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Butterfly hunting tips

Taking butterfly's picture is easy and is made easier by using high speed telephoto lenses.  That needs money, you will need to get a new lens to do it.  But how if you have no telephoto lens?  This is where the challenge begin.  Butterflies move very fast, however they are not a very intelligent creature.  Therefore, given a proper approach, you will be able to catch their picture without any big problem.

If you love to take butterfly's pictures, here are tips that I learnt by taking the butterfly's picture:

  • If you don't have telephoto lenses (like me), try to move near the butterfly by lowering your posture, squat if necessary.  Butterfly's eyes are very sensitive to light changes, not the shape.  He won't notice that you are standing near him, but he will notice that you are blocking the light.  So standing low to the ground will lower the chance of butterfly fleeing away.
    • Natural batik
    • This picture was taken with me on the same height with the butterfly.  Therefore my shadows did not distract the butterfly resulting a pretty close pictures.
  • Use SLR camera!  We can never predict butterfly's movement, and they move fast!  The P/S is too slow to do focus lock on the butterfly and he can move before you take his picture.  See the picture below to give you a better idea.
    • on the left of the picture you can see that the butterfly is already flying, therefore I could only capture a part of its wing.
  • Use fast lenses (generally f/2.8 (corrected from f/5.6) is enough) since you will need a fast shutter speed.  FYI, I still got blurs at 1/400 when trying to capture a flying butterfly! 
  • Shot as many as you can!  Sometimes a slight difference in butterfly movement will differentiate between a good shot and a bad shot.  With digital we should never worried with shooting costs. 
  • Use aperture priority to preset the exposure setting, since its impossible to take the same picture ever (you can't ask the butterfly to do the same pose again).  So its crucial to get things like exposure and white balance done perfectly (actually a bit underexposure by 1/3 step is still OK).
  • Create an angle so the butterfly will form dynamic lines like the one pictured below.
    • I admit that I took quite a number of picture - rotating degree by degree - of this very same butterfly using continuous shooting mode.  Then I find that this is the best angle that the butterfly made!
  • Choose tame butterfly.  Tame butterfly can be found on butterflies gardems such as in Changi Airport's Terminal 3 Butterfly Garden or Sydney Wildlife World's Flutter Bys.
  • And the most important thing is you should never get frustrated or blaming the camera by not able catching their pictures!  Luck is one of the most important ingredients here!

And happy butterfly hunting!

Note: This technique work on less advanced creatures, such as insect, butterfly and other things.  I've tried this technique to catch cat and gecko's picture without any success.  They are more advanced creature with better eyes that notices me and going away before I can catch their picture (with comfortable cropping of course).  Use longer lenses on more advanced species.