02.11.24: Climbing up

Female tiger swallowtail climbing a teasel plant, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

It’s easy to tell the female tiger swallowtail from the male because the female has the iridescent blue spots near the tail. 

Female tiger swallowtail climbing a teasel plant, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Chasing birds but finding butterflies

I have a number of butterfly photos in my files. I consider each to be a lucky accident because I never set out to photograph butterflies. But if I encounter a butterfly in the right spot (on a plant close enough to get a good shot and with an uncluttered background that allows the butterfly to stand out), I’ll get the shot.

That’s why almost all of the butterfly photos in my files were captured using the Canon EF 600mm f/4L telephoto lens I carry when I’m photographing wildlife. It’s a massive lens, almost 18 inches long and weighing about 11 pounds (not including the camera and any other attachments), and it works very well when photographing birds. But if I run across a butterfly in an interesting setting while I’m shooting wildlife I’ll go ahead and get the shot.

This is a photo of a female tiger swallowtail butterfly feeding on a thistle plant in a local field. It’s easy to tell the female tiger swallowtail from the male because the female has the iridescent blue spots near the tail. But at times it is difficult to identify the female as a tiger swallowtail because the female is dimorphic. Some are yellow with black stripes, as this one was, which— except for the blue spots— is identical to the male. But others are almost all black with the blue spots. I have photos of both, but the yellow morph female is much more photogenic.

When I was shooting this photo I liked what I saw through the viewfinder. The butterfly and the teasel plant were isolated against an uncluttered  background that became a defocused blur.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Aug 6, 2016 9:32 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1250 second
  • ISO: 250

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