The State of Awe

 

Black Swallowtail butterfly and chrysalis, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, Eatonton, GA

Black Swallowtail butterfly and chrysalis

When I review the many hundreds of images stored in our Media Library, I often stop scrolling down at this one. This photo of an Eastern Black Swallowtail? An affirmative one for me.

It buoys me up in so many ways. This is why I get up at 4:30 A.M. and struggle to get out of the house on time, to drive to the morning’s destination, Oh! so hoping that I can cop a winner of an image or two.

This shot reminds me that each and every foray in the bush may bring me face to face with unequaled beauty and wonder.

Then too it tempers my never diminished excitement, ongoing and burning, so many years (decades) into the pursuit of butterflies common and OMG! rare.

I’m brought to a smile, as I consider how the very same fascination I felt when I was a boy, in those disappearing empty ‘lots’ of Brooklyn, New York waxes true now, decades later.

Those hundreds of sceptical looks, after being asked “What do you do [now]?” The resigned looks from family, unable to tell their friends that I now own NYNY real estate, much, as I once did and now photograph not horses, nor grizzlies, nor whales, nor tigers, but  . . . . butterflies.

The thrill of the looooong drive to another state, actually finding the habitat sought, and now maybe, maybe meeting a butterfly as shmeksy! as this one here and G-d willing, capturing an image of it, and a good one at that . . . and having Jeffrey, Phyllis, Lauren, Leslie, Cathy, Rose, Jim, Virginia, Barbara Ann, Laurence, Linda, Angela, Melanie, Deepthi, Nancy, Joanne, Marcie, Phil, the Mikes, Jeffrey and Mr. Pyle Comment nicely.

All that and me knowing that G-d has shared with me a bit of the Great Beauty about us.

I smile, for I understand, that more often then some, I am fortunate to be in the State of Awe.

Jeff

No Tigers ‘Til . . .

Male EasternTiger Swallowtail Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Cloudland Canyon State Park, GA

He seemed to have a plan, as he worked the Liatris in that meadow. Me? I was in very high mood, because a meadow of Liatris in bloom is a very good find, a near guarantee that you’ll see lots of butterflies.

Shooting film (Fuji Velvia ASA 50 here in full sun) at Cloudland Canyon State Park in the northwest corner of Georgia, I knew that a good capture here would be usable, very. His black and yellow pattern, wings free of bird/predator strikes and his fine head, those crisp, round and shiny eyes would go well with his defined antennae and active proboscis.

Score those blue dots on his hindwings and a tease of orange in those flashes on the trailing margins of his hindwings, that would help too.

Catch all that and the rich color of the Liatris, as well as the comely background tones that film usually does, and all would earn a serious checkmark, image achieved.

His leftwings, well, I’m not concerned. I already like this image.

Sitting here in central Georgia, with rain falling and the thermometer at 45F, I have to overcome this recurring thought ; No Eastern Tiger Swallowtails ’til wha? April 2019? Hmmmm. No Georgia satyr. No Eastern pygmy blue. No Goatweed Leafwing or Monarch butterfly. Buck up, Jeff.

Jeff

Palamedes, Up to my Calf

Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly on Pickerelweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

August 2018, at Harris Neck. This National Wildlife Refuge is on the coast, not too far from Brunswick, Georgia. A near wildlife overload those 6 days. A stand-out trip, for I saw there many, many butterflies common to the southeastern USA and especially typical of southeastern wetlands.

The wading birds, waterfowl, anhingas, osprey and bald eagle were all so robust and handsome looking. In their rookeries, on the pond surface, exposed trees and light footed as they worked the pond edges.

I reached this pond edge, and was ecstatic (true!) to see the pickerelweed in full bloom. Vunderbar!! Now, I’m shooting Macro- and have got to get within at least 24″ to cop good shots. Decision time!

In I went, with the pond now up to my lower calf. My beloved Merrell boots submerged, and every step taken risky, for that water was feeling awfully slippery when my feet came down on pond mud.

Decision #2, which I dismissed maybe a bit too quickly, was an unknown = where was the nearest 8-foot alligator, 10-foot or 12-foot alligator? I thought back to those years on the streets, Brooklyn, and how G-d must have been especially kind to me.

This Palamedes swallowtail butterfly was having one fine time at the pickerelweed nectar bar. Must say, there, then, in that, surely confirms that real-time, up to my calves, y’all have got to take my word for it, there cannot be any global . . .

Jeff

Black Tiger on Buttonbush

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Black Form), photographed by Jeff Zablow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, GA

August, and the Buttonbush were going strong, at the edge of Pond 2A at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, in Juliette, Georgia. I’ve become a big fan of this wetland wildflower, and I stationed myself here, to enjoy and shoot what might fly in.

Battlestations! In flew this Shmeksy! female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. She was not the familiar yellow/black Tiger Swallowtail. She was the less common ‘Black form’ female. I liked her from the start.

She shared large sweet Blue blazes, especially along the trailing edges of her hind wings. Those wings seemed outsize to me, and, she sported good sized orange spots. Though her forewings show that she eclosed days or weeks ago, her ‘tails’ are sizable and remain intact and there is some wear on her forewings, but not enough to diminish her beauty.

Favorites, together, on a near perfect sunny morning, in a very special National Wildlife Refuge in the central Georgia Piedmont. Best of all, I’m there to taste it.

Jeff

Giants Evoke

Giant butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Pigeon Mountain, GA

I booked a cabin in Trenton, Georgia, up there in the northwestern corner of the state. Early July 2018. Diana Fritillary butterflies are often seen in the Georgia mountains, and I really wanted to see my first Diana (“Oh stay be me, Diana”). The cabin owners were very helpful, and when they heard that I was there to find and photograph butterflies, they shared that they had a friend who is a local backwoods expert.

David grew up in that corner of Georgia, and knows it well. He led me to Pigeon Mountain, assuring me that the trail up opened to 2 promising meadows. Dianas look to spend their time in meadows on mid-sized mountains.

The upper meadow was just perfect, with an abundance of wildlfowers in bloom. The possibility of seeing a Diana was so real.

Well, the possibility was real, but I never saw a Diana. I did see lots of butterflies, and especially alot of very large, very fresh Giant Swallowtail butterflies.

Giant swallowtails fly gracefully, their almost lazy wing beats just mesmerize. Seeing 4 or 5 beauties together, at the edge of the treeline, was just nearly unforgettable.

This big stunner took a break on a large leaf, and I shot away. It’s rich black, yellow and tease of red and blue sing to your eyes. Giants evoke a menu of thoughts, mostly of how Good is really there for us to see, and to confirm the Meaning of our existence. It also helps to recall our strong connection to the A-mighty.

Jeff