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Thread: Butterflies

  1. #1

    Butterflies

    Hello All!
    I am going to be visiting a butterfly exhibit tomorrow and want to spend a considerable amount of time trying to make good photos. Any suggestions as to lens lengths, aperatures, shutter speeds, flash or no flash etc. The exhibit is a jungle-like, but with narrow pathways throughout, and there will be lots of people, especially kids. I am concerned about a tripod both being in the way, and/or getting knocked over. Can I do it hand-held at all? Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks in advance!

    P.S. It will be my first attempt at butterflies.

  2. #2

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    Re: Butterflies

    Quote Originally Posted by Annette View Post
    Hello All!
    I am going to be visiting a butterfly exhibit tomorrow and want to spend a considerable amount of time trying to make good photos. Any suggestions as to lens lengths, aperatures, shutter speeds, flash or no flash etc. The exhibit is a jungle-like, but with narrow pathways throughout, and there will be lots of people, especially kids. I am concerned about a tripod both being in the way, and/or getting knocked over. Can I do it hand-held at all? Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks in advance!

    P.S. It will be my first attempt at butterflies.
    Hi Annette: I went to a simalar place a while back. It was my first try too, but here are a few tips.

    1. Take the longest lens you have. Most of my shots were taken at 200mm. Even when you can get close the butterflies are so small it takes a lot to fill the frame.
    When I went I had visions of getting butterflies in flight chasing each other around, but when I got there I found that even with 200mm it was very difficult to get any "action" shots. Most of what I took were butterflies in the plants along the path. I'm sure it's possible to get the action shots, but I did not get any that day. I hope to go back again on a brighter day when hopefully I can use a faster shutter speed.

    2. There seem to be certain locations in these places where the butterflies congregate or where they come and go. Keep an eye open as you walk around and then find a spot, adjust camera settings and wait. It's a good way to take a rest too.

    3. The place I went does not allow tripods, and I would not have even wanted to use one. The butterflies move around too much and the tripod would be very much in the way for everyone. You should be able to get decent handheld shots.

    4. I'm not a big fan of on camera flash. That's just me though, I did not try the flash when I was there, but usually find that on camera flash is very harsh and the shadows are horrible. I chose to up the ISO. Most of the shots I took were at 400 or 800 ISO in order to give me a fast enough shutter speed and I had to shoot with the lens wide open which in my case was 5.6 at 200mm. The lighting conditions where you are might be better or worse, so you will have to adjust accordingly. Try to get the fastest shutter speed you can even for still shots, and if you have to have the lens wide open, try to have the butterfly on an even plane so the limited depth of field does not give you problems.

    As one novice to another, that's all I can think of at the moment.

    Hope you have a great day and the light is with you

    Wendy

  3. #3
    PopsPhotos's Avatar
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    Re: Butterflies

    One tip on using your on-camera flash is the translucent 35mm canisters. Cut off the bottom and then split the tube that is left to give you a strip of material. This can be taped or held against the flash head to soften the extreme light of the bulb. This works quite well with TTL exposures.

    Pops

  4. #4

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    Re: Butterflies

    At the moment this is something of a 'measure a length of string' question. Can you please give some more details about your camera and available lenses.

    Anyhow, let's start with the easier bit. A tripod will always give better results, but it can slow down your response speed to a moving insect. Closing up the legs will transform it into a monopod which may work better, especially if there are other people nearby. Some places do ban tripod use in busy areas.

    Choosing a lens is a bit trickier. How close can you get to the subject? I've only photographed butterflies in the wild, so purely as a guess, I would expect something in the 100 to 200 mm range should be about right and would possibly enable hand held shots to be successful.

    Your minimum shutter speed will to a large extent be subject to your lens length. But, just guessing once again, I would expect that something around 1/200 to 1/500 should work OK but faster for something in flight; say 1/1000.

    To get a decent depth of field, I like to use an aperture around F11 - F14 but obviously this will to some extent depend on your lens size.

    Keep your ISO as low as possible but don't be afraid to increase it to enable a suitable shutter speed/aperture. Up to ISO 800 will probably be acceptable. I would sooner risk a noisy image than have too low a shutter speed or insufficient aperture.

    Will flash be allowed and are we talking about the 'in camera' flash or an external unit? If possible I prefer to use natural light but when flash is essential I either use Tv but keep an eye on the aperture as well. Or, preferably, shoot manual. This allows me to select a suitable aperture and shutter speed then adjust the ISO or Flash Compensation to suit. But a few test shots are essential. Thereafter you may need to make further adjustments 'on the fly' (if you will allow that pun).

    However, like most photo trips especially first time experiences, keep reviewing your images and make adjustments as required. This is the beauty of digital over taking rolls of film all at the wrong settings!

  5. #5
    John C's Avatar
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    Re: Butterflies

    I went to a butterfly conservatory back in January in Key West. It was a great place to take photos even though there were a lot of people. The best bet is to be patient, move out of the path whenever possible, and let others move through. I think we spend a couple hours in the conservatory.

    My lens options included a 16-80mm zoom, 55-200mm zoom and 50mm macro. The macro was the best choice because of the close focusing ability. It was also short enough to not cause a shadow when using the on-camera flash for closeups. Looking back at the photos, I found that I used a wide range of apertures and shutter speeds. I used ISO 400 for all of the photos. Although the roof was frosted glass, there was some fairly bright sunlight shining in. Some butterflies were resting in the shade. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/1250s to 1/40s. Apertures were mostly from f4.5 to f8 with some as small as f32 - for some flowers. I used the popup flash especially when the subjects were in complete shade. I generally have the flash set at -1 EV to tone it down a bit for use as fill-in.

    A longer macro lens, say 100mm, would probably have given more working distance but even with the 50mm lens, I was able to get some detailed closeups.
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  6. #6
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Butterflies

    To all:

    Should Annette be concerned with reflections from any windows while using flash indoors?

  7. #7

    Re: Butterflies

    Hmm its hard to give specific advice because I am not aware of the lenses and equipment that you have to use, so I'll give what advice I can from my experiences in such places:

    1) Tripods = don't bother taking one. Simply put if its a weekend and a popular place there will not be space to use one, a monopod is the most I would take. It's a great pain since its an ideal spot for tripod work, but its just not practical.

    2) What lens = butterflies are typicaly very flightly and hard to get in the wild - however in these butterfly farms/gardens/exhibitions etc... they tend to be far more relaxed. Hot and ample food along with almost no wind inside tend to help calm and getting close is often not a problem.
    So onto the lens if you have a range of lenses chances are you won't need your longest to get the butterflies so don't feel pressured to need or use them. I've even found that many are often too long (you can't move back far enough without having to move off the set path). Myself I've a fondness for using my 70mm macro over my 150mm because of the closer distances. Do take longer lenses if you have them though, longer focal lengths give good background blur that is often superior to shorter focal length lenes.

    3) Fog - chances are when you first go into the main tropical area your lens will fog up, just let it get use to the new climate inside and the haze will clear.

    4) Flash - flash could be fine to use and indoors I can't imagin any problems unless you are shooting directly at the glass.

    5) Settings - I'll tell you mine which I tend to use with my macro lenses. f13, ISO 100, 1/200sec with flash providing the main lighting. However if you are using a longer lens and not working right up close chances are that you can open up to f8 without much trouble. I would avoid going any smaller than f13 (eg f16 or f20) because diffraction will kick in and no matter how hard you try the overall sharpness of your shots will decrease

  8. #8

    Re: Butterflies

    Thanks to all of you for your help and advice! I'm off this morning...wish me luck. If I get any good ones, I'll post! Good day to everyone!

  9. #9
    RonH's Avatar
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    Re: Butterflies

    Hei Annette.

    Hope that you had a great butterfly day. reminded me about a trip back home (Aussie) when a very, very tired old ragged one landed on our travelling teddy's head! He was sooo excited

    Butterflies

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