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Desert Botanical Garden, Part 1

Today's Life After HP marks the beginning of a new adventure — the first images I shot with my new camera. It is a Nikon D850, an upgrade from my older Nikon D800. Same lens — new body. So I decided to visit my favorite spot, the Desert Botanical Garden, here in Phoenix. I have been there often as many of you will recall. I considered this a "shakedown cruise" to get to know the camera in a familiar setting.

So here's one of the first photos. When I first looked at it on my computer, I was disappointed that the butterfly's wings were blurred. Then I realized that the tips had probably been outside the focal plain — the head and antennae are nice and sharp. Photographer problem — not camera or lens. BTW, this is a monarch butterfly.

Well, this shot of a Pipevine Swallowtail is better in terms of focus. You can even notice some ragged edges of the butterfly's wings. My visit to the butterfly house was toward the end of its scheduled run and many of the butterflies were becoming senior citizens.

In addition to the new camera, I was also carrying a new monopod — with the camera mounted on the top of the monopod. I am sure you know what a tripod is. A monopod is similar except that it only has one leg not three. There are times when a tripod is not allowed (some museums, for instance) or just inconvenient (too many people who might trip over your tripod-mounted camera).

The monopod provides an advantage over handheld shots because it is a stable platform — thus less motion blur due to shaky hands. This shot of a Zebra Longwing turned out quite nicely using the monopod.

Poor monarch, nearing the end of its brief life — looks like it has really been through a nasty battle. Of course, in the wild it probably would have been eaten by now.

Another problem I encountered was not equipment related. I went to the gardens after an early morning stop to have my blood drawn. The wait was so long that it was 10:00 or so when I arrived.

It turns out that the butterflies had already been up and had their breakfast and were now resting in the shade. Good for butterflies, difficult for the photographer trying to capture these little ones on silicon.

So, I decided to come back a couple days later but arriving early when the butterflies were active. That turned out to be the trick — all these photos were taken on that second day.

This shot of a monarch reminded me of the days when I lived in Rio Del Mar, CA — in the Santa Cruz area. At the north end of Santa Cruz is a state park, Natural Bridges, which has a large eucalyptus grove where many thousands of monarchs winter. To keep warm overnight and into the misty morning hours, they huddle together with their winds closed. The dull underside of their wings makes the gathering look like dead leaves on a tree. But when the sun peeks out they begin to stir and all of sudden, the "leaves" turn bright orange then start floating away from their overnight perches. It is really quite a wonderful sight.

I loved this shot of a White Peacock sipping juice from an orange. Even butterflies enjoy orange juice for breakfast.

Another Pipevine Swallowtail also showing signs of aging — notice the tiny green patches near the end of the left wing. Those are holes through which we can see the leaves in the background.

Another Monarch — feeding on nectar. Amazing how butterflies are so light that they barely move the flower when they land to feed. Reminds me of my favorite quote from Mohammed Ali — "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee".

Last for today is an even closer shot of that same Monarch butterfly. I love them.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com