Bayscaping (Butterfly Garden) Redux

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.  — Elliott Erwitt

I first talked about Bayscaping — landscaping for habitat using native species — in April 2013, with an update in August of that year.  Well the garden has come along with fairly robust stands of Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed and butterfly weed and others which should attract numerous insects.  [Last year I mostly got a huge crop of aphids.]

Two years ago I saw 8 monarch caterpillars, but last year — nothing; very disappointing, but there was national concern about a huge kill of monarchs due to bad weather at the wrong time.  Hopefully this year will be better.  So far just some red and black milkweed bugs, that were not photographed.

Because I enjoy macro photography, my original intent in starting the garden was two-fold:  Provide a convenient (right outside my backdoor) location for macro photography of flowers and bugs and eventually to teach a macro class out of my home studio. So to start using it productively, I plan to update this blog post approximately weekly with at least 1 image per week (yeah, I know, not terribly ambitious, but hey, its summer and I’m retired).

May 29, 2015, mid-afternoon


D200, 55 mm micro-Nikkor with 1.4x Tamron Teleconverter, f/5.6, 1/640 sec, ISO400. Butterfly weed.


Milkweed Leaf Beetle, D200, 55 micro-Nikkor w/1.4X Tamron telextender, f/8, 1/125, ISO 400

Pretty warm, didn’t see too much, mostly those gold-bodied flies, so I shot some butterfly weed buds. Went back out an hour later and found this gaudy milkweed leaf beetle.







June 1, 2015, mid-afternoon

Experimented with a used 55 mm micro-Nikkor I bought earlier this year with a 52.5 mm Nikon extension tube (PN-11) that may have been made specifically to achieve 1:1 with this lens.  The tubes have their own foot, increasing the stability of the camera/lens on the tripod.

June 10, 2015D800E, ISO 400, f/16, 55 mm micro with 52.5 extension tubes.

Butterflyweed has opened.


55 mm micro-Nikkor with 14 mm extension tube on D800E


Please Bug Me

Here were creatures so exquisitely fashioned that they seemed unreal, their beauty too fragile to exist in a world of crushing force. — Rachel Carson

It’s turning into a buggy summer as I ramp up my macro work.  North Point State Park in southeast Baltimore County turns out to be a pretty good place for dragonflies (credit to Lynn Roberts for the location).  So far I haven’t found much diversity, but I have only been there once.  Eastern Pondhawks and Blue Dashers predominate.  It is a good place to practice, because there are so many, but of less interest if you want to expand your files NeedhamsSkimmer-(67)with new species.  I did find a tentatively identified Needham’s Skimmer, which is new to me.


Font Hill Wetland Park near Ellicott City, MD is another good place for dragonflies (and a damselfly).  Greater diversity (so far) than at North Point, with fewer Eastern Pondhawks, but still plenty of Blue Dashers.

EasternAmberwing-(9)cropped EbonyJewelwing-(13) WidowSkimmer-(1)Got the eastern amberwing, ebony jewelwing and widow skimmer there (left to right). The headstand of the amberwing is to try and reduce temperature either by exposing less profile to the sun or self-shading. Backyard butterfly garden yielded the snowberry clearwing; the h_D8E2744Harvestmanarvestman was on some bushes in the back.  The fly is a holdover from North Point.


Many of these were taken with the Nikon 200 mm micro lens with a Tamron 1.4 x telextender.  The lens has exceptional sharpness and is well corrected; when I add lens corrections in ACR, there is virtually no change.  The combination gives good reach, with excellent sharpness.

BayScaping – Update


Bread feeds the body indeed, but flowers feed also the soul. — The Koran

Back in April I first described my “Bay Scaping” attempt:  planting native plants with positive food and habitat values for wildlife.  Well the bumble bees really like the swamp milkweed, but the milkweed didn’t attract too much else.  The Joe Pye weed  however, is doing a reasonably good job of attracting tiger swallowtails, including one dark form.  I have had as many as four or five at a time.  Also, perhaps as the season advanced, getting some silver spotted skippers.  Hopefully, some eggs will be laid and the intensity will increase next year.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly.TigerSwallowtail015


“BayScaping” is the local (Maryland) term for natural landscaping that uses native plants and specifically provides habitat and food for wildlife. There are numerous advantages generally including lower maintenance and high success, since the native plants are better adapted to the local environment.

I have just completed digging out 400 square feet of old forsythia to make room for plants that will attract wildlife including:  columbine, milkweed, butterflyweed, Joe Pye weed, coneflower and goldenrod.

This project addresses both my conservation concerns and, hopefully in the future, will provide numerous photographic opportunities for macro subjects and small wildlife, as well as the potential for teaching small classes on closeup and macro photography from home.  I did not think ahead to photograph the starting point with really over grown forsythia, but will try to document my progress, successes and failures moving forward.

As we develop more and more land, plant more lawns and lay down more asphalt for roads, it is increasingly necessary for those who care to at least make an effort to provide pockets of natural habitat in support of wildlife.