Gulfs Make Lousy Models

Gulf fritillary butterfly sipping nectar on thistle, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Wildlife Management Area, Kathleen, GA

We’d left the Zebra Heliconican ballet performance near Mikes home in Kathleen. Kathleen, Georgia. I was totally juiced, exhilarated. Meeting Zebras in habitat, for the first time, is well, exciting. Knowing that I had planted my left foot on an ant hill, and felt stinging bites on that leg, was also a type of negative exhilarating.

We went and shot butterflies at Mike’s own garden, Zebras, Gulf fritillaries, Monarchs and more. Concerned that this northern boy might be cooked, in that summer 92F weather, Mike asked if I still wanted to head over to Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area? Still within the limits of Kathleen, how could I say no to a name as inviting to the visitor as . . . Oaky Woods?

I drove, Mike directed, we passed that Enormous Lays potato chip plant, incredibly plunked down in that rural corner of Kathleen, and there we were at Oaky Woods. I politely declined Mike’s urging, and did not drive into the Management Area on that unimproved trail. 4 x 4 or no, I left her at the trail head.

Oaky Woods delivered. Butterflies and wildflowers. We met nectaring Gulf fritillaries, and they send subliminal messages out to me . . . ‘Shoot us if you can, Jeff!’  Sucker I am to Gulfs, I did a quick calculation of how much film I brought to Georgia, how much I’d exposed so far, how much I brought today/exposed, and in the end, irregardless of how difficult it is to get Gulfs to just stop for a nanosecond . . . there I was, shooting away, going for that goal, capturing those  silver-white hindwing markings and pinkish hue on the inner forewing.

They make lousy models. Just don’t stop. Move, move, move. This one was on a luscious set of blooms, blazing star?

I like what I see here, and wonder if you will too?


Capturing A Lady’s Color

American Lady butterfly (ventral) photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Butterflies and Blooms Habitat in Eatonton, GA

Friends have posted their images of American Ladies recently on Facebook. One of those posts ( was it Kelly Sandefur’s?  or Nancy Witthuhn’s? ) struck me, and I still remember that exceptional capture of the details of the Lady’s eye. I too enjoy the challenge of shooting out Ladies. They fly in at breakneck speed, nectar fiercely, and just as quickly as they arrived, are gone to a flowerhead not far away. You follow, they leave, and so on.

We’re here at the Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, this my 2nd of 3 trips there this 2016. Painted Ladies ( Vanessa cardui ) were flying in good numbers, but this cousin of theirs, an American Lady ( Vanessa virginiensis ) was there also. I like the coincidence of this, Virginia pioneered this butterfly destination (irregardless of her modest protestations) and here we have this V. virginiensis reaping sugaries as a result.

Balanced on a Butterfly bush flowerhead, there was the challenge: Capture the busy colors of the ventral (lower) wing surfaces with the baby blue sky framing it all. I am mostly pleased with this, mostly. You?


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?


Georgia: What Each of Us See

Georgia Satyr Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

August 2015. My first trip to photograph butterflies in . . . Florida. My destination? Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in Florida’s Panhandle. My hotel accommodations in nearby Perry, Florda were OK. 20 minutes from there to Big Bend’s Spring Creek Unit was good, just right.

I had objectives. Butterflies I had never thought I’d get to meet. When I got there that first morning, a greeting party of Palamedes swallowtails (see yesterday’s post) met me at the parking lot (4 vehicles big). Fresh, Big! and hysterically nectaring on lush thistle, they launched my enthusiasm meter instantaneously!

Georgia was the Big Golden Ring (as in Coney Island, Brooklyn’s celebrated carousel). With no one to guide me, and a vast Big Bend WMA, would I find this elusive, rare beauty? Love browns, love satyrs, and love the challenge of finding rare, brown, satyrs.

Those 4 mornings I spotted 4 Georgias. Four! The Georgia satyr ( Neonympha areolata ) and I met on hot, sunny, mornings. The air? Super saturated. This image here will not earn your Oohs! & Ahhs! Why should it? What you see belies the Elixir that this experience was for me. The Brooklyn boy, from concrete/asphalt gets down on his belly, in the Florida Panhandle, sans guide, and with the sweat running down over his Dicks headband, shoots away at Georgia. All the challenges, all the triumphs, those setbacks, the paucity of support . . . face to face with Georgia.

Know that in a few weeks I will return to Georgia. Heading my ‘Bucket list?’ Capture images of Georgia that please . . . me, that do justice to this beauty.

Always on my mind= What do you see when I post? What do I see when I post, and  . . . how will you know the backstory??


Why Share This One?

Queen Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

The four hour drive from Eatonton, Georgia south to Perry, Florida was a thrill for me. More comfortable with traveling familiar roads, I pushed myself for many months, ‘Go the roads less travelled.’ But alone? ‘Go the roads less, traveled, Yes, alone.’ Then there I was, with a Google map, and a Tundra truck, headed through the deep south to Florida. Most of my friends go to Florida alot. I’ve not been there since I hitchhiked there with John Reed in . . . 1962. What’s the big deal? Florida has butterflies, Ma’am. Florida has butterflies we northerners never get to see.

That 7-mile drive the first morning, Hampton Inn, Perry Florida to Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, at the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, was simple and I was electrified. I had the film, OFF!, a ready camera, and a back-up spare, knee pad. I had packed everything. Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch, Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge and Hard Labor Creek State Park were all life-memorable experiences. Would Big Bend rock?

Big Bend, thanks to an article in NABA’s magazine and its trail maps and helpful charts, was all I had hoped it would be. Butterflies and wildflowers All new to me. Butterflies that were mostly fresh, and butterflies that thwarted macro- close approach. It was so like my field work in Israel, with most of them exercising a 20-foot rule, come within 20 and I’m gone!

During my several days hiking those Big Bend, Spring Unit trails. I saw several Queens (Danaus Gilippus). All were fresh, flying fast, and nectaring was on their minds. Any closer than those 20 feet, and they fled. They fled leaving sweet, attractive nectar in place.

My snap decision, as with Compton Tortoiseshell butterflies, was shoot, shoot, shoot. I don’t get down here much (understatement). This image is one of 2 that I did not cull. I like some of the elements and angles in it, and the color , well I like that too. The flowers are interesting too, Asclepias LanceolataFewflower milkweed (Thanks Barbara Ann).

I, then share this one, of a Milkweed butterfly, 885 miles from home, a victorious trip for the boy from Brooklyn. No Doubt.

Next time you’ll join me, and we’ll see if You are a butterfly whisperer!