A beautiful spring-fed creek runs icy-cold all year near my cabin in the Wind River Canyon here in Wyoming. All sorts of wildflowers bloom nearby, including some I have never been able to name! I encourage these wonderful wildflowers to grow because they attract butterflies galore.
Over many years a bushy wildflower perennial has prospered that blooms many dozens of small, pastel purple daisies in late summer; and no butterfly can resist them. They are the Alpine aster (Aster alpinus) or alpine daisy and they can vary in color, but here they are light-purple.
Photographing butterflies, as I have said here before, can be challenging to say the least. One good image can make all that running around in the very hot sun, very, very rewarding. Or you can sweat loads and get little for your hard earned time; practice makes perfect, remember?
On a very hot afternoon, not long ago, a butterfly known as the Mormon fritillary (Speyeria mormonia) was feeding on the asters. It was a prime specimen and in fine condition, but the sun was cooking the canyon as I ran from shade to sun and back. Out of over sixty frames the image below was my favorite. I used my Canon EOS M6 Mark II camera and Canon 70-200mm F/4L lens; ISO 100, F/4 @ 1/640th. This particular butterfly is not endangered and is widespread with several different variations across North America. They can get really tattered with time and a good specimen is sometimes difficult to find.
Two days ago, I was out photographing, on the same flowers, a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) that was flying through the Wind River Canyon. It wasn't quite so scorching and the results were able to put a smile on our faces. Same favorite Canon camera combination and the settings were ISO 1600, F/8 @ 1/400th; I wanted a little more depth-of-field with the larger Monarch. The fine detail in the image is astounding. The pollen grains on the butterfly's head and proboscis (hollow tube-like tongue) and spider webs demonstrate the Canon M6 Mark 2's great resolution in a small form factor camera @ an ISO of 1600! She didn't hang around for very long though as she has a long trip ahead.
The widespread use of herbicides has dramatically lessened the numbers of the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch caterpillar's only food source is the milkweed plant, and with less of the milkweed we have far less Monarchs; but less weeds.
The nights are getting colder in the mountains now and soon the last of the butterflies will disappear till next springtime, but till then, "Keep your camera ready!"
Thank you for reading my Wind River Canyon blog about the wild life here in Wyoming. Safely visit my website, HogbatsPhotography.com for hummingbirds, Bighorn Sheep, over 100 species of birds, and more butterflies. All rights are reserved.
Michael John Balog, resident of the Wind River Canyon