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I am hoping to encourage the real experts lurking out there to either correct or contribute further to this topic.
Regards to all,
To answer your question Edward,
You seem to be dedicated enough to the discipline so I can't give you any advice other than just to keep up what your doing. I take about two hundred shots a day when I am working on them and probably keep five to ten out of that, of which I will usually choose one to put up on this site!
One thing that is really worth practising is the choice of approach, walk around the subject at least ten feet out and pick the exact orientation to avoid obstacles that might force you to disturb or block your viewpoint.
Approach extremely gracefully paying most attention to your feet and lock on mentally. At about four feet in you need to have the camera near your eyes to prepare the final orientation relative to the background. Movement of no more 1cm per second is a good reference at this time!Too much background detail (eg. crossing blades of grass) can really detract from the final image. The rest I'm sure you already know!
On a grey, windy day, switch to landscape photography!
All other comments welcome!
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Well I'll agree with all that you've said so far Tim. I employ much the same method for stalking my prey so to speak! You have to be prepared to take a large number of shots to have a chance of attaining something special as a rule.
I would also add that it helps to know about your subject, its habitat and food plant requirements and so on. If you do a bit of research it can help you to find more butterflies of certain species and hence more opportunities for getting a shot of them!
I would recommend anyone to get hold of the latest book by Richard Lewington, published by British Wildlife. It will give you lots of detail on Uk species and let you know where and when to find them and also illustrates each species at every stage of its life cycle.
I find photographing butterflies both extremely frustrating and addictive, each species is different and some are easier to do than others. I have learnt lots about them since I started photographing them as its also a means of studying them at the same time.
I would love some advice. I went in the butterfly house at Longleat yesterday, spent an unagreeable 5 minutes being pushed around by the yobs coming in behind me while I was waiting for my lens to unsteam, then spent the next 15 minutes taking 40 or so photos, all of which have come out underexposed and/or blurred.
Hiyer Bri, I'm trying to arrange a members meet at Studley Grange Nr Swindon in a couple of weeks and although as yet it hasen't generated much interest. See the thread within member meetings. I will definatley be going. I'll be on hand then, if you need a little help or advice......Ade
I might try and get there - it's only 20 minutes from me. I'll pop over to the correct thread......
I myself specialise in photographing them in the wild, thus far in the UK only. I haven't had a go at a butterfly house yet, but I hope to in the near future for a look at some exotics. I would appreciate any advice from anyone about techniques used in these places.
Big Bri, To prevent camera shake, shoot from a tripod - I know Studley Grange let you take them in (althought I would aviod the holiday period).
Or an IS lens - not sure what you've got, is that 73-300 the IS version?
I've had a lot of reasonable results using a 100-400 IS with extension tubes to reduce the minimum focus distance, a setup used quite extensively for butterflies by Don Cohen. His Summer 2001 Butterflies gallery includes details of his setup - 100-400, 20mm tube, and 550EX flash.
Tim - thanks for the post. I'm now even more in awe! You use the same technique and lens as me. I had assumed you were using a tripod and rigging everything up on a likely subject and waiting. My biggest problem is time of day. I typically go out early evening - day job gets in the way - so the light's not great for getting a good dof and there's normally a breeze. This is my first summer of wildlife photography, so I guess I just need more practice.
One more question - where do you shoot? You're getting the same butterflies as me but your backgrounds are dried grasses.
Edward, if it's any encouragement, I have only been at it with the SLR and the Sigma 180mm for one summer also! I think my advantage is living in the south of France, a great deal more sunlight!
That explains the dry grass and also the abundance of butterflies compared to the UK which is really suffering from urbanisation. Provence is a sunny, dry, region with dominant alkaline soils and is much less green than most of England. There is a great deal of wind though!
My problem here is finding butterflies that don't all go for the same flower, the Field scabious, which seems to attract nearly every species in preference to all the other wild flowers here. So I am always after that unusual landing spot!
My first foray into the world of butterflies came in Mexico where I was living in semi-tropical rainforest. It was impossible not to be completely bowled over by the diversity and colours. Unfortunately all I had then was a couple of Olympus point and shoot digital cameras and they really didn't give me the flexibility I have now.
But I learnt how to get in extremely close without disturbing, and that is a skill that I brought back with me on returning to Europe in March 2003.
My dream is to go back and do a professional photo shoot there for six months. In the dim forest light, a tripod and flash system are obligatory though and vulnerable to the extreme humidity and dampness.
If you ever plan a trip this way (Provence that is!) let me know and I will show you some good spots to take the butterflies. I guess that would have to be next year at the earliest though now! Winter is on its way...
Tim - I appreciate how living in sunny France can help. I was in Italy recently and was amazed at how much light there was. Dried grass makes a great backdrop, I have to make do with lush grass after a very wet summer.
Sometimes, I forget how lucky I am living on the North Downs. The soil is excellent for butterflies and I've often had comments from people living elsewhere in the UK commenting on their lack of butterflies. I'll probably be moving on to fungus next, there's certainly lots of it and it doesn't move.
It's been my first summer of shooting butterflies and I've learnt a huge amount, not only about my kit but the subjects too.
I should be in Provence early next summer so I might take you up on your offer!
Thanks once again.
Edward, look forward to hearing from you if you come this way!
This has been a really informative thread, especially the stalking bit. I've so far been restricted to photographing butterflies in my back garden (hence the shortage of them in my portfolio).
If any of our Welsh members fancy arranging a meet at Pili Palas on Anglesey I'd fancy that (as long as I can make the chosen date).
I think my top advice to you would be to have more faith in your photos. You have some really good butterfly shots in your portfolio, which compare well with another butterfly pictures featured on this site.
And you will get better - butterfly photography is not easy!
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