The waning days of the butterfly exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo prompted me to go out and do a little end-of-season butterfly photography. There was a tough day waiting for me as I was faced with the dreaded mile-high-blue sky. In addition, the exhibit overflowed with last-minute patrons hurrying to see the ragged shreds of the exhibit before it closes on September 1.
Those of you who follow my writings know that I have been hanging out at the Strobist’s Blog a lot lately and I owe much of my recent technique expansion to subtle suggestions left there. I set out with a single camera for this shoot, a Canon 5D with a Canon 100 MM F2.8 Macro Macro and an MR-14EX Ring Light.
The shot came out very nicely. I exposed the image on manual at F11 at 1/125th of second at ISO 100. The distance to subject was approximately 14 inches. The distance to background was approximately 60 inches. The camera was mounted on a monopod with the tip placed into my belt for a little added stability. The settings yielded a background with muted tones of green and blue and completely dissolved the screen netting that encompasses the exhibit.
The MR-14EX Light was set at 1/4 Power to properly expose the butterfly and the blossom. The light falloff at this distance prevented much additional illumination of the background. Because I was after rich colors, I underexposed slightly. This also helped with the white spots on the underside of the butterfly’s wings which were aching to blow out. Even though the shot took place in late morning full sunlight, the tones are nice and even and the shadows non-existent.
The real trick was to find a blossom frequented by the insects and set up exposure and focus in advance. Focus was manual to prevent any errant acquiring of the background or foreground elements. All that was left was to wait out a subject and patiently watch, finger on the shutter, for the angle and ‘pose’ to be just right.
The shot, captured in the field, was ported to Lightroom 2.0 for a modest amount of adjustment including a slight pull of the histogram to the black and some subtle cropping and vignetting. Normal saturation and sharpening were applied to the RAW file prior to generating this JPG.
All in all a solid effort of shooting on manual with manually adjusted flash, paying attention to distance to subject vs. distance to background and patience. I am happy with the shot.
You can see more of my butterfly shots from the July shoot in my Gallery.
Rikk Flohr © 2008