There is something about the bursts of color that a butterfly exposes as it flutters by that captivates me. I have often followed a butterfly waiting for to alight so that I can gain a glimpse of it’s exposed beauty as it flexes its wings. Has this happened to you?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve shot many butterflies. It continues to amaze me as I trundle after them, that they have no problem flying uphill or across tall brush or streams. Their gentle movement continues effortlessly as I struggle to keep up… hoping they will pause for a photo.
- Wings open: butterflies seem to look best when the wings are open wide, not part way, not with one open and one up… but with both wings open wide so that the butterfly appears nearly flat to expose its rich pattern.
- Look ’em in the eye: It is key to have the eye and antenna in focus, and if you can also get the proboscis or tongue in focus, that’s a real bonus.
- Make them big: The butterfly needs to be large in the composition, otherwise, they get lost. Lots of pixels provides flexibility for cropping.
- Shape makes a difference: It’s best if the butterfly is not beaten up. A piece of wing or tail missing and they just don’t have the same majestic beauty.
- Posing: Where they are posed can make or break the photo…. A dead plant stalk or a sandy beach is not nearly as interesting as a colorful flower that complements the butterfly’s coloring.
- Background: And of course, the background is key…. Too many flowers or sunlit leaves can take away from the subject. And, don’t forget the bokeh so the focus is on the butterfly and not the background.
Keeping all this in mind while in pursuit of the wings fluttering by takes both patience and luck.
In my recent outings, I have set the camera with an auto-ISO to insure the quickest shutter speed for each shot. I have also set the camera to shoot continuous frames in order to quickly shoot sequences (think of the wings…. Open, shut, partly open, lopsided, open, shut)… with the goal of getting a least one crisp shot of the open wings and their vibrant patterns of color. I’ve also grabbed the first shot possible, and then if the butterfly permitted, I worked to better compose the photo. Of course, some butterflies never seem to stop and the result is a tired photographer or a blurry butterfly or grainy shot due to a high ISO.
Yep, shooting flutter-byes is a challenge, but a worthwhile one.
Have you chased a butterfly lately?