Favs of 2011

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Bryan’s Favorite Photos of 2011

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“Without a doubt, the Monarch is the most recognized butterfly in North America.  Not only is it stunningly beautiful, it has quite a natural history with it’s epic migration.  Living in central Oklahoma, I have the pleasure of observing this, especially in the fall, when sometimes hundreds of individuals can be observed per hour travelling south.  I was leading a butterfly workshop in September and on our walk we came upon at least 100 Monarchs nectaring from blazing star within a very small space.  Many were very fresh and all of them were cooperative and posed for photos.  I like the clean look of this one with just a butterfly on a flower popping from the background.”

Fulvia Checkerspot

“Towards the end of May, I was invited to join some other butterfliers to visit the Nature Conservancy’s Four Canyon Preserve, located in Ellis County, Oklahoma.  It was very dry and they hadn’t received rain since October the year before.  We were worried about not finding butterflies, but our concerns were soon abated when we saw some Fulvia Checkerspots along with several species of skippers.  On the second day of exploring the preserve, we came upon a congregation of fresh males puddling and working some coyote scat.  My best photos of them were when they were spread flat against the trail, such as this one is doing here.”

Leonard's Skipper

“The Leonard’s Skipper is a butterfly I’m familiar with from my days photographing in North Dakota.  I knew this late-season specialty was found fairly close to where I live, but I hadn’t gotten out to get any on film until this last fall.  McGee Creek Wildlife Management Area, located in Atoka County, Oklahoma, is only about 1.5 hours away from where I live.  So, one mid-October day I headed out to find them.  The gravel roads on the preserve wind through mixed pine and hardwood forest.  There was not much nectar around except the bright yellow sneezeweed in patches along the edges of the road.  I checked every patch and soon found the butterflies.  I like this photo for the clean background, the widely spread wings of this female in typical “jet-airplane” position, and the proboscis probing the flower.”

At many of our presentations, we get asked what our favorite butterfly images are.  So, for the second year in a row, Bryan has selected his top 10 favorite photos from the year’s expeditions.  Check out below each image for the reasons why Bryan selected them.  Clicking on the photos will send you to the treatment page for that species.

Southern Broken-dash

“The Southern Broken-dash is a fairly common butterfly in my area.  Earlier in the spring, I was out with some other nature enthusiasts enjoying the Nature Conservancy’s Pontotoc Ridge Preserve, located in Pontotoc County, Oklahoma.  The manager of the Preserve wanted to show us a nice patch of coneflowers that were in bloom.  This nice area had tons of flowers with lots of butterflies.  My goal was to not get just the standard in-your-face shot of a butterfly, but to show how small and delicate these lovely creatures really are.  These skippers are not much bigger than a thumbnail, and I think I show that here.  I like the small delicate look of the butterfly, the crisp flower with it’s visitor up against a clean background, and the vertical orientation.”

Soapberry Hairstreak

“The Soapberry Hairstreak is one of those specialist butterflies that can be very local in occurrence.  You’d be hard pressed to find one not far from its larval food plant, soapberry.  Such was the case with this one.  The manager of the Nature Conservancy’s Pontotoc Ridge Preserve invited my wife and I for a day of exploring.  She knew the soapberry trees were in bloom and attracting different butterflies.  I knew the timing was perfect to find and photograph the Soapberry Hairstreak.  Sure enough we saw them.  The only problem was they were nectaring too high to get any photos.  Jona, the manager, had a great idea and backed up the flat-bed ATV to one of the smaller trees so we could get up a little higher.  That, plus a little standing on my tiptoes and I could reach them perfectly.  Then it was just a matter of trying to parallel the wings as the butterfly walked around the blossoms gathering nectar.  Here’s the result.  I like the edge to edge sharpness of the butterfly and how fresh it is.  It’s also nice to see it gathering nectar from its larval food plant, soapberry.”

Lupine Blue

“Lupine or Acmon Blue?  That is the question.  Well, currently, it’s Lupine Blue, or Plebejus lupini.  This is one species of butterfly that has had a change in where it’s placed taxonomically.  I photographed this species years ago in North Dakota and then it was called the Acmon Blue, or P. acmon.  Regardless of all of this, it’s one tiny and beautiful creature.  We found these during my visit to the Four Canyon Preserve trip mentioned above.  These guys are small and easily overlooked by the general public.  I like the clean look of this shot with the butterfly standing out from the background.”

Coral Hairstreak

“I was out exploring the Ouachita National Forest with another butterflier when we saw some butterfly weed in full bloom along the road.  We stopped and saw this plump female Coral Hairstreak gathering nectar.  This situation makes for some easy photography.  The hardest part is paralleling the wings as the butterfly twists and turns from floret to floret.  As is a common theme in my favorites, I like the blown out background and the butterfly standing out sharply from the orange flowers.”

Arogos Skipper

“I was photographing at the Four Canyon Preserve on the same spring trip mentioned above when I spotted this rare butterfly.  This prairie butterfly is only found in good quality habitat.  So, it was obvious that the Nature Conservancy was doing the right thing managing their property at the Preserve.  The out of focus grasses were fairly close to the butterfly, so I reduced my depth of field even more to help them go further out of focus.  I like the colors and clean look of this shot and its nice the butterfly is on the Oklahoma state wildflower, Blanket Flower.”

Black Swallowtail

“The previous photo has the Oklahoma state wildflower.  Here, we have the Oklahoma state butterfly, the Black Swallowtail.  In this case a male and he was guarding his territory from rivals and an inquisitive photographer.  This was early spring, 25 March, and he was perching on tall, dried grasses for a good vantage point.  To get the photo, it was just a matter of staying low, moving slow and paralleling the wing surface.  I kept my f-stop fairly wide open to help blow out the background and since there were a few shadows here and there, I use a little flash fill.”

Zebra Swallowtail

“There are not many Oklahoma species of butterflies that I have yet to get on film.  The Zebra Swallowtail was one that had eluded me until this day.  I was on a 4x4 track deep in the Ouachita National Forest and came upon a section of horsemint growing along the trail.  On it were dozens of freshly emerged Zebra Swallowtails.  I couldn’t believe it and spent most of the day working them.  It was very hot and they were pretty pumped up and jumpy from the heat and nectar.  So, I had to work hard to get shots.  I fired off a bunch of film and got several keepers.  I like that the subject is up above the the main group of flowers making it stand out from the deeply shaded woods in the background.  This was one of those memorable days of photography that I will cherish for a long time.”