The shadow on the wing is from a nearby blade of grass. The sun was low in the morning sky. The butterfly was holding its wings square with the sun so that I could only photograph it from an angle to avoid getting my own shadow in the way. I was fortunate that the butterfly stayed stationary for me to get a nice series of pictures from which to choose today’s One Picture a Day. I really could not quibble with the shadow from that blade of grass. Mid-morning, as the sun just rises above the trees, is a good time to photograph butterflies. They are still cold from the night, making them slower. They pause for relatively long periods of time in the bright sunshine with wings spread to warm up.
Mourning Cloak butterflies overwinter as adults, hibernating beneath loose bark. They emerge on the first warm spell of the year to get a head start on the next generation. This fellow looks as if he has been through the winter. Interestingly, behind me at this location is a pond that had a green darner dragonfly patrolling at the very moments I was photographing the mourning cloak. Green darners actually migrate from the south. This green darner was especially ambitious to arrive so close to the heels of the below-freezing weather we had not just five days ago.
The camera was a Nikon D90. The lens was the 70-300mm AF-S ED VR, held at the full 300mm focal length. I find the 300mm range to be a good one for butterflies. It allows you to get close enough to fill most of the frame on a medium or larger butterfly with less chance of spooking it. In aperture-priority mode, I set the aperture at f/11 for sharpness; the shutter was auto-set at 1/250. With VR vibration reduction there’s virtually no camera shake visible in the photograph, even at 300mm. I set the ISO on auto as well so that I could keep the shutter speed high enough to avoid shake without having to fiddle with the settings further. At this sunny location, the ISO set itself at a very low grain 320.