Butterfly Photography: Passion Plus Patience

 

Pierella helvetia incanescense, Finca Cantaros

Pierella helvetia incanescense, Finca Cantaros

“It’s the exhilaration when you finally get the shot.” So answers graphic designer Liz Allen of Concepcion in our county of Coto Brus, Costa Rica, when I asked her what drives her. She spends hours waiting for perfect conditions of light and no wind in which to pursue her passion: photographing butterflies in their natural habitat. There is almost a tenderness in the way she responds to a butterfly that shows up during our interview. Liz leaps up as if nothing could be as important as observing where this butterfly is landing and how its flight resumes, up, down and sideways, testing leaf and flower surfaces as if choreographed by evolutionary strings. In seconds it disappears, absorbed by the morning sun and by the flowering bushes around Liz’s home.

Sulphur Butterfly, Phoebis philea, Finca Cantaros

Sulphur Butterfly, Phoebis philea, Finca Cantaros

Liz, her husband and young child left secure lives in Arizona a few years ago to

Liz Allen soon after learning her Kickstarter campaign was funded

Liz Allen soon after learning her Kickstarter campaign was funded

pursue their dreams of creative work, telecommuting and freelance entrepreneurship in a healthy environment. And now fulfillment comes in a form that Liz would never have imagined just a short time ago: a new self-published book coming off the presses later this year, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign for publication costs and associated rewards. Seventy individual investors made publishing Liz’s photos of 88 live butterflies (and many of their nectar and host plants) possible, not only in an attractive hardcover book, Pura Mariposa, but also in ebook, smart phone wallpaper, calendar and greeting card format.

Mesosemia carissima, Finca Cantaros, feasting on minerals in bird excrement

Mesosemia carissima, Finca Cantaros, feasting on minerals in bird excrement

 

Liz credits our mutual friend, Alison Olivieri, president of the San Vito Bird Club and consummate naturalist, with being the perfect mentor for the project. “She tricked me into arriving at the mental place where I really thought I could do this.” Another friend suggested a kids’ guide to butterflies, an idea now moving from the back to the front of Liz’s creative mind. Liz consulted with Costa Rica’s foremost butterfly expert, Isidro Chacon, to be sure all butterfly identifications are accurate.

Heliconius doris viridis, Finca Cantaros

Heliconius doris viridis, Finca Cantaros

 

Throughout my years in the area I too have tried to photograph butterflies, and if I get one good one for every 30 shots or so, I consider myself lucky. Here are some of my best efforts, in tribute, to illustrate how delighted I am (as are all of Liz’s local friends) with her thrilling achievement. It will not only be an artistically beautiful picture book, but a very useful guide, showing both the dorsal and ventral wings of the butterflies.

I dedicate this post to Liz’s supreme dedication, to butterfly conservation, and to great mentors everywhere. When a mentor can drink the nectar of her prodigy’s success, it must be pretty sweet.

 

Siproeta stelenes biplagiata, known as the Malachite Butterfly, Finca Cantaros

Siproeta stelenes biplagiata, known as the Malachite Butterfly, Finca Cantaros

 

Click here to order Liz Allen’s book or other related products.

 

 

 

Jose Pablo Castillo

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