The Butterfly Tattoo – Which One is Right For You?

The butterfly tattoo has to be one of the best loved of inks. You may already know that the word for indelible figures inked on your body came from tatau, which is both Tahitian and Samoan. Nearly everyone in Polynesian society was tattooed, as it was an indicator of rank, social function, accomplishments and family. Although you see “tattoo” written in the dictionary, many people prefer to write this design style as “butterfly tattoo”, maybe in tribute to the exotic origins of the word.

The butterfly tattoo is used by men and women alike. This beautiful, light-as-a-feather insect has a full set of symbolism in every part of the world, although it means different things to different people. But whether you are from China, Ireland, Zaire or New Zealand, the lepidopteran is associated with the soul. It’s something we all have in common, and probably a major reason for the picturesque design’s universal appeal.

Butterfly tattoo design is nearly as varied as the insect itself, of which five hundred sixty-one varieties are known! That would be like a whole book if I wrote about them all, so I thought maybe to write about just one of the most popular designs that I’ve seen around.

Maybe you’ve heard of it: the tribal butterfly tattoo. It’s a stylized type of artwork that is not strictly photo-realistic. This is kind of nice, because realistic butterflies can never quite look like the real thing anyway. So why not go with your imagination and have your own unique tribal lepidopteran design?

Black lepidopteran designs are the ones seen most often – when they’re tribal, anyway. There might be lots of reasons for this, but two that come immediately to mind are highlighting the actual design over the color, and the color schemes of your ink clashing with your clothes.

There are so many great ideas to choose from when selecting the butterfly tattoo of your dreams. Some of the most common ink styles I’ve seen around include the semi-realistic line drawing, the gothic, the Asian-themed, and of course the always popular tribal ink.

Japanese family crests regularly feature butterflies. While most people probably don’t want someone else’s family crest tattooed on them, these family crests do have lots of great tribal butterfly tattoo ideas, and some of the design parts could be borrowed. Potential for black Monarch designs can also be found in Celtic designs. There are some beautiful and intricate inkworks combining a tribal design and Celtic knot work, for example.

A butterfly tattoo seems to work best at about actual size or less. That’s just my opinion, naturally, but this also gives you the option of adding to your lepidopteran collection over time, eventually collecting an entire garden of butterflies if you see fit.

In addition to the beautiful winged insect’s image itself, a secondary decorative image is often placed beside or intertwined with the first. A butterfly tattoo design can be in band form, with a Monarch falling in the middle of your band of intricate knot work or some other such design. A more modern look is the tribal butterfly tattoo placed within an art deco-style decorative design. I’ve seen secondary designs as simple as a row of gradated circles or dots. Beautifully simple and elegant.

As an example of more complex secondary designs, there are combinations of designs that could stand on their own such as a Japanese or Chinese character, or even part of a poem, entwined with your Monarch as calligraphy. So much has been written about butterflies that there is no lack of ideas for text to accompany your butterfly tattoo. If you are out of ideas, you could always consult my first article on this design style of ink, which covers a lot of general history and literary references to this charming winged creature.

Butterfly tattoo, anyone? That’s all for now about tribal and black tribal butterfly tattoo designs. In the next article, we’ll look at the possibilities for colored butterfly tattoo design. One last thing: your exquisite lepidopteran will be with you for the rest of your life, so please choose a skilled tattooist to ink the design, and maybe even more importantly, choose the design itself very carefully. You can find tens of thousands of designs on the Internet, and the better websites have an easy search interface, so take time to find what you want. Now enjoy your new ink!

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.

Signs After Suicide: The Red Butterfly

Shortly after noon, I went into Arlyn’s bedroom to get a few things to take with me. I was preparing to drive about three miles out into the country, to Woodhaven Road.

I stood and gazed around her room for a few minutes; it was full of Arlyn, but it seemed so empty.

I picked up a folder with some of the poems she had written. Her words. Her thoughts. Her feelings.

I held it under my arm securely while I searched for something else. A Cabbage Patch doll, the dress she was christened in, a blue ribbon she had won for baking a sponge cake when she was ten years old. They were all things that meant something to Arlyn, but I left them alone.

In moving my hands across the top of her dresser, I knocked over a small picture frame. I stood it upright; it held a photo of Arlyn with bright red hair and a happy grin. She was three years old when I had made the Raggedy Ann costume using a mop for a wig. She had flopped around the house for days practicing a Raggedy Ann walk. I smiled at the memory and picked it up to take with me. This was all I needed.

I got into the car, checking to make sure I had not forgotten to put the lawn chair in the trunk. Then slowly, I drove three miles out to the country to a place that drew me to it with an awful, yet irresistible force. To a place on Woodhaven Road.

A few minutes later, I parked the car beside a small stream. I checked my watch; I was early. The rickety wooden bridge which crossed the stream seemed to blend in with the trees and undergrowth surrounding it. There were no other man-made structures in sight.

My eyes tried to follow several small yellow butterflies as they bobbed up and down in this otherwise still picture. I placed the lawn chair on the side of the narrow dirt road. a few feet from the two wooden crosses that announced to the world that this was a place where a death had occurred.

I held on to the folder of writings and the small framed photo as I sat heavily down in the chair. I suddenly realized that I had placed the chair on the exact spot where my daughter’s body had fallen when her life stopped. I briefly stiffened and thought about moving, but then, I didn’t. A morbid need to connect with her held me there.

I opened the folder and picked up a sheet of paper with Arlyn’s handwriting on it. I read:

“The scent of death

Surrounds me

And I am overwhelmed

By it’s beauty.”

I shook my head; I could not understand.

It was terribly hot, much like it was the day Arlyn died. I sat quiety wondering what she had thought during those final moments, wondering if she has been afraid, wondering.

I looked down and continued to read. I felt a dull pain in my chest. Her hands had written the words I was staring at, but her heart had felt them.

After a while, I looked up and stared at the yellow butterflies blankly. Then, I glanced at my watch and saw that it was almost – that time. If Arlyn’s spirit was to come, it would be now.

So I began to talk. At first, I spoke casually. “How are you doing, Arlyn? What’s it like up there? Are you with Mammaw and Grandpap and Lori? Have you played your guitar for them?”

I waited, but Arlyn did not reply.

I felt myself growing more anxious, so I began to ask harder questions, pausing after each to listen for a reply.

“Arlyn, do you miss us? When you pulled the trigger, did you have any idea of how badly your death would hurt your dad and me? Did you know how much I loved you?”

Then, as a post-script, I asked her if she’d seen her young cousin, Adam, who was killed the day before, and I asked her to take Adam under her wings.

Again, I closed my eyes and waited. And waited.

Nothing happened. I felt so sad.
Finally, I decided I had to try one more time to persuade Arlyn to reply. I would ask for a sign that she was here. She’d been gone four years; I had waited long enough.

I opened my eyes and looked around. As I searched for a sign, I realized I would not know a sign if I saw one. What does a sign look like? Is it a blinking light? A crash of thunder? The image of a face in the clouds? What would I look for?

Then, I spotted two yellow butterflies in the woods behind the crosses. This type of butterfly is common in south Georgia at this time of year. It seems that they only come in yellow. I glanced down at the Raggedy Ann photo that was smiling up with me. The red mop wig almost looked like wings surrounding her face.

I smiled to myself then, and I spoke loudly into the trees. I said, “Arlyn, if you hear me, I need a sign! Will you send me a sign to let me know you’re okay? Will you send me a red butterfly if you know how much I love you and how badly I miss you? A red butterfly, Arlyn. Please.”

By then, the tears spilling down my cheeks were making their own small stream. I closed my eyes. I felt the stillness, until a cool breeze brushed past. I shivered.

When I opened my eyes again, I saw the two crosses still standing in front of me. The only thing different was that the yellow butterflies in the woods behind them had left.

I signed. I was so disappointed that I had just passed another milestone date without a sign from Arlyn. I felt myself sinking.

I was a reluctant traveler on this road. Sometimes, it seemed too hard to go on. Sometimes, I wanted to give up and join her. I missed her so much.

A moment or so later, I caught a red flicker in the corner of my eye to the right, over the stream. I turned and saw a large red butterfly come up from under the bridge. Slowly, it flew towards me, bobbing up and down as if it were on a sea of gently rippling water.

As the butterfly flew closer, I held my breath. The trees behind it faded out, creating a hazy background, accenting the brightness of its red wings.

To my amazement, it fluttered close to me. Then, it flew all the way around the two crosses that bore Arlyn’s name. Not once but twice. Twice, the red butterfly encircled those crosses while I sat there spellbound, so close I could have touched it.

It hovered a moment, and then it swooped through the air, heading off into the woods behind the crosses and out of sight.

Was it a coincidence that the red butterfly just happened to fly by as I was hoping for a sign from Arlyn? Was it really a sign from her? If it was a sign, what did it mean?

I do not know if it was a coincidence or not; I have visited the place on Woodhaven Road many times in the past four years. The only butterflies I remember seeing there before were yellow.

A sign is something that may suggest the presence of someone who is missing. To me, that butterfly was a sign from Arlyn, because there is no logical explanation for its appearance otherwise. So, what does it mean?

I believe it was a sign that the spirit lives on after death, and that the soul of my precious Arlyn is at peace. I believe the red butterfly was Arlyn’s way of letting me know that she knows the depth of my love for her, and the pain of my sadness. I also believe that she sent me this sign so I would know that she is with me always.

This knowledge does not erase the fact I miss her, but it does help me move into the future. I feel an inner calmness that was missing before. I believe I have a mission to accomplish while I am here, so I now understand that the spirit of my child will provide the wings to lift me up.

Most important, though, the red butterfly proved to me that love is eternal. It does not die when the body dies. Hearts and souls that are joined on earth are united forever.

How To Become A Social Media Butterfly

Many are those who associate branding with large corporations like McDonalds and Nike and many other giants. Actually this is how it was before the digital age. Social media reshaped the branding landscape within online marketing. Social Media is now reaching a vast number of consumers that is giving them the opportunity to interact with the brand. Technology has given the means to small businesses and entrepreneurs to brand themselves in the vast ocean of social media without spending an extravagant amount of money.

Social networks are more about what consumers say about you or your brand other than what you say about your company. Through social media you establish authority, create trust through interactions, content and visibility. Most online marketers unfortunately close themselves into their cocoon and stay away from becoming the butterfly in social media. If you want to be known then brand yourself and social media is the right platform to do so.

Many use their legal name to brand. Others go beyond and choose any other word or company name. Choose whatever works for you best. What is most important is that you always use the same name on every social media page. This way you build an identity that is consistent and one that consumers will recognize.

Create accounts on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, StumbleUpon, YouTube and other industry specific sites. You must always communicate your message through all your selected social media. However they must direct all your followers or fans to one central online presence like your blog or website. Your blog is yours and here is where you are in total control. All social network sites can change their rules of engagement as they please while you are the only one in control of your site. This is where the consumers get to know you better. This is where you nourish the trust within your followers.

Your site must provide interesting and fresh content to your followers. You must keep them coming back for more. Transform yourself into an information hub providing your followers valuable information. The more stuff you share, the more likely it is you will be passed around in their network using social media functions like Retweet on Twitter or Share on Facebook. Content will always be king in any type of media. Spice up your content by adding photos, pod-casts and videos. Choose what is best for your community.

Another good source to use social media for your personal brand is by joining online groups and communities and participate in online discussions or start a discussion yourself. In whatever you do always mention your brand at least in your signature. Do not be intrusive with your brand though. Keep your message subtle and soft. Be active in online communities in your industry related blogs and networks.

I always recommend organizing yourself systematically. Plan your week so you do not feel lost of what you have to do next. Dedicate a time or a day for content creation, for social media, for blog communities, for writing the script for your next video or podcast, to learn something new and also time to relax. After all, every butterfly stops to rest to observe the surroundings and regain the energy to fly again over more colorful flowers. There is nothing to be shy of in branding yourself. You have your qualities your knowledge and above all you have yourself that makes you unique. Take off to your flight in social media as you are a unique butterfly.

I wish you a great day – you deserve it.

Joseph Cale
Cale Mindset