Sunday, October 22, 2006

Owl Butterfly photo

Owl butterfly (Caligo memnon)
Aperture priority, auto exposure, 1/25 sec., f/5.6, 55.0 mm., ISO 800

This is one of the very few successful photos I took last Wednesday during a class on photographing butterflies at the Butterfly Magic Exhibit at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. (Another photo of a Paper Kite on orchid buds is posted in Good Planets Are Hard to Find 10/21 on our good friends' The Dharma Bums blog.)

This is a repeat of a class I took at the botanical gardens last year. That class was scheduled so that we were in the greenhouse from 10:45 a.m. to noon. The light was fantastic and 95% of my shots were in focus and properly exposed. This year, we're in the greenhouse from 3:45 to 5:00 p.m. I didn't realize what a difference that would make. The light levels were poor throughout most of the area and I had to shoot at ISO 800 or even ISO 1600. I found it very difficult to focus. Last year's instructor suggested that in photographing butterflies, you should try to focus on the eyes. Most of the time I couldn't see well enough to do that. I had the lens wide open, but even then the shutter speeds were so slow that almost all my handheld shots suffered from camera motion. (I started with my 70-300 mm IS lens, thinking that the image stabilizer would help, but I couldn't get far enough away from the butterflies, so I switched to the kit lens that came with my camera - 18-55 mm., which isn't IS. This is the lens I used last year with quite a bit of success.)

I have one more session on Wednesday. I'm going to take my 100 mm. macro lens and a monopod. (I'd already planned to do this for the second session, since I haven't worked with macro very much.) A tripod doesn't really work with these butterflies because although they will sit still for a little bit, they're likely to fly off before everything's adjusted. I've ordered an external flash that's designed for the macro lens. If it arrives in time, I'll use it where appropriate. That will be another learning experience in itself.


Endment said...

I must confess envy - would love to take such a class!!!

Wish you joy, satisfaction and success in your next session!
Can't wait to see the results :)

LauraHinNJ said...

I agree with endment, sounds like a great class!

Can you explain what increasing the ISO does? Besides letting you take pics in lower light?

I've been using the kit lens lately too and am learning to like it.

One thing I prefer about the telephoto is the way it will blur a distracting background, just wish I could control that better.

The butterfly is just beautiful, by the way!

Pam in Tucson said...

Thanks, endment. Seems every time I pick up the camera, it's another adventure. One day (sighhh) I hope I'll have the time to study each aspect of its technology.

laurahinnj - I believe that you want to shoot at the lowest ISO possible. As you go up, the photos get grainier. With digital processing, however, you can remove a lot of the graininess. My instructor thought I could go up to 800 without compromising the photos, but didn't recommend going to 1600. If you google "ISO settings", you can find some pretty good explanations. I like to use Aperture Priority on the Rebel XT. The lower the f/no. the smaller the depth of focus - this gives you the blurry background, but you also risk having parts of your subject out of focus. I learned from a magazine article that there's a way of blurring the background using layers in Photoshop. It's something I'm going to experiment with soon.

John said...

Beautiful picture of a beautiful butterfly! It looks like something got a bite out of the back of its wing.

Pam in Tucson said...

Thanks, John. Yeah, these butterflies get a bit ragged after spending some time in the greenhouse. I'm told it's wear and tear, not something attacking them. When they're first brought in,newly emerged, they're pristine and colourful. Then they get tattered and faded. (Don't we all?)

LauraHinNJ said...

Thank you Pam. There is so much to learn!