For the past five summers I have made weekly visits to the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden to help document the butterfly collection in the exhibit. It is a morning each week I look forward to and greatly enjoy. I photograph as Patrick, the exhibit manager, tends to the butterflies and gets the exhibit ready to open and the horticulturists, Kay and Linda, work to keep the beautiful flower and plant collection in tip-top shape. With a collection of over 300 images of butterflies from previous years, it is challenging to keep working toward getting better and different shots of the butterflies. Some of the shots I capture are purely documentary in style, but I strive to find the more artistic and creative shots, as well. Those are always the icing on the cake for me. Butterflies are not easy to photograph, particularly when the they are more active and the light is challenging. I always hope for cooler overcast conditions so the light is even and subdued and the butterflies quiet and resting while warming their wings. I do all my butterfly photography hand-held and most with my 100mm macro lens. A tripod is too cumbersome for the exhibit space while the horticulturists are working (and is not allowed during visitor hours) and I have to be fast on my feet and quick to respond. Using a 100mm macro means that I am working close to the butterfly, so being quiet and gentle in my approach is important if I don't want to scare a butterfly off. Composing and determining an aperture that will get the butterfly and the flower it is perched on in focus but provide a pleasing background requires quick thinking about camera settings. All the while, I have to keep my eye on my shutter speed and ISO because I am hand-holding. Two years ago I came up with a list of 10 tips for photographing butterflies. Read about it in this post.
This year the butterflies in the exhibit have been varied and plentiful. The weather has been perfect for a successful and lush exhibit. If you enjoy butterfly photography and beautiful flower displays, a visit to the exhibit is a must.
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Julia Longwing Butterfly Paper Kite Butterfly
Backlit Paper Kite Butterfly Close-up
Great Mormon Butterfly Blue Clipper Close-Up In the following shots, I was experimenting with my Yongnuo Macro Ring Light. It is helpful in providing nice even light and darkening backgrounds. The ring light ensures sharp shots hand-held while keeping my ISO low.
Great Orange Tip Butterfly
Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly