Interview with butterfly photographer Lou Moss
Freelance Australian nature photographer Lou Moss thinks nothing of sometimes spending hours waiting for the right shot of an insect. This is usually a butterfly—these winged marvels of God’s creation are a consuming passion of his. In fact, once he spent a full day standing at one tree full of blossoms. At different times of the day, different species of butterfly would visit—15 varieties in all!
Lou’s unique range of exclusive edition butterfly enlarged prints were once featured at a Queensland Museum exhibit, and his photographic work has appeared in Creation magazine. He likes nothing better than being out in the field hunting for that special butterfly shot.
He says his interest in butterflies was sparked when his mother, ‘a real nature sort of a person’ gave him a book What Butterfly is That? in 1953, when he was only eight years old.
His interest in photography came much later, when as a young laboratory technician in the zoology department of the University of Queensland, Australia, part of his job was looking after the darkrooms. After that, he joined the Royal Australian Air Force where he was professionally trained in photography. After a stint as a clinical photographer at South Australia’s Adelaide Children’s Hospital, he worked for a private firm doing aerial photographic mapping of Australia’s barren Tanami desert. After this, he became the audiovisual officer for the Adelaide College of Advanced Education.
Lou says that the consistent witness of a schoolfriend was a major factor in leading him to Christ. He did go to Sunday School in a formal church situation, but feels this ‘did not achieve much’. In 1959 he went to some meetings of Billy Graham’s Australian crusade, but his minister told him that Billy’s message was ‘hogwash’—no one could know that they were saved. Lou says, ‘He told me that you do the best you can, and then you hope for the best after you die. But my friend, who obviously knew his Bible better than my minister did, had a real assurance of salvation.’
Then in 1962 an incident occurred which really shook Lou, and brought him into the fellowship of a Bible-believing church, from where he eventually came into a vital, saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His car went out of control and hurtled over a 12 metre (40 foot) sheer drop. This was before the era of seat belts in Australia, and Lou says, ‘If the car hadn’t turned around and gone over the cliff backwards, I’d have been killed. It’s as simple as that. Having the seat behind me to take the impact protected me.’
Lou says he finds it hard to understand how anybody, but especially Christians, could believe in evolution. He says, ‘The hangup appears to be that we’re all told that things are really old. I even toyed with some of these ideas myself for a while.’
Lou thinks the problem is that Christians of recent generations were not well taught on the foundational truths of Genesis. ‘They seemed to think that everything would be okay if we just knew about Christ and salvation, but that left us wide open to all sorts of problems.’
Lou loves to share his passion for God’s creation. ‘Think of beauty,’ he says. ‘It comes from the eye of the human beholder. What evolutionary purpose can it serve for us to see something as beautiful? Even though the world is ruined by sin, every human being can still see beauty in something in nature.’ Lou believes that this is because God loves beauty and accordingly made His creation beautiful. ‘In creating us in His own image, He gave us His own appreciation for beautiful things. The colours on the butterflies we see, when you analyze them, you find not only beauty but lots of complexities.’
For instance, says Lou, the shimmering colour of the Ulysses butterfly of northern Australia isn’t from a blue pigment. ‘If you look along the wings, almost level with them, you can see the Ulysses’ real colour—black. The blue appearance comes from the special design of the scales in the wings, which scatter light different ways.’1 The same effect, he says, is responsible for the blue colour in a budgerigar, and iris colour in blue-eyed people.
[Ed. note: This was the generally accepted mechanism for about a century, and was published in many textbooks. But research, mainly since this article was published, shows that the colours of blue budgies and butterflies are caused by interference. That is, the waves from light reflected from different parts will travel different distances, and only in light of a certain frequency (corresponding to blue light) will the crests align with other crests. This is called constructive interference, and will make this colour much brighter. In feathers, the effect is due to the spongy keratin; while in butterflies,2 it’s caused by multi-layering in the scales.3 So the level of structural design is even greater than we thought. And this is a good lesson that science textbooks can all be wrong even in an issue of operational science. This further reinforces the fact that it’s sheer folly to ‘reinterpret’ Scripture to fit in with fashionable long-age ideas in origins science.]
In fact, says Lou, all the iridescent colours in butterfly wings come about like this, including those which have ornate designs. ‘Think about it—in that caterpillar, before it becomes a butterfly, you already have the highly complex DNA program which “tells” each one of those microscopic scales to line up in exactly the right place and fashion to form the pattern our eyes can then see. That sort of programming requires an amazing intelligence.’
Lou would like to combine his photographic work with some sort of creation-centred outreach, especially to young people.
In the meantime his superb shots of beautiful butterflies on posters and postcards are a testimony to the glory of God, the Master Designer.
A butterfly is born
Preparing for its remarkable transformation, a caterpillar spins a patch of silk onto which to attach itself from the plant (some species spin a silk girdle as well). Then comes an amazing feat—hanging itself onto the patch by a set of special hooks, just as it becomes the motionless, seemingly lifeless pupa. Inside, a mind-boggling process is taking place which defies all evolutionary explanations. The caterpillar’s organs dissolve into a chemical soup, from which a radically different creature is then constructed—the butterfly. The entire process is already ‘written’ on the DNA in the egg from which the caterpillar first hatched.
This test can also be made with similar species from south-east Asia and particularly with the metallic blue South American Morpho butterfly. For the technically minded—scattering intensity is proportional to the frequency to the fourth power. Blue has twice the frequency of red, so it scatters 16 times as strongly.
Prum R.O., Torres R.H., Williamson S., Dyck J., Coherent Light Scattering by Blue Feather Barbs Nature 396:28–29, 1998; Two-dimensional Fourier Analises of the Spongy Medullary Keratin of Structurally Coloured Feather Barbs, Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 266:13–22, 1999.
Vukusic, P., Sambles, R., Lawrence, C., Wakely, G., Sculpted-multilayer optical effects in two species of Papilio butterfly, Applied Optics 40(7):1116–1125 1 March 2001.