Butterfly Wedding Favors – Cheap But Beautiful Gifts For Your Guests

From the time you were a little girl, you’ve been thinking about falling in love and getting married so you can have the wedding of your dreams. Now that you are engaged and you’re actually planning your big day you can have anything you want. The best part of planning your wedding is being able to pick out all the things that will make your day extra special.

Butterfly candle holders. There are so many sweet choices when it comes to using butterfly shaped or accented candleholders as wedding favors for your guests. You can find candle holders in any color or size and fill them with different colored candles, scented gels or even flower buds. Butterfly candleholders bring a child-like wonder to your wedding favors and décor. This is something your guests will remember with fondness for some time after your big day.

Butterfly Tea lights. Butterfly tea-lights are a whimsical touch to any wedding. You can buy them to match votives or mix and match the colors to go along with your wedding décor or accessories. They are very sweet when grouped together in bowls, on candle plates or set on place settings for guests to enjoy. You may want to go with some of the butterfly floating tea-lights placed in vases and bowls filled with water to give the appearance that they are “flying” in the air. They give off a wonderful glow when lit and add to the magic of your wedding day.

Butterfly card holders. Place holders in the shape of butterflies, with fluttery wings and bright sparkly colors are simply wonderful to use as wedding favors. And they’re relatively inexpensive gifts that can be purchased or made ahead of time with lots of embellishments. Set them on tables to help your wedding guests sit together in appropriate places or to assign sections for adults and children. Guests can take them home after the wedding and use them to hold photos of the bride and groom or their other happy memories of the big day.

Butterfly bookmarks. Want to enjoy the fairytale long after the wedding day? Then consider using butterfly bookmarks as wedding favors. These can be made or purchased cheaply and set at each place setting for guests or placed in baskets for the wedding attendants or ushers to hand out to guests. Imprint them with the bride and groom names and wedding date so your special day will always be remembered. These are wonderful keepsakes for the family bible as well.

Butterfly picture frames. Love to show off your engagement or wedding photos? Then use butterfly shaped or embellished picture frames to display copies of cherished photos for your guests to take home. These are lovely and can be used later on for anniversary celebrations or to display at home after your dream wedding day.

Motodops, Rice Fields and Butterflies

Whilst staying in the Beautiful Cambodian City of Siem Reap we decided to go and look at the butterflies at The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre. This small centre is owned and run by local people for the benefit of all the local rice farming families. The journey from The City to the centre is about 20 Km and is almost as good as the centre itself.

We took a motodop from town, favouring these motorbike drawn landaus over the cars every time. It’s a very pleasant way to travel, seated in the back, enjoying the views and joking with the driver. Leaving Siem Reap we headed out North passing Angkor Wat on the way. Just by Angkor Wat, monkeys gathered at the side of the road to beg or steal food from anyone who stopped to look at them.

Once past The Temples of Angkor, the countryside opens up to present a vista more in keeping with the Khmer wilderness that we have seen so often on TV and in movies. The local people live an extremely frugal life style. Residing in houses of reeds and leaves that stand on stilts cut from local trees, they farm rice and make and sell arts and crafts to visitors passing by. Excited children shrieked out a welcome as we drove past and their parents waved and offered friendly smiles to everyone. We waved back as the many rice paddies came and went from our gaze. This is such a beautiful part of the world. The jungle is always just within sight, the farmers cultivate right up to the edge of the impenetrable wilderness, which has born witness to many wars over the centuries.

After about 40 minutes we arrived at out destination. The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre is a small pleasant place, run by young boys who have an excited passion for their work. They breed the butterflies from egg to caterpillar, look after them as they change to pupae and enjoy them as they emerge in riotous colour to fly freely inside the large netted area. They have an extremely impressive collection of wild local plants and flowers on which their charges feed and rest.

We strolled about amongst the beautiful plants as our guide explained the different species and the way they breed them. They collect the eggs and put them into plastic tubs until the caterpillars hatch. Then they are placed in larger containers. As they change into the pupa stage of their metamorphosis, they are fastened onto bamboo sticks and placed into net sided, wooden cupboards. The doors are opened daily and any butterflies that have emerged, fly free within the netted area.

Our young guide showed us a cage with large stick insects, at first we thought they were the branches to the foliage within, but soon realised that the foot long sticks were in fact what we were looking for. Much more difficult to spot were the leaf insects. These small creatures are so well camouflaged it took even our guide 10 minutes or more to find one.

We stayed a couple of hours before returning to our motodop for the journey back into town. The driver went a slightly different route to give us different points of interest to look at. These drivers are very good and will stay with you for a full day for about US$20.

Back in town we sank a few cold beers and looked at our photos. This is a trip well worth doing for anyone, for families with small children it is a must.

Gearing Up For Travel – Making Better Photo Equipment Choices

I love to take photos, visit new places near home and take trips to other countries. No matter what the occasion, I run through a mental checklist to determine what photography equipment to pack. Once I committed to digital photography in 2003 I eliminated film canisters and thus one bulge in my baggage. I transitioned to the digital age with the Nikon Coolpix 4500, which is quite compact and versatile. A few years later I purchased a Nikon D50 (DSLR). This new equipment meant I had many more decisions to make before leaving home.

The basics
Essential basics for either camera are extra rechargeable batteries, the charging device and a few memory cards. After that, choices multiply very quickly. When I was using the Coolpix I got interested in wide-angle exposures, so I invested in a lens for that. In preparation for a trip to the Norwegian Arctic in 2004 I was concerned about getting better color saturation and removing reflections, so I bought a polarizing filter. It isn’t a big item, but something else to include in my bag. I always consider the best equipment to preserve my photos during a trip. How will I review, edit, manage and show them off during a trip? My solution has always been to take my laptop computer with the AC power cord. The camera itself is still reasonably compact, but the support elements really add up.

Image storage
There is another choice to manage my images when I’m traveling. That hardware is referred to, in general terms, as a portable digital storage device. Other than a computer, this is a secure and highly efficient method to download, review, sort, and back up my images on the road. These devices include products like Smart Disk Trax (80GB), Sandisk Sansa Pocket Media Player, two models from Epson (P3000 and P5000) and Canon M80; and the list goes on. Prices range between $500-600 for those with a higher storage capacity and more functions. While the cost is substantial, such equipment does provide a compact and efficient way to safeguard photos when traveling. Unless you will be using your laptop for other functions like email, you might want to consider leaving it home.

My backpack
As I became more committed to the digital photography world and reclaimed my love of taking photos from the bygone days of my Minolta 201, I purchased a photography backpack (Tamrac Adventure 9) and dedicate it to the essentials first. If there is any room left after the camera gear is in, I squeeze in the iPod and headset, a flashlight and perhaps my medical supplies. I’m always surprised at how heavy that pack can become in a very short time. Most recently I bought the Tamrac Velocity 9x, which goes over only one shoulder, and I can carry almost all the gear from the backpack with the exception of my laptop. What I like about this one is that since it is on only one shoulder I can swing it around in front of me and everything is immediately accessible.

As mentioned earlier, I now use a DSLR, which means I have at least two lenses to consider taking; my most frequent choice is the Nikon (18-135mm & 70-300mm VR). I love these two especially because they both take 67mm filters. This means I only need one polarizing filter and one neutral density filter adapter for both. During a trip to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands in 2007 I added the Arctic Butterfly dust-cleaning tool to my pack along with the lighted loupe. I had a prior bad experience with dust on my sensor and didn’t want to be confronted with an emergency like that at the end of the world. Another must in my bag is a large hand blower. In order to minimize the space required for that, I compress the bulb and tie it with a Velcro strap.

Speed-light and tripod
For a fill light and highlighting the brilliant colors of the King Penguins of South Georgia I used my Nikon SB600. It’s small and light enough to be comfortable in a belt pouch where it is ready and easily accessible. In that cold climate the batteries stayed warm under my parka. I’ve always believed that keeping them warm prolongs their life. I use rechargeable NiMH batteries in the 2600-2900mAh range, which gives me ample service between charges.

For nighttime shots or longer exposures, I carry my little electronic shutter release, which fits neatly in a case and hangs from the camera strap. Oh yes, and how do I take the long exposures at night, you ask? I forgot to mention, I also carry a tripod. My choices are a heavy-duty Bogen or a lighter version Manfrotto. When I’m not pressed to capture images of animals on the move like birds in flight, my tripod serves me well. One must realize the advantage or disadvantage of each type. The better tripods give you the additional choice of an adjustable swivel head, which can easily add another two pounds or more.

As for flying birds in Antarctica, I found that my monopod was actually a better tool for stabilizing my 300mm lens because it allowed me to move quickly and to follow the target. The steadiest of youthful hands will find that even a ‘stabilized’ lens can be improved by a physical support to ensure the sharpest image. Stabilized lenses are a wonderful advancement in technology, but having a physical support to ensure the best image is still a time proven method. Mounting my camera on a tripod also forces me to spend more time thinking about all the elements of my exposures.

In the end, all these and even more choices are part of the fun of photography. It is still up to you, based on your degree of interest, finances and motivation whether you hang a 12x super zoom point and shoot around your neck or pack all your toys like a survival weekend in the mountains.

The choice is yours
With more than one bag to select from, I’ve expanded my options of what to take based on the anticipated conditions of light, weather and subject. In preparation for my 2008 adventure in the Baltic from St. Petersburg to Copenhagen, I seriously thought about leaving my long lens home since I would be in cities where people and architecture were the subjects. At the last minute I caved in and took the big one too. I used it twice. Was it necessary? Probably not, but I have some shots I would not have gotten without it. I suppose that is why for some, the newest big zooms that can range from 18-300mm are certainly an option.

My conclusion is to have fun and experiment. As a famous cowboy used to say, “Happy Trails”, and hope to see you out there.

Figural Costume Jewelry – Bugs, Bees and Butterflies

Figural jewelry pieces are little works of art, in the shapes of people, plants, animals, places and things. Both vintage and contemporary jewelry designers look to nature for inspiration.

In this article we’ll focus on the insect world. The gorgeous colors of butterflies, the rotund bodies of bees, the many shapes of other bugs lend themselves to some of the most beautiful and popular figural jewelry. People who get the willies just thinking about insects are often avid collectors, and will wear their “love bugs” with pride.

Trifari “Jelly Belly” designs of the 1940s lent themselves to insect motifs, due to the round lucite “bellies” that can look just like a bug’s abdomen. They came in all the colors found in nature, and some that were found only in the imagination of the designer.

Rhinestones made wings and legs sparkle and glow. A large rhinestone could be the body of the bug, and the wings could be studded with smaller rhinestones in an all-over pattern. Oval shaped rhinestones were perfect for wings, and Aurora Borealis iridescent rhinestones made them shine. Little rhinestones became sparkling eyes.

The bright colors of Lucite and Bakelite were perfect for insect pins. The carvings on plastic jewelry made for some intricate details. Art glass could be made iridescent just like the body of a beetle. Starting a collection of insect figural jewelry, or adding them to your collection, is a great way to focus on a particular style. Some real finds are still out there.

The bee pin in the photo has red Aurora Borealis rhinestones on the wings and dark red rhinestones on the eyes and body. It was found at a thrift store for $1.99! As always, inspect any piece you want to buy very carefully. Use that jeweler’s loupe or a strong magnifying glass to look for flaws, and with luck you’ll also find the signature of the designer.

Watch for the next article on figural costume jewelry – the selection is virtually unlimited!