We are so fortunate to have the Magic Wings Butterfly House in Durham, NC. It is part of the NC Museum of Life and Science and CNPA makes special arrangements to allow our photographers to shoot at private times. We love to explore the area which includes butterflies, moths, birds, flowers and water features.
As with most public places, there are issues with distracting backgrounds and always challenges with the quick flying butterflies. On cloudy days the butterflies are calmer than on sunny days like today, but always a fun experience.
Here are some images and notes:
I look for specimens that are in good shape. Butterflies are easily injured and having chunks out of their wings detracts from their beauty. I shoot RAW images and crop down where necessary as you cannot always get as close as you’d like.
Camera bag: I keep it simple to have maximum flexibility.
Canon 40D which has a popup flash which is sometimes enough extra light.
Canon 430EX flash on a bracket for horizontal and vertical shots.
Canon IS 70-300mm lens.
Monopod for extra stability (I find a tripod too confining)
A polarizer helps with glare off the foliage in particular. Some of the wings are also reflective and it helps reduce the glare.
That’s about it and covers everything I want to do. A handy trick is to put your camera and lens in a ziploc bag (even unzipped) in your camera bag until you get in the Butterfly House. I wait a few minutes and then take it out and rarely get any condensation problem If you just take the camera in from the cold it could take up to 15 minutes for it to get used to the humidity and I worry about damaging my equipment from the excess condensation. I also prefer not to change lenses under these circumstances.
Clothing: There is extreme humidity in the Butterfly House, so even in winter I wear a short sleeve shirt under my sweather and coat!
Don’t forget the plants. The veins make a beautiful pattern in these leaves!
The original image has a twig moving in from the right side and there was nothing I could do about it at the time of shooting. In the final image you can see I got rid of it in Photoshop by selecting the twig, Edit > Fill > Content Aware Fill. (CS5 only). In addition, I cropped the image and made an oval vignette to darken the sides. Be sure to feather your oval selection so it blends nicely.
Hope you get to visit this great place sometime!