Somehow I ran out of summer. Just like that. The trees are starting to change from deep summer green to the lighter green of early fall, with the first yellows and reds starting to peep through the curtain.
Thankfully we haven’t had a hard frost yet, so when I grabbed my camera and went for a walk one evening there were still skippers dancing on the flowers. Wonder of wonders, a few even held still long enough for me to snap a few quick photos.
The conundrum of summer and fall is that the butterflies like it warm, but I have a hard time with heat. When it gets cool enough for me, only the few and the brave are left. Here’s hoping the weather remains at that perfect fall balance for a few more weeks.
The spicebush was one of the first butterflies I took a picture of when I started this journey three years ago, and so holds something of a special place in my heart. My sister, with that clear-eyed insight and hard-edged compassion she’s always had, realized I needed something. (Compassion, you might think, is not hard-edged at all; no, it should be soft and warm. Not so. When properly applied, without pity or condescension, it has the density and force of a cheerfully-thrown brick.)
Never much one for gardening herself, she knew my love of dirt and flowers. She hauled me off to the local stores, where we spent a few giddy hours picking out brightly colored things. By the next evening I had a balcony garden, complete with flower boxes, chairs, fairy lights, and a citronella candle in a fat blue pail.
We sat out there, eating ice cream, smacking at the mosquitoes who apparently considered citronella “seasoning,” and watching fireflies. We were both college students, but — “think of it as my birthday present to you,” she said, and dumped a check onto a bookcase.
Although it must have been odd to a butterfly to abruptly happen upon that bit of fanciful color suspended three stories in the air, they quickly adapted and visited my little garden routinely over that long summer. One of those first pictures turned into the front image of my blog. I’ve moved from that place, and the fairy lights are bagged and boxed, awaiting their next destination. But I’ll always associate spicebush swallowtails — always flitting forward even while feeding, their iridescent wings flashing defiantly in the sun (they only resemble a toxic butterfly, but they aren’t poisonous themselves, you see) — with hope and overwhelming kindness.
There’s an inherent risk with bug photography.
The story behind these shots: I hadn’t been completely sure if I would be able to go out and take pictures the day these were taken. Busy day, strong winds, etc. But I brought my camera. What I forgot… bug spray.
I got a few shots of skippers and a blurred picture of a giant yellow swallowtail for the cost of over 60 bug bites. That’s the point when I stopped counting as I sprayed, creamed, and bandaged the worst of them before heading into class.
Do bug photography, prepare to get bitten.
I was at the end of a walk, feeling a little tired and disappointed about not getting very many good pictures for all the weight of the camera I’d lugged along, when suddenly a bright orange shape winged above my head. The first monarch of fall. It landed high on a tree and tested its wings against the wind. Shiny, almost tentative, and with nary a scratch or peck on its scaled wings, it must have been a relatively young butterfly.
I grabbed a couple of quick shots before my long-range lens – and my arms! – gave out, then headed back with the start of fall’s glorious copper flame dancing over my head.
I rarely catch butterflies in flight. Each beat of delicate gossamer wings somehow shoots them in another direction with the randomness of a toddler on pixie sticks.
Some days, though, if you want to take a picture of a butterfly, you have no choice but to follow the dancing, capricious flight through bramble and briar.
And then, at the end of a merry and largely fruitless t- but enjoyable – chase that left my boots full of seed pods, the sulphur went back to the neatly paved path. 🙂
A sulphur on sulphur.
A few weeks ago I stole some time from the spiky black-and-white demands of my to-do list, exchanging it for the peaceful greens and golds of some woods near my home.
I do love these woods.
My cell phone camera could just barely catch this Northern Pearly Eye butterfly as it rested on the bark. It didn’t stay for long, zooming off in the erratic flight of butterflies everywhere up into the canopy, where it was quickly lost in the fluttering of the leaves. I was thrilled – poor picture quality or no, it was the first time I’ve ever managed to get a Pearly Eye on film.
A wonderful walk.
About a week ago, I went for a stroll down the little nature trail in a local park. This little guy obligingly held still, checking the ground for minerals while I shoved my ridiculous cell phone right up his antenna to get a clear shot.
A nearly clear shot.
I miss my camera!
I am having no luck identifying this little bug, though. It was light brown, held itself like a butterfly, flew like a butterfly, seemed to be hunting for minerals like a mud-puddling butterfly… and yet, it doesn’t look quite right for a butterfly. It was out around 2pm in the afternoon. I can’t find it in any guide to the mid-western or eastern U.S. It was small, only about the size of a blue or hairstreak.
Ah, well. I wandered the forest path, blissfully unaware that my keys were missing. It wasn’t until I arrived at my car, still luxuriating in air golden with heat and humidity, that I discovered the loss. People talk about sound shattering the air, but that air, in the triple digits on the heat index, was impervious to the mere blare of a car alarm. The blanket of muzzy gaseous water just wrapped around the sound and smothered it. Shatter smatter, nothing would break that clingy heat.
It wasn’t as enchanting of a walk the second time round. I was just happy I didn’t get sick or faint. I stopped where I’d photographed the bug. It was gone, but my keys were there. One discovery!
One more to go… if anyone knows what type of wee beastie this is, I’d very much like to know.
I have resorted to using my cell phone camera. While there are some things that this works quite well for — grocery shopping lists, quick selfies, that information on the back of a book that I just don’t want to take down — it’s not quite so ideal for butterflies.
This, as best as I can identify, is common wood nymph. Despite the “common” appellation, it’s the first time I’ve seen one in this area. The bright yellow on the wings highlights the eyespots very clearly in the second shot.
It was lovely and, for a butterfly being relentlessly pursued by an annoying two-legged waving a cell phone, a good sport too. 🙂
And now I’m surrounded by a lot more metal than ever before. Even when I lived in a (to me, HUGE) city, I was still somehow out in the suburbs, commuting in each day. Now I’m much closer to the heart of my city – one of those places where all of a sudden public transit is a reality and dinner is a quick stroll up the street. There’s construction and sirens and helicopters and guys talking to their battered shopping carts filled with the flotsam of life on the fringe.
It’s a shock all right. There were no birds on my non-existent balcony, no rabbits snacking on the carefully planted flowers, no dapple-coated fawns wobbling across the dew-soaked lawn this morning. Yes. I miss the green.
The good news: there IS green about, and it’s not very far. It’s more of a treat than an everyday reality, but to be honest just trying to live in my old place, with its three flights of stairs that insisted on pitching and yawing like the deck of a schooner in high seas, took so much of my energy that I didn’t really have a chance to explore the green around me. This might be much, much better — as soon as I find my missing roasting pan and fix my camera lens.
Time will tell. Strangely, in this new place I’m increasingly reminded of the reasons why I decided on titanium for half of my blog title. Strong, light, and resilient, it can burn where nothing else can throw off light. I hope that, mixed in with my flitting butterfly migrations this summer, I might also absorb a little of my new environment and learn a bit of titanium’s properties as well.
In the meantime, I may yet learn urban photography. One can only hope… 🙂
This shot was shared with me by a friend (whom I haven’t gotten to see in a long time). She saw the butterfly, thought of me, and then discovered the delights (meaning utter frustration and blinding satisfaction) of insect photography.
I’ve yet to get on on film myself (camera lens is acting up again, sorry folks!). I’m very happy she decided to share this one. There’s not many in our area. 🙂