Mirabella the Monarch's Magical Migration Make-A-School Project. Pictured here are the student illustrators standing in the shape of a monarch butterfly.
Monarch butterfly made of people school photo
The Parker Woods Montessori Monarch butterfly (made of people) school class photo. Note: this image quality isn't good enough for reproduction. Please contact me for the original.

Making of the Monarch Butterfly School Photo

This is another one of my favorite all-time photographs. Unlike the past three photographs where I was standing on the roof of the school, this is photographed using a drone. It took hours of preparation and was called off several times.

Technology has really improved in just a few years. The photograph is by Scott Stoll with Tim Spanagel of MasseyGreenAVP. Tim needed two licenses to fly the drone. One from the FCC and another to fly over or come within 500 feet of people. Nonetheless, I said, “Play it safe and don’t fly overhead.”

See an overview of my other three school class photos, the bicycle, the cupcake, and the worm. And read more about how the class photo is made.

This photograph was the most difficult to arrange. We needed permission from every parent and the school district. Plus, the weather wasn’t cooperating. We had to cancel several times, including March 17th which meant that instead of wearing green for St Patrick’s Day, the kids were all wearing orange and black. (There was a lot of Cincinnati Bengal’s gear that day.) Below you can see more preparation. In the first picture, using Google Earth, I plotted out two potential locations. Unfortunately, the grassy field is muddy all spring, so we used the roundabout at the school entrance.

Monarch butterfly school photo preparation 1
Preparing for the school photo of a monarch butterfly. Location scout. And an attempt to estimate size using Google Earth.

The second photo is the final location. The footprint of the butterfly is about the same size as the other three photographs. I made a much more careful measurement using the scale in Google Earth and the circumference of a circle to estimate about 2 people per meter.

Monarch butterfly school photo preparation 2
Preparing for the school photo of a monarch butterfly. The final location. And a careful estimate of size.
The Northsider Monthly May 2017 Front Cover
Parker Woods Students and Staff lined up in the shape of a butterfly.

Update: Project coordinator Nuria Lopez donated a 24×36″ framed class photo to the principal Dr Simmons. I hope it will be a timeless piece of art for the school office. Also, as you can see above, we made the front page of the local newspaper.

Mirabella the Monarch school photo hanging in the office
This isn’t a great photo, but it is a great honor. Mirabella the Monarch school photo hanging in the office. Thousands and thousands of people have seen this. A funny side note: there is a lot of paperwork involved to get permission to hang something on the wall! For one thing, we don’t want it to fall off and hurt someone.

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More stories about the making of this book

Finally, the best part of the whole project — the book celebration. We were honored to have hundreds of community members attend and support both the book and the monarch butterfly.
Like many species on our planet, monarch butterflies face many challenges. The population has shrunk dramatically, and their great migration has nearly collapsed more than once. Here is how you can help.
This is another one of my favorite all-time photographs. Unlike the past three photographs where I was standing on the roof of the school, this is photographed using a drone. It took hours of preparation and was called off several times. Read more about how I made this photos.
Footprint in the sand

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