A Not So Common Blue

June 14, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

With the weather not realising it's summer, I'm suffering serious cabin fever at the moment and planned photography sessions have been repeatedly cancelled thanks to almost daily deluges. It's very depressing as this is normally one of my favourite and most productive times of year for photography. It is however increasingly my anticipation for what's to come in the next few weeks but for now I thought I'd share a few photos from my last foray out and about when I spent an evening around the Masts Reserve on Cleeve Hill.

I arrived at about 6:30pm and conditions were good. A light breeze was blowing but the light was good with pretty clear skies and the occasional large clouds scudding overhead. I took my normal route down the left hand side of the reserve and noticed immediately that the number of orchids in flower had jumped since my last visit. It was also apparent that butterfly numbers were as good as ever and with the sun still relatively high in the sky, there were plenty of Common Blues active with plenty of males seen basking on flowerheads and grasses. I attempted some shots of these but they were more often than not very skittish or obscured by long grass so I opted to take my time walking around with the hope of finding something a little more photogenic. As per my previous visit, I was finding plenty of groups of roosting butterflies and took a few record shots of these to highlight numbers. This photo was one of the larger groups found:

There were also plenty of Brown Argus, Small Blues and Small Heath butterflies roosting but it was a little while later on the lower slopes when I noticed a very odd looking butterfly. On closer inspection, I realised it was a female Common Blue aberration. I'd found a couple of aberrations before but these had never been Common Blues so this was a new find for me and I don't believe they're anywhere near as common as they are in other species, such as in the Adonis Blue. The main feature that differentiated this butterfly from the norm was the apparent merging of a number of spots on the hindwing, resulting in a large single kidney-shaped spot that really stood out. The weather had improved by now with the light a little less harsh and the breeze much weaker. The butterfly in question was still quite active but was only moving short distances so I waited in the hope it might open its wings but it sadly seemed happy to roost. It eventually settled on a Salad Burnet head so I took this as my cue to set up my gear and began getting some shots of this unusual butterfly. During the time I was shooting, the sun was sometimes veiled by passing cloud so I got a variety of shots in different light. When the sun was out I used my hand to put the butterfly in shadow whilst over-exposing. This is something I started doing last year and I find it works really well at giving a bright, clear background whilst allowing the detail of the butterfly to be showcased.

Common BlueCommon Blue Common BlueCommon Blue Common BlueCommon Blue

As usual, I'd begin shooting through the viewfinder and checking the results to ensure I had a nice clean background and more importantly that the butterfly was all in focus. I picture a triangle with the three points being the butterfly's eye, the wingtip by the tail (bottom back edge of the hindwing) and the wingtip 'at the top' (top back edge of the forewing). Once happy, I then go into live view and use a shutter release cable. I'll also crank down the ISO and will play with the white balance, exposure and F stop. I'll review and delete as I go but often come home with a hefty number of images to review properly on my monitors, at full magnification. It's referred to as pixel-peeping and I'm guilty of it big time! Anyway, back to the butterfly, which by now was stock still and clearly happy where it was. I decided to move away and see if it would open its wings during the next spell of bright sunshine and thankfully it did. I had the fun of trying to get into a good position without casting a shadow and after blasting away for a while I was hopeful I'd got something good. I excitedly reviewed my shots and from what I could see, I had some decent images. On that note I packed up most of my gear and made my way back up the hill towards the car, leaving a very unique butterfly to itself. I'd kept the camera out just in case and when I got to the top of the reserve I found three butterflies at roost on some long grass and whilst getting them all in focus was a challenge, managed a pleasing backlit image. For reference, the smaller butterfly (on the left) is a Brown Argus with the tow larger butterflies on the right Common Blues.

Brown Argus (L) & Common Blues (R)Brown Argus (L) & Common Blues (R)  

I was then homeward bound for some much needed dinner and had that usual feel good factor having been out in the fresh air for a few hours. It really does do wonders.

Back to the here and now, when the weather eventually clears up I'll be targeting Large Blues next. I didn't make it to their main residence in Gloucestershire last year so will be rectifying that this year. I'll also be looking to get images of Dark Green Fritillaries, after my one off find last summer.  Below are two of my favourite shots from last year. Awesome butterflies but buggers to find roosting, so the challenge is on!!

Dark Green FritillaryDark Green Fritillary Dark Green FritillaryDark Green Fritillary


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