Early this morning I had the unique opportunity to enter into the world of Fanciful Wings at the Wings of Fancy butterfly exhibit at Brookside Gardens.
This wonderful place is open during the summer months and showcases exotic butterflies from around the world. Managed by the U.S.D.A., strict rules exist to ensure safety for these foreign butterflies, and we make sure that there are no hitch hikers on board when we leave the exhibit area.
It’s been several years since my last visit and I wasn’t sure which lens I might want to use to capture the butterflies, so all of it went into the back of my car. After some trial and error, I ended up preferring the focal length of the Canon 180mm Macro lens. While this is a great focal length for photographing butterflies, I ran into a few things that could use improvement.
First, I have been spoiled rotten – and probably along with all of the rest of you – of having Image Stabilization in your lens. I can notably see the fluctuation of focus when I was hand-holding this lens, and I truly missed the technical compensation for my Drunken Sailor wavering. With some research, I’ve located the Sigma 180mm F2.8 EX APO DG HSM OS Macro Lens which offers Image Stabilization at the same focal length for Canon, Nikon and Sony. I have to admit, it’s quite tempting as the Canon 180mm usually stays in storage probably because of the simple fact it’s an older lens model and lacks IS.
Photographing butterflies first thing in the morning is brilliant as they are cool and resting along the vegetation. Much easier targets to work with versus when it warms up and they’re constantly fluttering by. Because of this, many of them were tucked into the brush and the lighting was lacking. Along in my kit, I included a Neewer Dimmable 176 LED Video Light on Camera LED Panel
This affordable and portable light source is wonderful for macro photography and you can have charged replacement batteries on hand should you run out of light. Adding light helped me deal with the insanely low shutter speeds, even at ISO 1600.
I wanted to capture something different than what most people come home with when visiting a butterfly house and one objective I had was to get as close as possible to the subject in order to capture details of the butterfly. Even with a Macro lens, one faces the minimum focus distance and this is when extension tubes will come into play.
My preferred Extension Tube kit is the Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set for the Canon EOS AF Mount.
There are less expensive options available, but invest once wisely and they’ll serve you well.
Needless to say, a solid tripod was necessary to ensure sharp images and a great and affordable Macro Tripod is the Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column (Black)
This tripod offers an articulating arm and is strong and sturdy to handle my full-frame Canon 5D Mark IV along with the hefty 100-400mm or 180mm Macro lenses. It’s certainly worth a look if you are in the search for a solid tripod.
With these tips, you too should be able to get some amazing captures of butterflies in your area. Butterfly houses are becoming more popular and one could be near where you live.
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