Waiting for a Butterfly – A Series of Photo Shoots

One of the first photo projects I thought of submitting to Dreamstime was the life cycle of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. When I saw the caterpillars devouring my parsley in the backyard, I knew I had to take the photo opp.

I snipped off a half-eaten parsley branch that had one of the caterpillars and took it to my desktop studio for a shoot. Afterwards, I put the worm back in the parsley bush to let it go on with its business.

The worm was alien to me, so I had to do some online research. As soon as I was able to identify it, the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, I typed up the keywords and submitted my best shot to Dreamstime. The photo was accepted! I was so excited!

Several days later, I revisited the parsley and there was a cocoon! Again, I snipped the cocooned twig off and propped it for a shoot. After taking a few frames, I put the twig inside a glass jar and covered it with netting material, just in case the butterfly comes out when I’m not watching. I captured a few more frames. Dreamstime accepted these photos too. All I had to do was wait for the butterfly to emerge, so that I could complete my life cycle.

My online research told me that this butterfly usually emerges in about two weeks. This particular one emerged after almost two months – I was getting anxious that I might have killed it. Because I checked on the cocoon at least twice a day, I immediately noticed the butterfly just a few minutes after it emerged, so I was able to do a photo shoot before it was ready to fly away (too bad I missed the actual breakout from the cocoon).

I took photos of the butterfly while it was still inside the jar because I wasn’t sure how soon it would be able to fly. Then I slowly removed the netting and pulled out the twig with the butterfly clinging to it. For several minutes, the Swallowtail just held on to the twig, waiting for its wings to fully unfurl.

I gently turned the twig so that I could get a better angle (I used a stand with an alligator clip to hold the twig). The butterfly was sensitive to movement so whenever it felt threatened, it spread its wings. It was tricky, trying to capture the open wings, because the butterfly would display for just a few seconds. I had to coax it to open up and I had to use continuous shooting to grab the exact moment of the full spread.

When I finally had several frames to choose from, I put the twig and the butterfly out in the garden so that it can flutter away and do whatever it is butterflies do. It flew away after an hour. As to my butterfly photos, yes, Dreamstime accepted them!

A month later, I saw a different caterpillar – the Giant Swallowtail. On our citrus tree this time. But that will be another story, and a different photo shoot.

Photo credits: Ruby B. Llamas.

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February 04, 2011


great story and great photos! I love the challenge of shooting butterflies but I have yet to find a good chrysallis, I have thought of even ordering one from a supplier but would rather find one. Thanks for sharing this story.

January 31, 2011


Great story, great photos !

January 31, 2011


Great story!

January 30, 2011


It is very good!!!

January 30, 2011


Great job!

January 30, 2011


A beautiful story of patience! I hope you get rewarded with nice sales, in any case it seemed like you had lots of fun with this project :-) I really like the shot with the butterfly and the cocoon

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