Thursday, September 04, 2008

Republicans or Butterflies?

I had two topics in mind to tackle tonight, alone or in tandem. I could rant for a bit about the nasty, bitter, wrong-headed speeches from the Republican National Convention tonight, which reached me in the form of page after page of two-line Twitter tweets from nprpolitics. A sample, from Palin's speech:

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer except you have actual responsibilities."

It makes me angry, and if I try to explain why I'm going to get all frustrated and depressed.

Or I can tell you about my attempts to photograph butterflies today at lunch. Yes, I know I said before that I'm not that fond of butterflies, but I've become much more interested in them this summer working in Oro Valley, simply because there are a lot of them fluttering around out there. If I watch for birds, I might get a hummingbird, a flycatcher, a cactus wren or a gila woodpecker once every couple of days. Once there was a roadrunner, but he was gone when I returned with my camera. But the butterflies are pretty much always outside that lunchroom window. Frequently they're nearby as I wait for John's car after work as well.

So today, on the theory that

a) I'm down to my last week working out there,
b) it's not as hot as it was, and
c) I might be able to get closer and better shots of butterflies if there's no glass between me and them,

I went outside at lunch and walked the grounds a bit. The first thing I found worth photographing was this little orange and black bug. I have no idea what it is, but it held still, more or less, while I photographed it.

The shots of it aren't exactly crystal clear, but it's still pretty cool.

The thing is, I finally figured out why I can't get any really good photos of butterflies. I just have a Sony Cyber-Shot, which gets 8.1 megapixels of resolution. It's probably the best digital camera I've had to date, but it's not a serious, professional-grade camera. I'm starting to wish for a digital SLR with a nice big lens. Assuming I get my employment situation resolved, someday I'll have one.

Meanwhile, I must settle for blurry but mildly interesting shots, or, at best, a few sorta kinda almost decent ones.

Basically this afternoon I watched for butterflies to arrive at the flowers I staked out, pointed the camera in that general direction and started snapping. Some photos had no butterflies at all in them, but occasionally I got lucky with something my eyes never saw. The black ones in particular were impossible to get completely in focus. They were constantly zooming in and out. Even when they lit on a flower they were in constant motion, their wasp-like bodies vibrating. As closely as I've watched them, I still haven't quite been able to tell for sure whether the black with blue ones are the same species as the black with orange ones, just showing different bits of themselves, or catching the light differently. I think the blue ones are separate, but I'm not quite certain. Or they may all be Pipevine Swallowtails - except that there seem to be a few species like that in AZ.

There are definitely more than a few species out there, though. Beside the black ones there are at least three kinds of orange ones, and at least three kinds of yellow ones. I tried at lunch on Tuesday to identify them online, but when I asked for Arizona butterflies in black, blue, orange and yellow, the database gave me nearly 300 species! A different site gave me a more manageable list, but not everything has a picture. From what I saw, the very different orange butterflies seen in this entry may both be the Gulf Frittilary.

I'm semi-sure none of them I've seen lately are Monarchs, though, which were the main kind I grew up with. Some are similar to the color pattern I remember, but none are identical.

I like the plain yellow ones, too. I can buy into this critter being called a butterfly, because it's butter-colored, and it flies.

Here's the website I'll explore tomorrow: Butterflies of Southeastern Arizona. That's us! And I must say I'm intrigued by some of the nomenclature.

But I still prefer chordates.


1 comment:

barrettmanor said...

Butterflies aren't terribly easy to photograph. You can try raising the ISO, but that will probably introduce more noise. On a sunny day, that shouldn't be a big issue. You might also try turning on the flash, but using the lowest setting. That might freeze the action for you without washing out the photo.

If you're going to get a DSLR, you might want to hold out for the micro four-thirds cameras. You can read about it here.

I suspect you'd like something small enough to fit into your purse but with interchangeable lenses. The new Olympus E-420 is getting right down there in size, though. It still uses the traditional SLR-sized lenses. But since you're not looking to buy right away, you have time to check into various cameras and features and determine what will work best for you.