Kankakee Sands is a restoration area in Indiana on acres that once was covered with one of the largest lakes in the State, Beaver Lake. Around 100 years ago part of the lake was in Illinois and a businessman (from IL) who owned land on the lake decided to drain this huge body of water. And he did, effectively removing the migrating path for many water birds and did untold damage to the ecosystem as the land was turned into farmland.
The Nature Conservancy has purchased a large portion of this land and is working to return it to native prairie and marshland. They have also introduced a small herd of buffalo, which are a part of the natural prairie.
It is a beautiful work in progress. What amazed me the most were the amount of grasshoppers and crickets. Take a step and the “grass” for about two feet in front of your foot raises and flies. You can hear the wings. But the variety of butterflies and plants are amazing.
Cabbage Whites may be the most common of butterflies, but I believe this is the only time I have been able to photograph one of these little fluttery creatures to where I can see more than a blob of white. They are fast moving and the contrast is so high that it is quite a creative challenge. This little guy is stunning, in my book.
Funny that this is the week’s photo challenge because I had set my own personal challenge to attempt to capture the monarchs on the wing this season. Zigzag? I get dizzy trying to follow them with my lens as they dance around my head.
There are often 2 of them dancing together. Most of my photos turn out blurry or washed out, so I haven’t got the trick yet. Even so, I am having loads of zigzagging fun.
Silver-Spotted Skippers normally do not sit still long enough for me to capture more than one or two shots. This little guy was so cheeky and seemed to strut his stuff for the camera. Either that or he was ready to take me on, one-on-one.
After a bit, he figured I was not worth the trouble and went to feasting on the local flora.
The backyard butterfly haven is paying off in large dividends this year. This big beauty stopped by briefly – long enough for me to capture a few shots – then off he went, fluttering his wings so fast that only in the photos could I see that this was a battle-scarred veteran.
This is one of my favorite poses, second only to that moment when a butterfly peeks at me over the top of a flower.
Butterflies are complex beauties, such as this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, with many design elements competing with the surroundings. One of the tricks I have found when photographing them is to simplify the background as much as possible.
Sometimes simplification takes the route of minimizing color and background complexity.
When the background is busy, try to use a low depth of field.
Ok, so that sounds all intentional and designerly; in reality, sometimes you only get a fleeting moment in which to point and start shooting, hoping for the best. But then, wow is it fun when you realize you have a winner!
I was getting all wrapped up in the technicalities of butterfly chasing today when suddenly I realized I needed to lower the lens and simply enjoy them fluttering about my head. That is the true beauty of butterflies.
My childhood summers came flooding back. In that moment I experienced the simplification many of us long for.
So, stop and enjoy what you are photographing. Simplify and enjoy the impressions of life.