Swallowtail's a winning shot for Wheaton photographer

  • Tony Lyons of Wheaton won first place in our August Photo Finish contest for this shot of a swallowtail butterfly.

    Tony Lyons of Wheaton won first place in our August Photo Finish contest for this shot of a swallowtail butterfly.

By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted9/20/2015 11:00 AM

It's happened more than once.

Tony Lyons sometimes will spot a picture-perfect scene, suitable for framing, as he drives Cantigny Park guests from one spectacular garden to another aboard the Wheaton park's covered tram.


Recently, it was the sudden appearance of a majestic raptor that caught his eye.

"A beautiful red-tailed hawk had landed on a post," the Wheaton man said. "It was almost as if he had posed for a shot."

Alas, Lyons was without his camera that day as he tended to his volunteer driving duties, so the scene is recorded only in his memory.

Luckily, the retired school psychologist was prepared to capture images when he saw a tiger swallowtail butterfly alighting on a thick knot of green leaves in a Cantigny garden. His photograph is the winner of our August Photo Finish contest.

"I actually was looking for dragonflies and butterflies," said the Wheaton resident, who said he's been an amateur photographer for more than 30 years.

Using a digital Nikon D90 mounted on a tripod, Lyons shot the frame with a 70-200 mm zoom lens.

"I had it all the way out at 200. I wanted to focus on the butterfly and not the background," he said, adding that he used a wide aperture.

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"When I got it back, I really wanted to accentuate the color in the butterfly," he said.

He used a feature in Photoshop to make the background black and white.

"The photographer took a radical approach to separate the subject from what would have been a very busy background. I think it results in a very striking photo," said DuPage Photo Director Scott Sanders.

As the monthly winner, Lyons will receive a $50 gift certificate from PJ's Camera in Pickwick Place Plaza, 662 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn.

The prize money, he said, will go right back into his photography avocation. He said he'll likely invest in filters for his camera.

Lyons, whose photographs have been featured several times among the weekly entries in the Daily Herald Photo Finish contest, said he chose the butterfly photo as his monthly contest entry for several reasons.


"I liked the coloration of the butterfly. I liked the setting the butterfly was in. I liked the composition of the picture in terms of how I was able to frame it," he said.

Lyons said the butterfly picture wasn't the first time he tried out the muted background feature.

"I have used that technique on other things, but not on nature, believe it or not," he said. "I have taken wedding pictures, I've taken a lot of receptions, but I really enjoy nature shots -- landscapes, butterflies, mountains."

Lyons said he's had the opportunity to shoot photos in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. The Canadian park is perhaps best-known for its ski runs.

When Lyons visited Banff, he said, he was more taken with and impressed by nature's artwork than the ski slopes.

"It's absolutely gorgeous," he said. "I have tons of pictures from there, several years ago."

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