Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monarchs In Motion
Initially, I put my camera on a tripod, and aimed it straight up at the sky, but that approach led to physical contortions that made it hard to focus on the ephemeral scene, so I gave up the tripod and lay flat on the ground, using my elbows as improvised tripod legs to hold my lens steady. This gave me a more comfortable perspective as I waited for the right moment. I added a warm polarizer to my lens, which helped saturate the blue sky, creating more contrast with the backlit orange butterflies. It also enabled me to apply the slow shutter speed necessary for the image I was after.
Photographic impressions of subjects in motion aren’t as avant-garde in nature photography now as they were 30 years ago, when I began to experiment with this technique, but most applications involve panning along with a subject. In this case I decided to keep the camera steady and let the butterflies themselves create a moving pattern. The frame that captured the kaleidoscopic action best was exposed at around an eighth of a second. Only a few monarchs are rendered crisply; all others appear as chaotic blurs—visualizations of their own kinetic energy.
Sign up now for Frans Lanting’s expanded photo workshop program for Spring 2010 at his studio in coastal California. Visit www.lanting.com for more details.
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