Story Behind The Image: Robert Canis

20 October 2015

Region: London

Story Behind The Image:  Robert Canis


Continuing our series of stories behind images, award-winning wildlife and landscape photographer, Robert Canis, shares the story behind his marbled white butterfly.


One of the distinct advantages to working, predominantly, close to home is that I have regular contact with my subjects and in doing so puts me in the position of visiting the location regularly and at the drop of a hat, when conditions are favourable. I was out strolling on the North Downs just 10 minutes from where I live. Fragrant, bee and man orchids had all gone over and, in their place, pyramidal orchids were in abundance as were burnet moths and marbled white butterflies. It had been a long time since I photographed the latter and now, with so many present and so close to home, it seemed the perfect opportunity to catch up with them.    


With clear skies and still mornings forecast for the next few days and remembering the saying that I religiously abide by in my photography – “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” - I knew that this would be my best opportunity to photograph them as for all I knew, strong winds and rain could come along over the next week or two and put pay to all hope of photographing them in such pristine condition.


I chose to work from dawn until just after sunrise as not only are they easier to get close to but conditions are more akin to how I wanted to capture them. With such an early rise (3.30am) everything was prepared the previous evening, right down to water bottle, bagel and keys by the door. And, as I loaded up the car, I put on my waterproof trousers and wellingtons, knowing that the grassland was to be soaked in dew. Preparation such as this, just makes life easier when you are leaving so early.


Upon arrival, a low mist hugged the hills and spider’s webs festooned in dew linked grass stems. A beautiful sight. Through bleary eyes I began searching for the marbled whites which took all of 30 seconds! I saw them on the heads of scabious and knapweed, high up on grass stems and on ground-hugging vetch. Given the density of the grass and lack of space in which to set up I ignored these and headed uphill to where I had seen them previously. I located one on a knapweed which I worked on until post sunrise. Satisfied with what I had obtained I began the walk back to the car when just 50 metres from it I spotted this individual which, due to its positioning, had gone un-noticed earlier. I could, immediately, see the potential and was how I envisaged portraying them when I first set out. In a flash, all those I had taken earlier were sent to the back of my mind and the camera, for the final time that morning, was brought back out of the bag.


Image:  Marbled White Butterfly © Robert Canis


See more of Robert’s work on his website.


Robert regularly runs workshops and landscape tours both in the UK and overseas. Our London Events Co-Ordinator, Lorraine Grey LRPS, has just returned from one of Robert’s tours to Lapland and thoroughly recommends them.


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