The Digital Photo Guy

Handheld Butterfly Macros

by on Apr.14, 2011, under Composition, Monday Morning Tips

Another Good Year for Butterflies

Yesterday, I led three great students on a 3-hour macro photography workshop through the Butterfly Jungle at Wild Animal Park (WAP). As usual, the butterflies were gorgeous, flitting from one flower to the next like colorful miniature dancers. During workshops, I generally don’t have much time to shoot because I’m busy assisting students and answering questions but yesterday I was able to make about 60 photos. Of those, about 15 turned out to be keepers so I was pleased. Typically, handhelding macros is a fool’s game and not much good comes of it. WAP no longer allows tripods so I used a monopod to make these photos.

2011 Butterfly Jungle, Wild Animal Park, San Diego, CA   2011 Butterfly Jungle, Wild Animal Park, San Diego, CA   2011 Butterfly Jungle, Wild Animal Park, San Diego, CA

If you’re interested in butterflies and macros, there’s still time. Butterfly Jungle is open until May 9. You can also photograph butterflies at the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert, CA. I’ll be there Saturday, April 16 from 7AM until about noon.

Don’t Forget Gloria Hopkins’ Composition Webinar next week

You still have time to register HERE.

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8 Comments for this entry

  • Jill Johnson

    Hi Lee,
    “You can’t see me” is gorgeous. The colors just flow. So sharp.
    Thanks for sharing Your Equip. & technique. That’s a big help to us.
    My best butterfly was when I went on a workshop with Ya at the WAP.
    Keep sharing.

    • Lee

      Thanks Jill,
      I thought it came out well for a handheld shot. When I was a dumb kid, I never realized that I, too, would someday have shaky hands, a bad back and achy feet. It’s an accomplishment whenever I can make a sharp photo without a tripod. 😉

      Speaking of out-of-warranty parts, how’s your knee? Hope you’re on the mend.


  • Steve Smith

    Hello Lee
    Love the detail on Can You Hear Me Know. Have you tried a more square crop with the abdomen of the butterfly on the right hand third. I think it makes a stronger composition and rids of the non-focused wing area. regards Steve

    • Lee

      Hi Steve,
      I tried a square crop but didn’t like losing too much of the calyx. I actually like the blurred wing tips because the wings were fluttering but I can see how that might be mistaken for a depth of field issue. What I’m thinking of doing is copying the upper right corner and and flipping it into the upper left to get rid of the distracting green leaves. Thanks for looking.

  • Dianne

    Lee, what lens did you use for these? It is a challenging place to shoot.

    • Lee

      Hi Diane,
      I used my Canon 100/2.8 macro lens. For those who may not be familiar with lens designations, don’t be fooled by lenses marked “Macro” because that’s mainly a marketing ploy. A true macro, like the Canon 100/2.8, is 1:1 or greater. An APS-C sensor on most Canon and Nikon dSLRs is ~22mm wide so a true macro lens will fill the 22mm width with a US quarter which is ~25mm.

      Later today, I’ll post a photo of a buckeye butterfly from the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert where I used a 70-200/4 with an extension tube. That gave me a much greater workng distance (distance to subject.)

  • jim Tidd

    Can you hear me now is a grat photo. Wow talk about tack sharpe. Amazing for hand held!

    • Lee

      Thanks Jim,
      I was amazed as well. My handholding technique is not keeping up with my age. I find myself resorting more to techniques I learned as a sharpshooter (timing the shutter release between breaths and heartbeats.)

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