Last week’s photo of the week was the result of serendipity – this weeks is the inverse, it’s the result of planning and dogged determination.

I was, and indeed still am, working on a long-term project to photography all 28 species of butterfly that live in Ireland (you can follow my progress here). I’d been keeping an eye on the different species I saw flying around each time I came outside – and the day before I’d seen that there were Painted Ladies on the wing – a species I was missing!

The time was right, the weather was right, so I chose a spot (the Junior Gardens on the St. Patrick’s College campus in Maynooth), grabbed my gear, and set out on my mission to capture a Painted Lady. I was in a great mood, full of anticipation, but I wasn’t expecting a quick result. Butterflies never do what you tell them, and rarely do what you’d like!

I waited. Then I waited some more. Then a little more. Finally, out of the corner of my eye I spotted one! A Painted Lady. But it didn’t sit still. It flew from flower to flower never landing long enough to even get a focus lock. Then it flew over the wall and out of sight. On the one hand it was a relief to see that my quarry was indeed around, and that I’d chosen my spot correctly. On the other hand, it was a frustrating near-miss. But I continued to wait. Slowly and watchfully walking around around and around the garden.

Eventually another Painted Lady came into the garden. This one was a little more co-operative, landing on flowers and feeding – but not in a very photogenic way. I shot about 25 shots of this guy, but none were good enough to make it here. I waited some more. Another one, this one was feeding on fabulous pink Daisies, and what’s more the Daisies were tall enough to throw the other plants near them totally out of focus when I got in close with the 55-200mm. The setting was perfect, vibrant colours and a lovely bokeh. BUT, my winged friend insisted on landing on low-down flowers, hence always being half-obsgtructed by one or more taller flower heads. I didn’t get the perfect shot, but I could now see it in my head. It was a Painted Lady on one of these pink Daisies with that fabulous green bokeh. all I had to do now was wait.

I stopped making my rounds of the garden and stood watch over my perfect setting. It took another half an hour, but in the end, I was rewarded with the shot you see here. In all I spent two hours trying to get this shot. I think it was time well spent! (don’t worry, I wasn’t bored, I had my iPhone with me and was listening to Photo Focus – doing as the jingle instructs – making pictures, not just taking pictures!)

A Painted Lady
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 55-200mm
  • Exposure: 1/1600 sec
  • Focal Length: 200mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.7EV