In the Presence of a Lady

Aug 28, 2013

A couple of days ago I had decided to visit Higger Tor in the Peak District to photograph some landscapes at sunset. This location is covered in interesting gritstone rock formations and affords excellent panoramic views of the surrounding area. As is too often the case, my camera bag weighed a ton. Surely I could have left some of my kit behind, especially my macro lens. After all, I was here to do landscape photography, wasn’t I? I trudged on, searching for a composition. Then I spotter her. A Painted Lady butterfly {Vanessa cardu}, basking on a gritstone boulder in the late evening light. Suddenly all thoughts of landscape photography vanished.

The first image I took (below) is technically fine but doesn’t show any real creativity. It was captured with my Canon 100mm macro lens using a tripod. Despite being straight forward, the shot required plenty of patience, gradually inching the tripod towards the butterfly so as not to disturb it. When stalking a butterfly like this, it is really important not to cast a shadow over it whilst moving as this will often scare it off.

Painted Lady {Vanessa cardu} - Peak District

Painted Lady {Vanessa cardu} – 100mm macro lens, tripod

To make things more interesting, I tried a different camera angle. By shooting low across the surface of the rock, I was able to look the painted lady straight in the eye, instantly creating a more intriguing image (below). The warm evening light shining through the wings added a splash of colour to the scene. There was no room for a tripod here so I had to rely on resting the camera directly on the rock.

Painted Lady {Vanessa cardu} - Peak District

Painted Lady {Vanessa cardu} – 100mm macro lens, handheld

I changed angle again, this time trying to get a darker section of background behind the butterfly to show off its backlit antennae.

Painted Lady {Vanessa cardu} - Peak District

Painted Lady {Vanessa cardu} – 100mm macro lens, handheld

I finished off with this wide angle shot (below) using the 16-35mm lens to show the butterfly in its context. Ideally I would have liked the butterfly to be facing into the frame, but repositioning the camera for this would have meant casting a shadow over the scene so that wasn’t really an option. Still, I was happy with the final image.

Painted Lady {Vanessa cardu} - Peak District

Painted Lady {Vanessa cardu} 16-35mm lens @ 20mm – tripod

Despite having set out to capture some landscape scenes at sunset, I ended up concentrating all of my efforts on a chance encounter with a butterfly. This is exactly why I find it so difficult to pack light, you never know when you are going to need that macro lens!

All images and text copyright Alex Hyde –

1 thought on “In the Presence of a Lady

  1. Pingback: Capturing The Moment — Painted Lady, The One Day Butterfly | Becoming is Superior to Being

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