Photography Times: Butterfly Eye-to-Eye

August 02, 2010

Of late I've developed an interest in insects. Considering how scared I was not many years ago, it seems a bit of a surprise for myself as my face suddenly brightens the moment I see an insect in my vicinity. And all the more if I have my camera at reaching distance.

Macro photography is one of the most difficult areas to master. While there are very few who are truly masters of Macro photography, this field is gradually increasing in prominence with a slew of high quality lenses available from major vendors.

This photograph of a Butterfly's eyes was captured in the Butterfly House of San Antonio Zoological Park. With butterflies being such timid insects, it's extremely hard to take such a photograph in the wild. So I chose the Butterfly House, which was home to hundreds of butterflies from across the world within a well-ventilated enclosure. The objective was simple - try to photograph the foreside of a butterfly with particular focus on the butterfly's eyes.

The execution was nowhere close to being simple. Firstly, macro photography requires getting as close to the subject as possible to obtain a 1:1 image size. Secondly, at such small distances autofocus does not work, so we are left to manually focusing the subject into sharp view. Thirdly, we'll need to maintain a great depth of field. Fourthly, and the most difficult of all "ly" - the insects keep flying away.

As the intention was to keep most of the butterfly's foreside in focus, it required use of a great depth of field - which meant a very small aperture. At such small apertures, the available natural light is almost nothing, so you would end up with a completely dark image. To overcome this, you need to use a flash. Regular flashes sit on top of the camera hot shoe, and as you will be at very close proximity to the subject, the flash will cast an ugly shadow (of the long lens) over the subject. So you would need a specially designed macro flash, which fits around the circumference of the lens - thereby making sure the whole light from the flash falls on the subject and nowhere else but the subject.

With the macro lens mounted, the camera became quite bulky. It required a lot of patience to carry the flash-mounted camera trying to get extremely close to the butterflies only to find them flying away just as I would be all set to press the shutter. It was a little over an hour's time spent there until I was able to get one that was closest to my objective.

Vidhya is an Independent Artist and a student of New York Institute of Photography. Twitter. Facebook. Facebook Photography Page. LinkedIn.
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