The Art of Stalking a Butterfly

(apologies to Annie Dillard for misusing a quote from her wonderful book, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek.  I wrote all about how great that book was here, and almost everything in that post still holds true today.)

Recently (ish) I commented on a post by Flighty about a great shot he took of a Peacock Butterfly about my inability to photograph the things.  I know this is because I am hideously impatient.

While trying to identify some butterflies that my significantly more patient partner photographed, I read that to get a photo of a butterfly, one should watch and wait as they like to return to feeding spots.  That’s probably not groundbreaking information for anyone with a decent dose of common sense, but it seriously never occurred to me.  Sure, I wait and watch but I invariably also chase the poor things down.  Off it flits to another flower and off I go to follow.

My partner and I, being witty, hilarious people, often call butterflies, butterflown because by the time we draw the other’s attention to a butterfly, it has disappeared.

Armed with the advice to WAIT, I did just that while on a short walk with some friends around Keyhaven Marsh, a bird reserve.  We saw waterbirds aplenty but there were also many butterflies among the hawthorn and one particular one that kept teasing me.  My friends were patient and my partner was off taking photographs of some rusty machinery, so I watched.

And it worked!

Peacock Butterfly, Keyhaven Marsh, April 2010 (photo taken by the Canon G11 if you're interested).

The butterfly liked to land on a particular hawthorn flower, so I adjusted my settings to focus on that flower and waited.  I took one picture, then I inched in further.  The butterfly flew away but I remained there, camera pointed at the hawthorn flower.  The butterfly returned and I repeated my process – take one photo, inch in closer, take another if it remained or wait for it to return if my edging closer scared it off.

Flighty’s picture is better, but I’m rather chuffed with mine.

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6 Comments

  1. Many thanks for the linked mention! I’ve taken lots of buttterfly photos but very few are anywhere near that good. It’s generally agreed that they are difficult to take, and I certainly learnt the hard way to stay put and wait after charging round the plot and falling over several times.
    Well done on your ‘rather chuffed’ picture! xx

    Reply

  2. Butterflies are fast, aren’t they!! I’ve followed the link from Flighty’s Plot to here and have really enjoyed having a look at your blog. The photograph of the Peacock Butterfly is lovely, well worth the wait. We have quite a large Buddleia in the garden and so it makes a good place to wait for butterflies in the summer. I look forward to visiting again 🙂

    Reply

    1. Thanks for visiting, griselda! My neighbour has a buddleia that hangs over into our garden and I like to inspect the butterflies on it, but still haven’t managed photos, yet… Got this one because all the right things came together – I recently got some advice and some patience … but I might need more!

      Reply

  3. Hi: I am coming here from Flighty’s link and what a pleasure to read your writing and see your picture! I love the term “butterflown”! I must try the waiting trick. I’ve learned to do it with dragonflies and hummingbirds but for some reason I chase after butterflies – and it rarely works.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for visiting, Doris! I’m trying to learn to wait with dragonflies, but they’re the ones I definitely chase – they’re just so captivating! And, sadly, I don’t think the UK gets hummingbirds. I expect I would chase them down too!

      Reply

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