I’m in an unusual spell at the moment – a few consecutive weeks at home! Although there is a mountain of writing to be done for a whole array of articles and books, with this seemingly unusual proper summer weather of late I haven’t been able to resist getting the macro lenses out and looking at the smaller aspects of summer life within the vicinity of home and trying to make the best of them photographically in these conditions.
Although late this year, the local population of Silver-Studded Blue butterflies have always been a favourite port of call at this time of year and the numbers appear to my eye to be as good as any year I can recall on the heath which is great news.
I have photographed them many times but the hot and sunny conditions this year, as well as the constant attempt to try something different, have made me experiment a wee bit more than usual looking to emphasise their tiny nature on a Rose-bay Willow Herb plant or playing around with backlighting on both their host plant in the form of bell heather or in some early morning grasses where they were roosting.
I quite like the smaller representation of them here and it worked as an approach with an obliging Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary I also had the chance to spend some time with.
This particular site is one I know that is particularly good for butterflies of a different nature – the Lesser Butterfly Orchid and although the numbers of flowers have been really good too this year there’s always a certain sameness to the classic orchid shots like the first of these, so the chance to pick out the individual flower of one on the edge of the wood allowing for a high contrast black background held greater appeal.
It was an approach that worked well with the abundant Common Spotted Orchids too.
But they look at their very best in a classic meadow setting which offered a particularly strong showing too this year surrounded as they were by the late profusion of buttercups too: I used a long 500mm lens (+ 1.4x converter) and 24mm wide-angle in these two images to try to present the site in different ways.
But it hasn’t just been orchids that have been in abundance this summer and although the hot spell has almost seen off the Poppies now I have enjoyed a couple of evenings trying to look at them with a different eye too. Being being close to home and during a spell when the photography itself is secondary to the admin allows for a little more relaxed an approach and it’s certainly something I’ll be taking with me into the next wave of trips and assignments that lie just round the corner!
Well it is and it isn’t a blue monday today – it is in that all the images are of common blue butterflies and that it’s the first day of a frantically busy couple of them, but it isn’t in that on Wednesday I head to South Africa for a month of holiday, trip recceing and photography too so that can hardly make me feel blue can it! It does though mean that there’ll be no posting on here until I’m back though.
The tail end of last month and the beginning of this saw me head to Bulgaria for a weeks butterfly photography: a great location for such work simply because there are still plenty of traditional meadows to be found there which are really full of a good variety of species including some local specialities.
For me though, as so often seems to be proving the case these days, chasing the rarities or the unusual subjects whilst great fun doesn’t always result in the most intimate or engaging images.
Common blue butterflies are more akin to their naming than they seem to be back home nowadays, and the week gave plenty of opportunity to find and work with them in a multitude of different locations, settings, times of day and engaged in different behaviours too.
Dawn was generally the best time to be working with them though and the cool nights and high altitudes of the meadows where we were working always meant there was a good coating of dew on the plants as well as the butterflies which always helps bring something extra to the images.
On the final evening though we came across a pair that were a little more intimately engaged and the stunning evening light gave the opportunity to capture some dramatic images both front lit and backlit for a more artistic interpretation.
It was in many ways quite a therapeutic week – one lens (180mm), manual focus for virtually every image and a subject area that whilst I enjoy and do engage in every summer is not one I’d out at the top of my output list. I’d certainly recommend going just outside the normal comfort zones of your nature photography occasionally like this to any-one for sure.
I’m not sure if Great White Shark photography quite qualifies in the same bracket but it’s what’s next on this years hectic schedule and I’ll be posting again as soon as I’m back: hopefully in one piece!
I’ve always loved my macro photography at this time of year and our beautiful Butterflies have to be right up there amongst my favourite subjects to work with. When I got an e-mail from a good friend Jason to tell me that he’d found a meadow for Pearl Bordered Fritillaries that was working well at his end of the county it was only a question of sorting out a day when I could squeeze an early morning session in and that worked for him too since he has a proper job to do!
You can see why I was particularly keen to get up for another pre-dawn run as these really are one of the prettiest species we are lucky enough to enjoy in the UK in my opinion and after some initial anxiety on both our parts as we searched for their overnight roosts all worked out well and it was well worth the effort.
This fellow had obviously had a tussle with a predator of some sort as part of his wing was missing and as a species these beautiful butterflies have been struggling significantly over recent years and are still in sharp decline. This is due mostly to the lack of clearings in their woodland habitats as the whole traditional practice of coppicing has almost disappeared except where woods are specifically managed for wildlife. Their hillside habitats too have been under pressure as general grazing by cattle and ponies that traditionally kept the balance between grass and bracken in check and these habitats have become more scrublike in their nature.
When working with a subject like this I like to try and cover a number of different options and and compositions as well as the classic side-on profile that I opened with, and although some of these may not be very classical I like the fact that they get across some personality as well as the inherent beauty in these delicate species.
I particularly like this last one – an approach you often see with damsel and dragonflies but less so with butterflies – I think it works quite well.
Thanks for a good morning Jason, and I know you got some decent stuff yourself too!