The last of the summer monarch butterflies escaped it’s chrysalis today, pictured here climbing up to a suitable branch as it starts to pump up rumpled wings. I’ve not noticed the crazy watermelon-pattern eyes before.
Category Archives: photography
These late-season Monarchs will probably seek an overwintering place rather than breed now – and so live three times as long as their summer-born sibs.
If this was North America, they’d be flying thousands of kilometers to Mexico for the great (if threatened) butterfly migration, as in this dazzling footage. My internet research suggests that these will probably go no more than 20 kilometers to find a sheltered conifer tree. Even that seems a long journey for something as wind-tossable as a butterfly!
A local photography group organised an afternoon meetup in the Botanical Gardens with a model, so we could practice portraiture in the pretty-yet-tricky sunshine under the trees. These were taken with my faithful 50mm lens and Sony A580 camera, mostly on low iso, f1.8 and reasonably high shutter speeds. We took turns directing our very helpful model, who directed us in directing her.
I love the aesthetics of old photographs, the careful poses, the natural light, even the soft decay of an image. I sometimes collect other peoples orphaned ancestors via online auctions – old photos adrift from family albums, rich in costume detail, hinting at lives beyond the camera.
This tiny tintype is, according to the back, Miss Amanda Fish. She would probably not have been a dazzling beauty even in her own time, but she has made a heroic effort to present herself to best advantage, wearing elaborate earrings, a velvet bow with a brooch, and a top with fancy shiny buttons.
Her gaze is wonderfully intent. Was she having her portrait taken to give as a gift to some special man or woman? I’ll probably never know (nothing showed up with a quick online search anyway), but I can enjoy speculating.
Miss Fish may well make her way into a drawing or painting sometime soon.
This weekend I was a part of Chalkle‘s Space Camp; a night and a day devoted to all things space related. There were proper astronomers with proper telescopes there, but my area of expertise is a little less technical. By day, I helped people to make egg landing modules from straws, string, balloons and all sorts of waste materials, which were then crash tested with bottle rockets. At night, the planned ‘star trails’ photography was stymied by fast moving cloud, and the steel-wool sparks photography by a stern fire ban. Instead, my husband and I gave groups of people a quick introduction to playing with light and long exposures to achieve “special effects”.
These are a few examples I managed to snap between explaining the cameras’ m button to people. Most of are 8-15 second exposures, and made using cheap coloured finger led lights and glow bracelets from the $2 Shop, some <$10 laser pointers, and (for the multiple exposure ones) with an old flash unit – by pressing the “test fire” button two or three times per photo.
Spent some time last night working out camera settings and such for an upcoming night photography workshop, using a couple of budget laser pointers. Welding goggles and/or padding was worn under masks to keep eyes safe.
I’m enjoying the hungry little caterpillar scenario being played out on the swan plants (milkweed) in a pot at the end of my deck. The fattest wee beastie set off for a nearby fence today, to start the next phase of its existence.
They eat weed plants as caterpillars, and as adults, monarch butterflies (formally, Danaus plexippus) have no particular impact on anything human, except as objects of interest and beauty. Ideal royalty.
Swan Plant (milkweed) is bringing hungry bees to my garden at the moment, suggesting someone near by has an urban hive. The reason for the Swan plants, monarch caterpillars, are growing nicely, seeming to more or less double in size every few days. I anticipate much childlike happy wonder when they eventually cocoon and turn into butterflies.
During extensive research into the life cycle of these lovely creatures (ie, some careless reading on Wikipedia) I learnt that the original working title for The Very Hungry Caterpillar was “A Week with Willi Worm“. A rose by any other name . . . would probably not have succeeded quite so well.
The freakshow mentality has long outlived the literal freakshow. Now we look at people who are other than the norm safely from our living rooms, in faux scientific documentaries or reality TV shows. Like our Victorian ancestors we are frightened and thrilled, and fascinated and enchanted and entertained by strangeness. Fat, thin, lost or won the genetic lottery, born strange or deliberately making themselves strange: we celebrate and objectify people on the margins.
I can’t help admiring people like the Schappell sisters, who manage to create good lives for themselves, despite an incredibly tough start and challenges that would daunt most. And I can’t help despising parents who make their children into fascinating freaks.
I generally love the aesthetics of early photography, and occasionally indulge myself buying old postcards and photos. With studio portraits of entertainers there is often an interesting tale to be tracked down – online newspaper archives such as Papers Past (in New Zealand) and Trove (in Australia) are wonderful places to browse and be distracted for hours.
Anyway, yesterday, I received my latest $5 online auction purchase, a signed 1912 postcard of Anita, “The Living Doll”. Anita was a very small Hungarian woman who toured the world, met with royalty, always dressed elegantly, and managed to cultivate an aura of dignified intelligence. I hope her life was a happy one and that she retired to live the life she wished; I couldn’t find any mention of her after 1912.
Anita hopefully did better than the young woman in another postcard I have, Ruby Westwood “The Giantess of Foxton”. She and her brother supported a large family by exhibiting their unusual size, from when Ruby was about 7 years old. They traveled first through New Zealand, then to Australia, and eventually to the UK and beyond. But in San Francisco, at age just 19, Ruby pricked her finger on a rose stem, developed blood poisoning and died. Her brother Wilfred’s tale is not quite so sad, after Ruby’s death he managed to reinvent himself as a boy-wonder glass blower, and as an adult managed other entertainers, including travelling through Africa.
It seems hard to imagine parents exploiting their children this way, but then I remember (though I wish I could forget) “Honey Boo boo“.
Another poster off to the printer today. This intriguing improv show uses audience input as starting points for some well twisted tales.