Posts tagged “photos of butterflies

Getting Close Enough


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The other day my post was on Macro photography. I am sure the impression was given that this is a highly technical field, and it can be. Here is a simple method that works fine in many instances to get a taste of what is possible.

Have a look at the closest focusing distances of the lenses you have. The shot above was taken with a 70-200mm lens, not what you would think it was intended for, but it works, even at distance of five feet away with a bit of cropping.

Wide-angle lenses are even better. You can get within millimeters of a plant or a compliant bug.

Sure a Macro/Micro lens is preferable and there is less cropping but while you are figuring out if you want to invest in more gear, experiment with the close focusing of your lenses. zoom or prime lens, it does not matter.

My only recommendation is if you do decide to spend money, be wary of close-up filters. They can be expensive and may not deliver the quality you would expect. I have never tried using bellows, I do use extension tubes with a 105 mm macro lens.

Experiment with the lenses you have, its worth the effort.

The Lepidopterist


Note: I have moved my photo galleries to Smugmug ( and I would welcome visits and comments.

One of the things I am enjoying about photography is the people you meet.

When I was out shooting my series on the Painted Lady butterflies:

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I came across a butterfly expert (my first Lepidopterist) identifiable by her net and notebook. The scene was almost Victorian and given the days I had spent in that garden figuring out the best way to take pictures of butterflies, I could not resist speaking to her.

It turns out she writes erudite articles on butterflies for scientific journals and was looking for some uncommon varieties of butterflies. I was, she told me, shooting one of the most common of breeds. At this time they were in greater than average number due to our record warm summer. It was her study technique that was intriguing. She caught the butterfly and took it to her car where the air conditioner was on high, thus cooling and slowing the butterfly down to the point where it could be studied without fear of it flying off. When she was done she would roll down the window and with the butterfly in her palm, let it warm up and fly off.

Noting that I was taking photos of butterflies and waiting for them to alight in interesting places she pointed out that they were addicted to salt and when they land on the ground between the flowers it’s hard to distract them as they pull salt from the sandy earth. She also pointed out that that is why a steady, but sweaty palm, will attract butterflies.

My rule is to take pictures of insects and animals in their natural state in the wild and I know from experience it’s frustrating. But is also nice to know as much as possible about the behavior of what it is you intend to photograph.  Her advice was vastly more useful than the earliest advice I had on shooting butterflies, which was to find a bush and wait for the beast.