I felt like a runway fashion show photographer, crouched, trying to shoot around and between all the things in my way. Never as close as I wanted to be, I waited for my subject to offer just the right pose, talking all the while.
I said things like: “Turn just a little.
Not so much tilt.
Show me the other side of that wing!
Almost, Baby, just move a little this direction.
I need you in the light.
Awkward leg—see if you can do something with that.
C’mon, you know the pose I want.
Hold still! ”
All these and more I muttered while peering through a viewfinder and hoping to score a decent shot. Frankly, I would starve to death if I was actually a fashion photographer. The ratio of “keepers” to garbage is pretty low in my photo sets.
I was simultaneously struck by the absurdity of what I do (crouch in an overgrown meadow talking to creatures who don’t care what I want, hoping to just capture a moment of natural beauty for no particular reason except to share it with people who might not otherwise see it) and the searing pain of a coordinated attack by about three dozen Fire Ants.
Fire Ants are sneaky. They both bite and sting and like to bite you to hold on while they sting and inject painful venom. They board their victim stealthily and will coordinate an attack with their fellows by releasing a chemical signal that it’s time to attack once a bunch of them have climbed on and spread out far enough to do some harm to their target.
I had to abandon my handsome but indifferent model–there were fiery little attackers to deal with– but not before I was able to catch him by accident in a few poses I really do like. I never did get the iconic shot I wanted with both wing surfaces showing and the evening light glinting off the silver spangles on the outer wings, but I think he has a bright career ahead of him if he ever learns to take direction.
Things to know: Gulf Fritillary male (the females have more dark patterning on the wings, which I learned roughly 20 minutes ago), and Shiny Goldenrod, Solidago nitida, a pollinator favorite for late summer.