Eastern Black Beauty

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

Early. Its was nice and early when I arrived at the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch. Good things happen when I arrive at prime habitat early. This was just that kind of a day.

I scrutinized the perennial beds for cooping butterflies, still in their night sleep poses. Things were going well, the morning was just right, and the Briar Patch Habitat was delivering nicely.

Then I saw this Eastern Black Swallowtail. Nice, very nice. The oranges shot orange, the blue was eye-soothing, the black was jet black, the white spots on the body beamed white and so much more.

I shot away, and am fond of this image of Papilio polyxenes. More than that, this may be one of the butterflies in the soon to be published Jeff’s Earring series. You are going to want to see that 1 in 1,000,000 share.

The shocker for me, when I got this slide back from Dwayne’s Photo, was . . . this chrysalis. I do not know if this butterfly emerged from it, or if it is still active, TBT I didn’t even notice it as I bombed this beau with many, many exposures.

Jeff just never knows what he’ll find in the field. And that folks, makes the anticipation exponential.


Jeff Begins Planning for Trekking Israel in ’17

Meliteae Phoebe butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mishmarot, Israel 

Field work in Israel, the Holy Land, is well . . . a great joy for me. Knowing that few of you have walked that hallowed ground, I also know that most of you harbor thoughts of making that trip to Jerusalem, Capernum, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, and so many destinations you learned about in Sunday school.

I’ve been fortunate to go there every year since 2008. Frieda A”H passed, Rachel moved to Tel Aviv to her new job, married, and now has 2 sons. Fortunate I have been to make these annual trips. Rachel, and our extended family, refuse to allow me to stay in hotel$. These last many years I have stayed with Rachel and her husband, Uri. I love that, but we have an expression, that if you stay with family too long, ‘You begin smelling like the fish.’ So what I do is, I split my time. 5 days with them in Mishmarot, 5 days off in my Hertz rental, to the Golan, the Galilee, the Carmel region around Haifa. I photograph on those away trips, and mornings and afternoons in Mishmarot, I photograph in the fields nearby, or make short runs to Ramat Hanadiv, a superb nature reserve, just 15 minutes away.

This image of a Middle Eastern fritillary butterfly, Melitaea phoebe, was taken just a short hike from Rachel’s home. It was very early, perhaps 6:45 AM, and he was warming himself up in the early morning sun, before he began his nearly constant, frenetic flying, in search of mates.

I plan again now. My plan is to go there in April. 3-4 weeks. What to do with Petra during that extended time is another concern. My 82 pound Black russian pup is a handful, big, powerful and such Big love requires commitment. That part is not worked out yet.

The planning I’m now considering includes where to make my usual 2 extended trips. The Galilee region, way up around Mt. Meron always excites, never fails. The Upper Golan and Mt. Hermon (which by then should have lost its snow cap) also always produce. But then there is the Negev region, and the highly mysterious, very different area just south of the devilish Gaza area. Ein Gedi was OMG! several years ago, but that’s a long drive down, and a good stretch through hostile communities. I grew up in real Brooklyn, and hostile is something I no longer need, thank you.

Which butterflies are left for me to find? Believe it or not, quite a few. These fly now, those fly after, these fly after that, and those fly after all of the rest, then along show yet another these/those.

I trail alone. Finding hiking buddies is akin to finding gold. Though I’ve tried, my Christian friends, many, have bought the media crap that Israel is dangerous. Not. I knew where not to go in Brooklyn, and it’s clear where not to go in Israel. Same deal, just different crazzies.

Photographing butterflies? How many do it as I do? I do not know? I do  know that . . . I Love That Challenge, and I really enjoy capturing images like the instant one above. Oh, and I love seeing H-s handiwork, up close, and real.

Jeff . . .who went long here, but I believe you understand why.

My Juniper Hairstreak . . . Well . . . .

Juniper Hairstreak butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Panola Mountain State Park, GA

On the trail ascending to the granite cap of this hill in Panola Mountain State Park, east of Atlanta, Georgia. Phil and his family leading the way, a Sunday hike, all for my benefit (well much to my benefit). The spoken goal to find and shoot Juniper Hairstreak butterflies. Phil knows this park like we know the palms of our hands, and I was psyched, truth be told.

I had never seen a Juniper before. Shortly, amongst a mixed granite surface, Phil spotted this one. Not up in a Juniper tree or bush, but amongst tiny little groundcover, bearing also tiny white flowers. Down to the ground I went, to make my first courtesy call to a Juniper Hairstreak! On the Restricted trail, in that Restricted portion of the Park, I met and was wooed by my first Juniper hairstreak.

This butterfly is not a nervous-type, rather they tolerate some approach and they move relatively slowly. After a bit of time they fly, but usually to a not too far away new perch.

Accept that I knew that this spot was to be a challenge, very low to the ground, somewhat shaded, and the angle to the butterfly was not the ideal parallel preferred (lens and subject parallel to each other).

I shot, shot, shot, and shot some more. Y’all see the result Bingo! fast. Me? Had to wait until I got home to Pittsburgh, then FedExed my film to Kansas, then waited until my slides were returned.

This is my best share. Pleased with the clear green in it, I am some reserved as to how the rest compares to other images I’ve seen. Remember, my goal has long been to match or better the images of butterflies seen in field guides. This one, well . . . But, but I’m in Georgia, on a Restricted site, with Phil and his terrific family, and here I am being entertained in the court of the Juniper Hairstreak. One pleased puppy I am, all things considered.


Butterflies With Outsized Wings?

Tawny Hackberry butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Tawny Hackberry butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Jim Gilreath today posted an exceptional image of a Giant swallowtail butterfly. It was shot in the Butterfly & Blooms Briar Patch in Eatonton, Georgia. The same Briar Patch Habitat that I have visited several times this year. You can see Jim’s photo on the Butterfly & Blooms in the Briar Patch Facebook page. A stunner it is.

Certain to catch your eye is the apparent oversize of the Giant’s wings. They look well, too big for the butterfly, too big to control, to coordinate, too big for successful flight.

That brought me to remember this image, of a Tawny Emperor butterfly, I happened onto in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, my home. As I was both marveling at its stately beauty, and shooting away, this angle, that angle, this shutter speed, bracketing that shutter speed . . . I was thinking, Holy Cow! those wings look way too big for this butterfly to fly with. After it tolerated dozens of exposures early, early that morning, it answered my query, when it zoooomed away, in a straight, high speed trajectory, Gone!

I think Jim’s Giant swallowtail does have outsized wings, and I think this Tawny emperor’s wings are also oversize. How, with Big, Big wings, do they fly so well, so fast, so directed, so gracefully? Is their extraordinary flight meant as a gift to us, to tease and tantalize our senses?

Oh and this print, dark room processed by Gerry Hare, and archivally matted and framed, hangs in our dining room, for all to see, for me to enjoy, daily. Another original print, that too printed by this master, Mr. Hare, hangs in a home in Georgia. Both mats include cut-outs, with a scholar’s original calligraphy in Hebrew, roughly translated, ‘How Great Are Your [G-d’s] Works.’


Butterflies Have Wings, Yes?

Pearl Crescent Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, August 2014No, not 5 minutes. You’ve got . . . 5 seconds. There in almost a blink of the eye, you set yourself down on your knee (my left) and check your aperture and shutter speed, via your built-in light meter. Look up. Good it’s still there.

Fast. Focus for eyes, abdomen, antennae, are you positioned correctly, with lens and butterfly properly aligned? A cloud comes from Huh? and reduces the available light. Readjust shutter speed. Still there, yes, Thank Y-u.

Lightning quick thought. Do I have the wings? Are the 4 wings focused? It is a butterfly, and you want all who see your image to think: What a beautiful butterfly. What kind is he? It’s almost always “he.” Save that bubbling question for another time.

The wings of butterflies are all exquisite. All of them. How do I know? I see them in real-time, usually from a distance of 18 inches to 24 inches from my lens. Who amongst us have viewed magnificent jewelry at Christies New York and Sotheby’s New York’s pre-sale exhibitions of magnificent jewelry? I have, many times. The wings of butterflies must give the craftspeople of Cartiers, David Webb, Van Cleef & Arpels, etc. fits, because they have never outdone H-s craftsmanship.

If the wings don’t sing to you and I, then the image didn’t deliver. It’s the wings, for butterflies. This Pearl Crescent flew in Raccoon Creek State Park, 37 miles west of Pittsburgh.