Butterflies: My Random Adventure in Nature Photography

My goodness, I had a good time this week. While the dekeOnline version of me was pimping GridIron Flow (which I quite rightfully love) and celebrating the latest and last dekePod (now officially undead), I was secretly enjoying a few days offline with my young and fabulous boys. During which we immersed ourselves in two of my local area’s finest, the Denver Zoo and the Butterfly Pavilion.

I mention this for two reasons. First, I suffer a largely unrequited passion for nature photography. Second, I engaged in the rare exercise of that very passion this week with an Olympus E-30, one of the most responsive cameras I’ve had the pleasure to use. Witness the cropped sample below. Click on it for the wide shot; zoom in to check out the amazing spiraling proboscis on that sucker.

If I had it to do all over again, I might sacrifice ambition, sail to a remote island, and devote myself to a life spent on foot, stomach, and back capturing wildlife. (I say might because the chances of me actually sacrificing ambition range somewhere between slim and none.) Big or small, mammalian or insectilian, I love them all. Animals are that thing we all long to be: vibrant and organic, primal and engaged, actualistically realized and utterly consumed by the world in the moment. They are us at that second when foot hits the pavement, hand hits the heart, mind hits the wall. And when assembled together, they provide a glimpse into a world that worked pretty damn well before we appeared and gradually ascended to our (still as yet unrealized) position of ultimate biological domination.

By which I mean, you can lose yourself in studying the ways of everything from a bedbug to blue whale. Having said all that, I don’t know what anything is. You know, species or genus or microphylometasmylum (not a word). So here’s this thing:

And here’s another one quite like it, with the butterflappy wings and all, but awfully different-looking in the snazle and feezle regions:

This next one had me spinning over the inherent nature of beauty. The glorious wings, the homely dirt-colored body, the ravages of a hard but justly served life. (See the bites, lower-right quadrant.) Food for thought: If you eat a butterfly wing, is it soft or crackery? Best pan-fried, I’m thinking.

By now, you might be saying, “Enough with the highfalutin biology lesson! What about the camera?” I’m altogether untrained in the art of insect photography. (As my 8-year-old was fond of telling anyone who would listen, “Oh, my dad’s not a photographer. But that picture he’s taking, it’ll probably go in a book!”) Still, it occurred to me midway into things that—just as when shooting people, you generally keep the focus on the eyes—I should lock on the head when capturing a butterfly. In reviewing the images, I couldn’t have been more right. And I was flat-out amazed at the E-30‘s ability to differentiate between the smallest of details on-the-fly. Check out this one—entirely the result of auto-focus, friends. (For you noise enthusiasts, that’s an ISO 400.)

Of course, you gotta give it up for the butterfly who takes a moment to pose on a pretty flower.

I captured a few dozen post-worthy butterflies. (This camera, what a performuh!) But like unicorns, they wear out their welcome after a while. So if only for the sake of contrast, here’s a more rough-and-tumble critter:

(Alas, I could not get the animal to reveal its fangs. I said “Goochie goochie, taranchie ranchie” and everything. Not the most cooperative model; got lots of attitude from this one.)

And nothin’ says lovin’ like a heaping pile of giant cockroaches. Don’t forget to click to enlarge!

No blog of my day with the chillin’ would be complete without a few pics of said offspring. Here’s Max assisting an ailing owl butterfly. Ever the responsible one, he let the insect walk onto his hand (no, he did not scoop it or touch its wings) and then took it to the nearest authority, who happened to be giving a lecture at the time.

Then there are these of Sammy, who enjoys an almost magical relationship with animals. This specimen landed on his face and climbed from his chin to his forehead, taking a moment to stick an antenna in his eye (middle). As the other visitors watched in wonder, Dad went in for the tight shots. Again the E-30 satisfies!

Oh, and yes, we went to the zoo. Not my best composition, but aren’t these billy goats adorable? If only one of their noses glowed, they’d be Rankin/Bass puppets. Watch out for the abominable snowman, little billies!

Finally, don’t know why, but somehow I think every blog post should end with the words “And here’s a hippo.”

Next entry:Martini Hour 019, In Which Colleen (Lover of Pronouns) Unleashes the “We” in the Sche

Previous entry:The Andy Warhol Silkscreen Effect

  • I love Hippos

    The butterflies are beautiful, but that hippo could squash them like the bugs they are.

  • You know ‘bout Jessica the hippo?

    The world’s only pet hippo.

    Search bing for “pet hippo” to see youtube video. I saw a 1hr show on Animal Planet and it was something to watch the hippo open the door, walk in, lay her head on someopne’s lap.

    If Deke were saying this, you’d expect to find out it’s a dog in a hippo mask… but this is real.

  • Butterflies

    Great detail in the butterflies Deke, what lens were you using?.

  • Butterflies

    I’m so, so jealous.  Those butterflies are AMAZING.  I do wildlife photography

    and apart from enduring crushing heat and getting pooped on by birds, it’s a great life.

  • See, tha’s wha’ I’m tawkin abou’

    Anyone who has any interest in this stuff, follow the link above.

    Nice work, Patricia!

  • See, tha’s wha’ I’m tawkin abou

    Thank you, Deke!

  • I like hippos. P.S Thanks

    I like hippos.

    P.S Thanks for the tutorial.

  • Wonderful

    Glad to hear that you have a good time with your boys.The pictures are wonderful.

  • Butterflies and Hippos :)

    Thank you for great post
    Good job


    Those butterflies are AMAZING.Thanks for the tutorial.
    Ven -

  • I love those butterflies

    What more can I say? They’re beautiful.

    I can only imagine a hippopotamus . . . jumping on them . . .

  • Those butterflies are

    Those butterflies are AMAZING. I do wildlife photography and apart from enduring crushing heat and getting pooped on by birds, it’s a great life.

  • these are great pictures

    i love it!

  • nice images of

    nice images of butterflies

  • These are just so lovely.

    These are just so lovely. Well done on such beautiful pictures and I can imagine the time taking them would have been so special. Many people taking this good quality pics have them immortalised as canvas prints
    to give as gifts or hang in their homes and offices. I could really see these butterflies brightening up a wall or a room so easily. Keep up the good work and be sure to take lots more to make up a good collection.

  • Wow nice shots

    Wow nice shots

  • love butterflies

    nice to watch them fly…

  • Amazing pictures!

    What lens did you use?

  • WOW..pictures look amazing

    WOW..pictures look amazing

  • It’s hard to find

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  • gradient

    When i use the delete button in cs4 i get a gradient instead of it deleting, what’s goin on

  • Cheers for the info

    It was a good read.

  • Water is necessary to the

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  • surprise

    I’ve dIscovered the fastest way to come to this page. Using TextMate as text editor in a new document pressing Ctrol+alt+Shift+M to select the markdown language. Then typing my nickname macadol and pressing ctrl+Shift+cmd+L —> in 2 or 3 seconds i get the following:
    [macadol](http://www.deke.com/?q=users/macadol “macadol | dekeOnline”)
    Fun and smart. That command in TextMate uses the Google feature I’m feeling lucky and prints out the result.
    So, I now know that I’m known in the internet as a deke.com user and fan.

    Just to share it.

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