11.04.18: Butterfly in field

A male tiger swallowtail feeds on teasel flowers in a field,
Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.


Technical information

July 29, 2017,
10:44 a.m.

40°6'46.487" N 82°57'29.526" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/1250th second


One of my goals when doing wildlife or nature photography is to have the subject of the photo isolated against an uncluttered background. That’s the best way to ensure that the viewer’s eye is drawn to the subject and not distracted by elements in the background.

It’s only a goal. It’s not a rule, as this photo of a male eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly demonstrates.

The butterfly is shown against a somewhat cluttered background, something I would usually avoid. I had been tracking the swallowtail as it explored a field in hopes it would land in a spot with a clean background. The butterfly wasn’t cooperating. But what I saw through the camera’s viewfinder was intriguing so grabbed a few “cluttered” shots.

It’s now one of my favorite butterfly photos in my files. The tiger swallowtail’s color attracts the viewer’s eye and helps it to stand out against what becomes an interesting, defocused background of shapes and shades.

The eastern tiger swallowtail is a large butterfly, with a wingspan of up to 5.5 inches. By comparison, the monarch has a wingspan up to 4 inches.

It’s easy to tell a male eastern tiger swallowtail from a female (the one in the photo is a male). The females are dimorphic, with a yellow form that looks like the male but with a band of iridescent blue spots near the tail where the male has solid black. There’s also a dark morph in females, with dark gray or black replacing the yellow on the wings. The dark females are more common in the southeastern U.S., although I do occasionally find them here in Central Ohio.

And here’s a fun fact I found when reviewing online information about the eastern tiger swallowtail: The first known drawing of a North American butterfly was of an eastern tiger swallowtail. It was drawn in 1587 by John White during Sir Walter Raleigh’s third Virginia expedition.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.