The fall of 2001 brought a Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) to my garden on a cool day to sip nectar from a cosmos flower. While it spread its wings wide to warm in the sun I snapped a photo, adding a bit of fill flash to enhance the depth of field and stop motion from the wind and the butterfly's movement.
A spell of frosty days preceded this one so the scene in this photo is not exactly what was in the viewfinder at the time. The flower was damaged by the frost and the butterfly had two small pieces missing from its wings. At the time I thought the butterfly was such a beauty that it would be a shame not to take the picture and attempt some retouching work to make a digital version. As you can see from the results, it was worth the effort.
Most of my photography has the goal of accurately depicting a scene when it happened. In this case I made an exception in the interest of the artistic potential in the image. In some ways it represents a fusion of two moments in time: the moment before the frosts took away the pristine beauty of the flower, and the moment when the butterfly was at its peak of perfection--perhaps before a close call with a bird trying to make a meal of it. The combination of the two exists only in my imagination, and now yours too. I will always make a commitment in my art to let the viewer know when I've retouched an image and to do retouching infrequently. The full detail view shows the original image for comparison.
Cosmos flowers are easy to grow and are a great plant for attracting butterflies to one's yard. Click here for more information on adding food and nectar plants for butterflies to your garden.
Also see the photo of a closely related butterfly, the American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis).