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ShareMondays2020 – Spotting The Spotted

Silver-spotted skipper on hemp-agrimony

ShareMondays2020 – Spotting The Spotted

A breezy hour spent on a small patch of grassland on Box Hill looking for silver-spotted skippers last Thursday was definitely time well spent! One of the plentiful grasses on the hillside is sheep’s fescue, which is the sole food plant of the silver-spotted skippers’ caterpillars. It is also a food plant of meadow brown, gatekeeper and small heath caterpillars, all of which are numerous on the hillside!

Small Heath

I also saw a number of six-spotted burnet moths and I couldn’t resist them! They’re one of over a hundred day-flying moths in the UK, many of these are micro moths and I struggle to name them. Burnets are so recognisable and, like me, are attracted to the colour purple! It’s a good thing that the hillside is a patchwork of purples still.

Look closely for the tiny crab spider on this macro image!
Knapweed is a wonderful wildflower for many pollinators and the burnet moths love it!

I spotted at least six silver-spotted skippers on the hillside which is the most I’ve ever seen in one visit! When they’re perched up on a flower or grass stem they’re pretty easy to find with those white spots against the gold wings. It’s a different story when they’re basking on the ground! They really do blend into the habitat well.

Spot the skipper!

One of the skippers had a close call with a crab spider that was blending into it’s own surroundings on a knapweed flower! I probably wouldn’t have seen the spider if the skipper hadn’t lifted off so suddenly. They’re ambush predators and cleverly disguise themselves while they wait for a potential meal.

A near miss!

I would have loved to have captured a perfect shot of a silver-spotted skipper on field scabious. What a perfect combination! Unfortunately it was so breezy the butterflies were having a hard time staying on top of the delicate blooms. The closest I got to my ideal image was this one below, which I am being picky about as there’s a shadow falling across the skipper from another stem. Still a beautiful sight though and I can aspire to capturing my perfect shot one day in the future as we continue to protect this precious habitat and the treasures that live there.

Silver-spotted skipper on field scabious
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ShareMondays2020 – Chinoiserie

Laquered

ShareMondays2020 – Chinoiserie

The term Chinoiserie refers to western-made arts and crafts, particularly of the 18th century, that were characterised by motifs seen in oriental artwork on wood, porcelain, silk and metal. I’ve not included any of the fantastical beasts that appear in many of those pieces, as I have always been drawn to the art form for the beautiful shaping of the natural elements. Whenever I see seed-heads lit up by the late sun against a dark backdrop, I can’t help but be reminded of the shapes of cherry trees and bonsai on dark lacquered wood, or inlaid on metal.

Chinoiserie

The elegant structures of late summer seed-heads, pods and grasses, really appeal to me. Isolated, they can be amazing minimalist subjects. Layering up an image with multiple exposures, either in-camera or using digital software, can be used to emphasise the cluttered nature of wildflower meadows or areas of scrub land. These are really important habitats for many wildlife species. The primary layer of a vibrant ecosystem.

Vetch

Of course many of the metals and chemical compounds that were used in these old techniques are also used in various forms of photographic print making. We often refer to these techniques as Camera-less Photography. The most well known techniques are photograms and cyanotypes. Both involve using chemically treated paper, laying objects on, or above, the paper and exposing it to light. A process that I was very interested in at Art College was solarisation, first popularised by Lee Miller and Man Ray in the 1920’s and 30’s. It can be used when developing from negatives or when using objects for photograms. The exposed paper is treated with developing chemicals and then another exposure is made. This can either be pure light exposure or a double exposure using a negative, or more objects, in slightly different positions on the paper. It’s very experimental and hugely satisfying!

Echo

Not all of us can get access to darkrooms, space for cyanotypes or digital cameras that allow for multiple exposures! All these images in this post have actually been created in Photoshop using multiple layers and blending modes to recreate the styles and results that you would expect to get from analogue printmaking. Nik Software also has tools for recreating these effects, called Analog Efex Pro. I took the separate photos to create these images in a brief moment of sunshine at Heron Lake, where I have been going open-water swimming. The lake is surrounded by reed-banks, scrub and woodland.

Teasing Light

It’s a great habitat for wildlife, although much of it was still in hiding from the thunderstorms that hit us on Wednesday! Our swim sessions had to be delayed for an hour to ensure that the thunder and lightening had cleared. I did find a slightly bedraggled wren, hiding in an elder bush, while I was looking for suitable plants to photograph for this project. If only it had braved the light! Still, it was great to see it scampering around the branches and staying sheltered.

Young Wren

I hope everyone has a great week, and if the weather doesn’t allow for your usual photographic styles and subjects, try something experimental!

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ShareMondays2020 – Nymph

Marbled White Macro

ShareMondays2020 – Nymph

What’s in a name? Melangaria galathea, the marbled white, sometimes called the half-mourner or chequered white, is actually a member of the Browns family. They are Satyrinae, a subfamily of the Nymphalidae, brush-footed butterflies. When Carl Linnaeus originally assigned names to the butterflies he had identified, he placed them into families and genus with distinctively Greek and Roman mythological origins. I love thinking of these beautiful insects as nymphs, sylphs and satyrs! It’s so very appropriate.

Marbled White showing mites on body

The name galathea most likely comes from the Nereid, Galatea. One of fifty sea-nymphs of Greek mythology, daughters of Nereus (son of Gaia) and Doris the sea goddess. Galatea means she who is milk-white. The name was also given to the statue of woman by Pygmalion of Cyprus, who came to life in Greek mythology. When roosting, these beautiful butterflies are most certainly statuesque! They are usually found on moist, chalky ground in southern England, were they can gather in large numbers in July. It really is an amazing sight! Another amazing fact about the marbled white is that they are drawn to purple flowers, usually seen feeding on wild oregano, knapweed and thistles.

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#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Ragged Beauty

Ragged Beauty

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Ragged Beauty

Ragged Beauty

Such ragged beauty
Rising from the forest floor
Reaching for the light

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#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Circe’s Magic

Circe's Magic

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Circe’s Magic

Circe’s Magic

Dainty enchantress
Weave your mystical magic
Can you heal the world

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#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Myths And Moths

Six Spot Burnet

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Myths And Moths

Myths And Moths

It’s a myth that moths
Only ever fly at night
Colour loves daylight