Dec 28, 2012

The Butterfly Effect


Last August I traveled to Southeast Florida and visited Butterfly World in Coconut Creek near Boca Raton and Delray Beach. The butterfly garden was an incredible experience; what a fantastic place to escape to for a full morning or day and get lost with a camera. Seeing butterflies of every type and color flattering around the beautiful aviary was simply a joy. I spent about 3 hours pursuing insect macro photography at the garden. At first I equipped my Camera with a Canon 100mm macro photo lens but ran into limitations of composing frame filling images since the butterflies took off when I got too close crossing their comfort zone. The Canon 70-200mm lens provided a handier approach and adding a Canon 1.4x teleconverter made it a much more pleasant photo experience at up to 420 mm focal length. In order to compensate for the longer lens and resulting slower shutter speeds adjusting the ISO setting to 200 was a must. A large aperture setting (small f/stop, 5.6 and less) not only supported my quest for that faster shutter speed but also created a shallower Depth of Field. A shallow depth of field is mostly desired when photographing wildlife, birds or bugs and supports beautiful isolation of the main macro photography subject against the blurred background. Unfortunately Butterfly World does not allow the use of tripods or monopods any more and hand-holding the camera gear became quite its own challenge at times. The butterfly garden is well stuffed with knowledgeable and the friendliest workers; they happily pointed out the secrets of the garden and also explained to me that the watering system is very delicate and piping easily breaks. In earlier years when photographers were allowed to bring in tripods they often damaged a lot of water piping while positioning tripods behind the railing. Hence, tripods and monopods were forbidden at one point and we, as photographers, now have to make the right camera adjustments to allow for hand-holding high quality photos. 

In the first butterfly picture the colorful Birdwing Butterfly was beautifully hanging off a little shrub branch and I remember being extremely exited, thinking about this exceptional find and figuring out how to transform this amazing nature setting into a piece of fine art photography that does not let a viewer pull away and move on. Isolating and composing the subject on the branch against a calming background was my highest priority. I therefore composed the butterfly picture in front of a sunlit bush that was 3 to 4 yards behind the subject. Choosing a large aperture setting (small f-stop) of f/4.0 resulted in an exposure time of 1/200 second allowing the capture of this butterfly image with the calming backdrop in blur. The second butterfly picture shows a photo of a Blue Morpho resting on a blade of grass near ground level. By moving back and forth, left and right I found a final pleasing composition that worked for this image. I than patiently waited for the butterfly to open its magnificent blue wings but it refused to grant me that wish and picture that day. On the bright side it provides a perfectly fine excuse for a warm Florida escape this winter, flying to Miami, renting a car and staying a few days near Butterfly World. The aperture in this second picture was f/4.5 at ISO200 resulting in an exposure time of 1/100 sec. The second butterfly photo was purposely underexposed by 1/3 of a stop to boost and saturate colors. Dust spot removal, minimal contrast, lighting and color saturation adjustments were made during post processing before sharpening the final images of the Butterflies.

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  1. Kudos on some great images despite the challenges of shooting in a butterfly house. I've greatly enjoyed shooting butterflies in two such places this year. The "Whispering Wings" exhibit at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina and the Texas Discovery Garden here in Dallas. Two of my butterfly shots have made my top 12 images of the year which should appear on my blog in the coming days.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR & Thanks for sharing your significant talent!

  2. Thanks so much for commenting on my butterfly images John. The aviary in the butterfly garden allows for use of natural light which I very much prefer and enjoyed working with. I wished for overcast sky that day but the sun was pounding most of the day. I can't wait to get back. I always have trouble defining my 12 best images of the year but I think 2 of my butterfly images will be on that list as well :-) ... off to visit you blog now John. Happy New year to you and yours as well! My best, Juergen

  3. Lovely photos, thanks for sharing your experiences on this topic. I love looking and viewing your work, so bright and colourful. @hansonhelen

  4. Thanks Helen. Colors is a big part in my composition and attraction to photography subjects. I always try to use it to create some kind of an emotional effect on the viewer. Form and shapes are other elements of design I build into the compositions. I guess that somewhat explains why flowers are such a big part in my photography and bugs such as butterflies will be going forward ... glad you like these bug photos from my gallery Helen!