The Colours of Summer


June is surely the greenest month in the calendar. Perhaps it's just a bit too green for some. The coming of July resolves this, by adding just a hint of red and yellow into fields and pastures. Corn fields start to ripen and by August, the parched fields will have dispersed their seeds and begun to die back. Happily, there's still plenty of time to enjoy the countryside, as the sun continues to shine until 9.15pm and twilight lasts until 10.30.

2014 has been a terrible year for wild poppies in Sussex, but a potentially lucrative one for farmers. Favourable sowing weather in autumn 2013 lead to farmers using their arable land for wheat production. Summer 2014 will produce a bumper yield of grain. If you love the sight of poppies, then a wet autumn is your ally.  

After a mild winter and warm spring, the first Marbled White butterflies were on the wing by June 20th, a full 10 days earlier than normal. They can be found in meadows all over England and live for about 21 days. I spent two hours with a roosting female and male (see last photo) in a vast meadow on the eastern edge of Friston Forest. The red object on the male is a parasite called Trombidium breei, which feeds on its blood. I counted 6 mites in total. A major infestation can potentially kill the butterfly.

Half-a-mile along a path beginning in the village of West Dean is a meadow nestled between Friston Forest and Exceat Wood. This unplanted part of the forest is sheltered from the wind and therefore ideal for macro work. Time always flies past when I'm completely absorbed in butterflies. Friston Forest may be a 20 mile bus journey from home, but nowhere else locally has such a vast range of subjects and locations. We wait months for butterflies to appear and they're around for such a short period of time. It's like spending the day with a friend you won't see again for another year.

A methodical approach is essential when photographing butterflies. Since they are cold-blooded, I always photograph butterflies when they are inactivated by cooler evening temperatures. Winds have to be very light or non-existent, but nevertheless I still utilise an array of sticks and clothes pegs to secure plant stems and prevent any movement. The camera sensor and wings have to be in perfect alignment, otherwise only part of the butterfly will be in focus. It can take two hours and 300 shots to produce the final result. 


Waterpit Hill, South Downs

Balmer Huff

The Gate

Fireweed    Wild Woodland Foxgloves

Marbled White on Pyramid Orchid

Marbled White, Friston Forest

Red Admiral, Friston Forest

Marbled White on Pyramid Orchid, Friston Forest    Mating Six-spot Burnet Moths

Marbled White, female and male

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