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Butterfly Captures

Butterfly Captures

Q) I have butterflies in my garden and would like to adapt my digital SLR to capture them. Any suggestions on what to use without breaking the bank?

A) You may be able to capture butterflies with the equipment you have or with the purchase of minimal accessories. First attach a medium telephoto zoom (100-300mm) that you probably have in your camera bag. But how close will that lens focus? If your lens has a close focus prevision and you can get a field of vision that nearly full-frames a butterfly, all you have to do is get close and shoot away. If the butterfly is too small in the frame, you might need an extension tube to place between the lens and camera body. Common-sized extension tubes are from 25mm to 36mm in size. Either will work. This relatively inexpensive accessory (less than $100) will allow you to move closer to the subject and render it larger in the frame.
Another accessory that will improve your butterfly images is a hot-shoe flash. Use it even on a bright day. It will fill in shadows and bring out colors in the subject. If you have the capability, set the flash to 1 or 2 stops less than the exposure for ambient light. The results will be significantly better than those you’ll get with ambient light alone.
Now all you have to do is figure out where that butterfly is going to land next!
By using a medium telephoto, extension tube and hot-shoe flash, images like this capture of a swallowtail can be accomplished. A Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and 180mm lens with a Canon 580EX flash was used.

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.