How To

Chasing Butterflies.

Tapestry Butterfly
Live Pupae Display.
Tiffany Lamp.
Danaus Chrysippus.
Danaus Plexippus
Speckled Band.



Carl Kuntze

Perched on a hill at Batu Ferrengi (Foreigner's Rock), about a mile and a half from

one of Malaysia's finest white sand beaches, is The Penang Butterfly Farm, a vibrant 0.8

acre greenhouse of manmade streams cascading over landscaped boulders, Lotus ponds,

grottoes, vines, wooden bridges, rock tunnels, and, of course, floral shrubs with blossoms

producing nectar to nourish the delicate creatures. The fluttering butterflies come in various

sizes, representing 50 species collected from forests all over the world. At times, they pro-

create to 3,000, ranging from the tiny Rose Butterfly to the majestic Monarch. Here, in what

is described as the largest enclosed aphid habitat in the region, we can appreciate its anim-

ation and vibrant colors, far more diverting and humane than viewing dead specimens pin-

ned to boards. Exquisite visions to capture on film.

Armed with a Contax 139Q with a Carl Zeiss 60 mm. Macro-Planar lens, and a TTL

30 flash unit, I prepared for my "safari". The environement approximates that of shaded

portions of a tropical rain forest, mitigating the sometimes oppressive heat from the equato-

rial sun. But even under climate controlled conditions, body temperature induces perspi-

ration to stream in copious amounts that interfere with performance. For fragile, or not, they

are swift, flickering in and out of focus with coruscating alacrity. Tripods are worthless in this

situation. Clothing saturated, sweat dripping down from my face and arms, necessitated

frequent pauses to mop up the moisture with a handkerchief. A monopod was an effective

alternative to steady my camera. I instinctively tripped the shutter from time to time, uncer-

tain if I captured an acceptable shot. I needed a single picture for a Latex Paint Manufacturer

in The Philippines. At the end of four hours, I'd only exposed two 36 exposure rolls. I left,

unsure I had what I needed. The project was a trial, and a lesson in discipline.

When I got back to Manila, I examined results from the lab, and discovered some

decent slides although I did not harvest as wide a variety as I had hoped I would. Some

specimens seemed narcissistic enough to keep returning to my position as if in provocation.


One particular favorite was A Malayan Tapestry (Cethosa Hysea-Nymphalidae), which

persistently returned to "pose" for me. The flash proved reliable, but recycling time took

longer than normal. I was also vexed by synchro-sunlight problems. All shots were taken

at f.5.6 with Kodachrome KR 64 Daylight. I depended entirely on the automation of my

equipment, not having time to bracket.

A few years ago, The Smithsonian Institute inaugurated a butterfly rookery adjacent

to The Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Unlike those in Penang, Malaysia,

Davao, Philippines, and Orlando, Florida, the garden is not enclosed. They are free to flee

their persistent gawkers. Glass pens, while protecting them, similarly abbreviates their exis-

tence. Perhaps, future butterfly gardens shall be open and not prisons for beauty.

Butterflies are trusting creatures and swarm to plant life, be they floral or vegetable,

cultivated or wild. They do not discriminate between crab grass, viper's bugloss, or dande-

lions, geranium, golden rod, or pepper bush. From cabbage to broccolli. Each have their

distinct nectar. Butterflies particularly thrive in warm climates. In regions with four seasons,

they migrate as fall approaches. In Cache Valley, where I live, there are 200 species. They

congregate in tilled gardens as well as wild meadows, flitting from blossom to blossom, sip-

ping their sweet dew while pollinating them, thus repaying nature for their own brief lives.

They grace our own with the pulchritude of their presence, making us savor the advent of

spring even more. There are butterfly gardens all over the world now, some in regions

where the climate is more forgiving. Attempting to capture their images would be a rewar-

ding experience, and a lesson in patience.

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—The JPG team

6 responses

  • Adam Mcreynolds

    Adam Mcreynolds gave props (14 Feb 2010):

    Great shots and story you got my vote

  • Robin Perkins

    Robin Perkins gave props (25 Feb 2011):

    I wish they would build many more butterfly gardens, they are so amazing, got my vote

  • Tridibesh Sanyal

    Tridibesh Sanyal said (15 Mar 2011):

    Both the story & photographs I found very fascinating. One can feel your love for nature expressed beautifully.
    My Vote.

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham gave props (7 Apr 2011):

    Butterflies are such a tough subject and often do seem to tease. This is a wonderful story and images. I really enjoyed the Butterfly garden in Corpus Christi Texas.

  • Novak Nastasić

    Novak Nastasić gave props (9 Apr 2012):

    Story cover photo is particularly pretty. Voted!

  • Donna Mullins

    Donna Mullins (Deleted) gave props (30 Nov 2012):

    I LOVE butterflies! voted.

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