there.

A fresh Erato! My Canon film camera’s built-in light meter had been giving me fits, that entire time in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. I shot away at this Erato, nevertheless. Here is an underlit view of the left ventral wing surfaces. Despite the obvious absence of light, the orange forewing band shows color true, as does the whitish-yellow hindwing strip. That they appear vivid against the black background is right for this butterfly.

Booked again to return in late November 2019. That is good, Very Good.

Jeff