Friday, August 09, 2013

The accommodating Comma

click photo to enlarge
The Big Butterfly Count is currently underway in  the UK. This year it is running from 20th July to 11th August. An annual event organised by Butterfly Conservation, it enlists volunteers to count the species and number of butterflies on a bright or sunny day, in any location, over a period of 15 minutes. Results are collected and collated and help to give a picture of the relative health of the country's butterfly populations.

I recently consulted last year's results to find out the status of the Comma that I'd been photographing, at my wife's request, in our garden. Last year's wet summer produced somewhat atypical results with the Meadow Brown the runaway winner in terms of numbers. The commonest butterflies in my garden this year are (with last year's placings in brackets) Small White (4), Large White (5), Peacock (16), Red Admiral (11) and Small Tortoiseshell (10). However, we see several more including the Brimstone, Wall, Painted Lady and others. The Comma also turns up now and again. Last year it was the 12th commonest species nationwide.

The Comma is named after the small white comma-like mark on the underside of its wings. It's an attractive butterfly with its orange and black markings and ragged edged wings. A characteristic that endears it to me as a photographer is the fact that it scares much less easily than, say, Peacocks and Red Admirals, when the camera lens approaches it. I took today's shot with a 100mm macro lens that had a hood mounted on the end of it. The butterfly tolerated the edge of the hood a matter of 10 centimetres or less from it, and that when the camera was mounted on a bright silver tripod. A very accommodating butterfly in that respect.

Less accommodating in its choice of flowers however. A bright orange Comma butterfly on a pink and orange Coneflower (Echinacea) with green leaves in the background makes for an eye-watering colour combination. They would become my number one butterfly in all respects if they'd feed on one of our dusky blue flowers so I could compose photographs with colours more to my liking!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off