I was driving along a quiet back road that ran alongside a lovely stream in the Smokies, looking for moving water shots. While scanning the options, I saw a flash of yellow and a bit of movement far away, on the other side of the stream. It took me a few seconds to wrap my head around what I was seeing. It was this cluster of Yellow Swallowtails and the gorgeous blue-backed Pipevine Swallowtails.
They were engaged in what is called “puddling.” It is primarily the males who puddle in order to get minerals and other nutrients from the moist soil and rocks, nutrients that are lacking in nectar which is their main food source.
It was interesting to watch this behavior. The Yellow Swallowtails seemed more alert and active, while the Pipevines seemed almost drunk and unaware of their surroundings.
Seeing all these butterflies in one spot brought a huge smile to my lips. What a wonderful and unexpected treat, and it lasted for a fairly long time.
You have read many times in this blog about being prepared for the unexpected. You never know what Mother Nature will offer up just around the next bend. The more comfortable you are with your camera gear, the better your chances of getting some great shots.
Even though this was a relatively simple shot taken in the soft light of an overcast day, it still benefitted greatly from some basic optimization in Lightroom. Compare the Before and After shots. Notice how much more the butterflies stand out from the background, and how much better the color is. All it took was a little darkening around the edges with the Gradient tool, a little boost in Vibrance, and some slight tweaking of the whites and blacks.
Shutter Speed 1/320 sec. Aperture f/7.1. ISO 400. Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 200mm. Camera: Canon 5D Mark III. Handheld.
TODAY’S QUOTE: “Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.” --Samuel Johnson