03.28.21: Tiger swallowtail

A tiger swallowtail butterfly feeds on a butterfly bush, Hilliard, Ohio.

A female tiger swallowtail butterfly feeds on a butterfly bush, Hilliard, Ohio.

This is a photo of a female tiger swallowtail butterfly. It’s easy to tell the female tiger swallowtail from the male because the female has the iridescent blue spots near the tail.

A photo hike in my own backyard

The typical explanation for how I captured a butterfly photo starts with “I was hiking through a park looking for birds when I came across this butterfly … .”

Simply put, I hike until I find subjects in nature to photograph, stop to get the shot, then continue my photo hike.

But this photo of a tiger swallowtail feeding on a butterfly bush doesn’t follow the typical scenario. Instead of me finding a subject to photograph, in this case the subject found me.

I was at home editing photos on my computer when my wife came in to tell me there were a lot of butterflies on the bush beside our deck. I wasn’t sure if “a lot” meant five or a thousand so I had a look. There were more than a dozen butterflies — monarchs, tiger swallowtails, red admirals and a few other varieties — making a late-summer feeding visit to the butterfly bush.

So I grabbed my camera, put on 600 millimeter super telephoto lens and started shooting. The 600 millimeter was a bit long for photographing in the back yard, but it allowed me to stand a good distance from the butterflies as they fed.

I captured a number of nice photos of the butterflies, including some that I have used on my website in the past.

This is a photo of a female tiger swallowtail butterfly. It’s easy to tell the female tiger swallowtail from the male because the female has the iridescent blue spots near the tail. But at times it is difficult to identify the female as a tiger swallowtail because the female is dimorphic. Some are yellow with black stripes, as this one was, which— except for the blue spots— is identical to the male. But others are almost all black with the blue spots. I have photos of both, but the yellow morph female is much more photogenic.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Aug 2, 2017 11:37 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM 
  • Focal length: 600mm
  • Aperture: f/4
  • Shutter: 1/1250 second
  • ISO: 800