Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Nature

07 October 2013


1. Butterfly Weed Silk, iPhone 4s, October 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

1. The Silk of the Butterfly Milkweed, iPhone 4s, October 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Butterfly Weed Seed, iPhone 4s, October 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Butterfly Milkweed, Seed, iPhone 4s, October 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer and why.


If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Phoneography Challenge, please contact me.

I feel the pressure—the urgency. With my weighty time in nature I barely saw a monarch butterfly here or there during my summer outings. And in August and September there was not a caterpillar in sight on my butterfly milkweed–the plant that is most important to sustain their future.

Truly, it’s more than worrisome. Reports continue about the monarchs free fall, and their misfortune is only one among countless others.

Nature works hard and tirelessly to create and develop symbiotic relationships. One of those is the partnership between the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and the Butterfly Milkweed.

Fortunately, this perennial is native to Delaware: we have two varieties, Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). For this post I will focus on the former.

Asclepias tuberosa’s heavily clustered, orangey-flowered plant acts as host to this butterfly’s life cycle. So I dedicate this post to the seeds and silks that carry the plant’s survival kit.

Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, Google Images

In the Lens section is an image of the silk that acts as parachutes to carry the seed to unknown destinations. The second image shows a seed that measures approximately 1/8″ long and seems flat to the naked eye, but the macro tells us a different story.

Every year I add these perky plants to my gardens, experimenting with exposures and location. Finally, I have two divergent sites (east and south) that are producing both greenery and flowers.

During this gardening season seedpods were numerous, and the silky threads have been landing with their usual quietude. Suddenly, I find them tied around some unsuspecting neighboring plants or distant areas. They encourage my hopes that the more produced, the more chances for the monarch to continue its longevity.

Here are two images that I took in 2011 with my Nikon DSLR: 1. Seedpod, silk and seeds and 2. Monarch butterfly devouring a green seedpod:

Butterfly Milkweed, Nikon DSLR, August 2011; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Butterfly Milkweed, Nikon DSLR, August 2011; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Monarch Catepillar, Nikon DSLR, August 2011; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Monarch Caterpillar, Nikon DSLR, August 2011; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

While the decline of monarchs is very much connected to human intervention (loss of prime habitats as well as ramifications of climate change), I’ve also read that there is a tendency for some people to view the milkweed plant as a weed: meaning that they work to eliminate it.

In my part of the universe we revere this native. So I’m hoping to spread the word: plant and maybe they will come.

Advocacy is running high, and I hope that the monarch will recover and continue its important role on our planet. Here is a video that explains the issues. Please watch “The Plight of the Monarch.” It’s worth the time:

Tip of the Week: While my snail mail has been reduced to a minimum, the monthly arrival of National Geographic Magazine is a glorious visual gift. This publication can be read online (, but I prefer a slow read on my screened-in porch where nature floods inside with songbirds’ melodies and sunlight’s gaze. The October issue astounds: the “125th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, The Photo Issue.” Since 1888 viewers have been privy to the glory of our planet through the organization’s efforts. The photograph has been integral to the NG’s ability to celebrate humanity and nature–the interwoven story. I encourage you to get a copy, which can be bought in bookstores (if you can find one) and newsstands (if you can find one). Or subscribe online or by snail mail.

National Geographic Magazine. The Photo Issue, October 2013

National Geographic MagazineThe Photo Issue, October 2013

View other entries:

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog.

Here’s a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Phoneography Challenges:      

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black-and-White

4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

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52 Responses to Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Nature

  1. thirdeyemom says:

    Gorgeous. I love the intricacy of the first photo but I like the second as well. I love your eye for capturing such beautiful, fascinating shots! 🙂

  2. A perfect vision to start my day! Have a great week ahead.

  3. munchow says:

    As always you pictures are gorgeous. My favourite this time is the first one, the black and white image. I just like the structures and the fluffiness of the silk. Wonderful light.

  4. Tina Schell says:

    Excellent post. We are on the monarchs’ migratory path and see so many – have not noticed fewer this year but worth checking it out with our naturalists.

  5. These are just beautiful Sally. I live the warm tones in the second image.

  6. Gallivanta says:

    You may remember some of my posts (during our last summer) when I had a very successful monarch butterfly season. It was the first time I had planted specifically for the monarchs and I was astonished by the results. Some of the late hatching monarchs must have hibernated during the winter because I was surprised to see some this past weekend. I don’t know what sustenance there is for the butterflies at this time of the year. I hope they are sheltering well tonight because we have a sudden return to winter-like conditions.

  7. Sally — Both frames are well executed on your iPhone, but I’ll lean a bit on frame-2. I like it’s colorfully, well lit view. Here’s my offering for the week: A River, a Bridge and Some Flowers —

    And, thanks for the tip about the NatGeo 25th edition of photography. Should be a great read/viewing.

  8. #1 .. love the silky threads that are showed up so well by the contrast of black and white. The story of the monarch butterfly and the milkweed is interesting. I was always fretting about the mealybugs that keep reappearing in my few meagre pots of plants… and routinely sprayed the plants with neem oil. I am humbled by your efforts to grow plants that sustain the monarch.

  9. marialla says:

    Wow, interesting – what kind of phone do you have to capture such beautiful pictures? More interesting – what beautiful eyes you have to see such beauty!!

  10. My favorite is the black and white, although I do like the second picture too!

  11. Amar Naik says:

    First photo is what attracts my attention. First it looked like hair. But when i read the description, I understood it was silk of the Butterfly Milkweed 🙂

  12. I love the first one, and the black and white is so effective in that shot. I also had that kind of subject in mind when I took my entry yesterday, ( it is Monday a day earlier in my part of the world, so I had my entry all ready to go).
    And the declining biodiversity is surely worrisome! Let’s hope things improve soon.

  13. What lovely images today Sally, I am adding my vote for the first one. Your detail is beautiful! I wasn’t aware of the relationship between Monarch butterflies and the Butterfly Milkweed, thanks for such an informative post. My phoneography nature image can be found here:

  14. Surprising or not I did caterpillar and milkweed today, too. No matter what the subject today I was going to post my caterpillar.
    Thanks Carol

  15. The first one is positively entrancing. Abstract with the suggestion of organic movement. And I tend to be partial to black and white. 😉 I’m so concerned about the environment as well. I’ve been reading a lot of articles about the slow demise (or maybe we can turn it around?) of the honey bee. My name actually means “honey bee,” so perhaps I tend to identify more than some. I wasn’t going to enter the challenge this week, but ended up capturing something this afternoon:

  16. Beautiful, entrancing nature photos! My favorite is definitely the first photo and I love that it’s in black and white. It may be a still photo, but there is so much life and whimsy about it! Like the silk is dancing! I also love the lighting and how the light adds shimmer and movement to the photo. Great work and happy Phoneography Monday! 🙂

  17. Steve says:

    I really like the first one – so detailed and intricate. Here’s my entry
    Phoneography Challenge: Nature | Steve Says….

  18. The top image is stunning and literally could be made into a piece of art.

  19. pattisj says:

    I’ve only seen a couple of Monarchs this fall, and no caterpillars on the milkweed. I even planted extra this year. I’m keeping the butterfly nectar feeder out, in case any weary travelers stop by.

  20. lenaericsson says:

    It is so Important to take care of the environment. One of the resons are that without all our pollinators there will will be no food for us…If we cannot take care of the environment for it´s own sake we should at least do it for a selfish reason! Beautiful pictures both of them. I cannot choose.

  21. Angeline M says:

    I love what seems to me like a surprise exploding in that first photo.
    I’ve chosen a lowly creature for my entry this round:

  22. Lignum Draco says:

    I prefer the 1st photo for the simplicity of B&W and the composition.

  23. Nancy Power says:

    What a great post! Your photos are truly beautiful (I love the fist one especially) and the piece you have written is very interesting – and passionate!. We haven’t seen many butterflies of any kind here in the UK this summer, except an abundance of Cabbage Whites, but little else. You have made me see if I can get some milkweed seeds and see if they will grow here – it can’t hurt to try after all. Even if I can’t encourage some Monarchs, the bees might be interested?
    Thank you for a wonderful and inspiring post!

    • Absolutely, we also have had an abundance of cabbage butterflies. Tried to grow purple cabbage. Rigged a netting, and lo and behold one white cabbage butterfly got inside the netting and ate to its heart’s content. I appreciate your comment. Thanks.

  24. I like the ethereal quality of the first photo, but there’s such lovely texture in the second that I think I’ll go with a toss-up. Bees are also a threatened group so I’m always pleased when our plants attract them. At our old house, I’d planted lavender and the bees loved that. Hopefully I can find a place for some at our rental, although it’s pretty much landscaped full.


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