I managed to get there early, very early. The road to Raccoon Creek State Park, that 36.8 miles drive, took me through downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through the Ft. Pitt Tunnel, and then through miles of what’s known as “Parkway West 376.” That morning I sailed through the entire route, with hardly any need to slow down or come to a total stop.
Parked my Tundra truck at the Rte. 168 entrance to the state park, and hiked Nichol Road trail, my favorite stretch of park. It was still not 8:30 A.M., and I’d already seen male Eastern Tiger Swallowtails flying at full speed along the trail. It’s been decades since I began photographing butterflies, and time has taught me that most male butterflies are not worthy of the time it takes to approach them, and then chase after them. What’s their rush? They spend 95% of their time flying fast, searching for receptive females. It’s a fool’s errand to chase after them, hoping in vain that they might stop for a moment to rest.
Then there she was! Resting as females do, she on a natives plant, just 3 feet or so above the trail margin. She was spectacular. She was in no rush to leave that perch. I prefer photographing female butterflies. They are often gorgeous and they dislike wasting time and energy, flying desperately here and there, as those males do.
At this point in my work, spotting a fresh, undamaged female butterfly is cause for a smile. They often agree to pose, are less likely to bolt, and their rich beauty means I might score a wonderful image.
A winged beauty, willing to model for you and me.
Many of you have noted, Jeff, you shoot film, isn’t that a bit . . . expensive? Yes, it is, but the purist in me balks at not sharing with you, the same view that I see in the field. Film continues to provide better real-time color. That’s the way it looks.
But that concern, that Fuji slide film, and its processing/scanning is expen$ive, disappears when I encounter butterflies and wildflowers that tickle my imagination.
When I re-visited Syrian Bear’s Breeches here at Ramat Hanadiv’s reserve trails, in March 2016, I stopped. I marveled. I was reminded of the infinite complexity of this plant and the milieu that is its habitat. Acanthus syriacus is said to have inspired certain ancient architecture. Found in northern Israel, it produces its blooms for a short time in the HolyLand spring season.
I was there. I admired this unique native plant. I stood there, and tried to liken it to any other that I’ve known. There came that imagination tickle, and I shot away, butterfly or no butterfly, this plant was film worthy, for sure.
Then came the more difficult concern, would a share of this image tickle others?
July 7 at Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Yes we have posted several images of female Danaus plexippus. That is good. No?
She’s nectaring on Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium) and both are beautiful and at their peak.
My home garden includes a 7-year old clump of Joe Pye Weed and it’s a siren that draws numerous species of butterflies to my front yard. When folks walking by ask the name of this 7′ tall perennial, I answer that it’s name is ‘Joe Pye.’ When I used to include the word ‘Weed’ it would invariably be met with immediate disinterest. Human nature there, don’t you think?
Getting back to why we post another female Monarch: as with beautiful models, it’s always nice to see another exquisite Monarch.
Native butterfly, native plant. Again, good, no?