While I was shooting at the Bird Park not too long ago (click) I had a privilege to bump into this really cool photographer by the name of Saiful (who uses a sexy Nikon D300) and he generously shared a tip about butterfly photography with me. He said that the butterflies would all come flying out in the open right after the rain, hence the timing was one important factor. Interesting enough, I woke up to a rainy morning KL sky on last Sunday, and by noon the sky almost cleared up, this I rushed my way with my gears to the Butterfly Park, which was situated conveniently adjacent to the Bird Park. True enough, after the rain the butterflies were swarming all over the places. You guys must think I am getting crazily obsessed with taking pictures, I am starting to believe it too, whether it is a good thing, it depends on your opinion.
I was not very keen about butterfly photography at the first place, due to the fact that I do not own a macro lens at the moment. I have come across numerous articles online suggesting that for good insect/butterfly photography, it is deemed crucial to possess a good macro lens to be able to capture the subjects from a considerably safe distance without disturbing their natural activities, while obtaining reasonably blown up size, magnifying the important tiny details of the creatures.
LOOK !!! MENTEGA TERBANG !!!!
But I was also pondering the fact that I am never going to have a macro lens of any kind anytime soon, unless the sky rains gold or something, so what the hell !!! I am not just gonna sit around wishing I have something that I could not afford at the moment, and just go out and do with what I can with all that I have now. That was what I did exactly, and I threw almost everything I have got for this session of photography.
The butterfly park itself was not that huge to begin with, for a normal person visiting the place you might have finished making a full round within
Flowers were planted everywhere for the butterflies, and the entire set-up was looking very pleasing, but not overwhelmingly breathtaking.
The variety of butterflies were not exactly that wide in range, and you kept seeing the same ugly ones all over, and really have to squint your eyes to spot the really different and pretty ones.
Since the whole place was built like a netted cage to prevent the escape of the butterflies, the poor little creatures must have their wings caught by the wires and chipped off. Many of them have broken and weathered wings, and it was very sad seeing them that way. And God knows what those evil little kids would do to the butterflies if they flew too close to those itchy hands.
Photographing the butterflies was nothing short of a total nightmare. I have mentioned that not having a macro lens made the whole thing rather challenging to begin with, but I did not expect such level of difficulty until I was there shooting. For the first few rounds going around the place, I used tele zoom lens, shooting 1.5m distance away from the butterfly, which gave me plenty of clearance as not to disturb the butterflies, yet able to get considerably close shots. Composition with tele lens was very limited, since I could not move in closer than 1.5m.
Therefore, for the subsequent rounds, I went in with my standard kit lens, with and without the macro filter adapted onto it to capture closer shots, going as close as 5cm away from the butterfly, but the main disadvantage was that, not many butterflies would love seeing the lens too close to them. Composition wise was a total disaster, and many of my shots came out really bad.
HANGING BY THE THIN BRANCH
EEEEP MONSTERRRRR !!!!
You may think that those butterflies look lovely, but after photographing them, you would definitely feel like killing every single freaking one of them. My goodness, they NEVER stay still at one spot, and kept hopping from one flower to the other so rapidly and randomly that it was tough to predict where they would land next. Even when they paused at one flower for a "drink" they kept moving up and down, and flipped their wings like nobody's business.
Chasing them, and trying to focus properly was very, very energy draining. 30 minutes of shooting the butterflies was actually a heck lot more exhausting than 3 hours of shooting at the zoo, and I am not kidding you mate !!
Oh I have not talked much about those little evil creatures. Most of the time they would hide behind leaves or branches, blocking your direct lens view to them. Or they would choose the deepest shade they could find, or just flew pass you by without even stopping. It was hard enough to spot some of those really colourful and unique ones, but it was even harder to pull out really usable shots, provided those horrific situations. And then there were those little
To obtain the shots in this entry, I have thrown in almost everything that I have got. I have used up almost every single piece of
The entire place was rather shaded as well, with heavy bushes and many branches, thus lighting was a huge problem. This was one of the few extreme cases that I had to pop up my internal flash and use it to fill in to adequately compensate the ridiculously dark shadowy areas. Using the internal flash also had another advantage, allowing me to shoot at much higher speed without the compromise of adopting ridiculously high ISO setting, thus producing much cleaner and noise free, yet brightly lit and well exposed pictures.
On the other hand, achieving higher shutter speed also enabled me to freeze the movements of the butterfly, which tended to blur out very easily.
A LOST TORTOISE
WHAT HUGE EYES YOU HAVE
The only regret was not predicting the fact that I might use the flash, else I would have thought of some cheap DIY methods to difuse the flash output. You can differentiate the flash photos from the non-flash ones by identifying the level of noise (grains) in the picture, the smoother and cleaner images are the ones taken with flash, since I used ISO 200 setting or less.
So guys, do let me know what you think of my butterflies. Of course, if you search up the professional pictures and make comparisons, my pictures are far from perfect, and many aspects could be improved, especially in the composition criteria, but hey, this was my first time doing a real macro photography with a DSLR, without a macro lens. I believe with what I had, and what I could do, I have done pretty ok. There is always room for improvement, and this session will be useful when I am shooting similar photography in near future, since I know what to expect and I shall be more prepared. Every experience counts. After all, I am still at the learning and exploring stage, and discovering different categories of photography is an immense joy itself, whatever the outcome may be.
Now the song "Butterfly Kisses" from Michael Bolton got stuck on my head. Truly a great song, that is.