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Shooting Butterflies

Discussion in 'Macro, Flowers, Insects, and Greenery' started by JeffKohn, Jul 10, 2005.

  1. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Went to the Cockerell Butterfly Center yesterday (sat). I figured it might actually be cooler in there than outside despite the high humidity, but apparently they don't turn the A/C on until around noon so it was pretty hot. :(  Still, it was an enjoyable outing and I came away with some shots I was happy with. I was using the Sigma 150 2.8 Macro and SB-800 flash with Lumiquest ProMax mounted on the RRS flash bracket. The bracket was quite useful, not only allowing the flash to be rotated around the camera but also tilted for nearer/farther coverage depending on the subject distance. Here are a few of my favorites (click on image for PBase page with full shooting info):

    NIKON D70    ---    150mm    f/5.6    1/320s    ISO 400

    NIKON D70    ---    150mm    f/4.0    1/125s    ISO 400

    NIKON D70    ---    150mm    f/7.1    1/125s    ISO 400

    NIKON D70    ---    150mm    f/5.6    1/60s    ISO 320

    There are some more in the gallery here: http://www.pbase.com/jkohn/butterflies and as always comments/critiques/feedback welcome.
  2. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Good stuff.

    Darn they are tough to shoot.
  3. I especially like how you effectively isolated them against the background in the first 3! Because I'm totally ignorant when it comes to macro, about how far were you from these using the 150? I just got the 60mm but not having a point of reference between the 50-60-90-105-150-180-200 range and what working distance each provided kept me from purchasing one sooner.
  4. Nice shots #3 and #1 are fav.

    Gale the best time to shoot butterfly in the wild is very early in the morning when the sun is going up, when it's cool they lay on plant with their wings toward the sun to warm up, at that time they are somewhat lethargic, but you have to be careful not to cut the sun shining on them or they will go away.
  5. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Thanks to everyone for looking, I really appreciate the feedback.

    Gale: In the wild they can definitely be a challenge but these critters are pretty tame and much more approachable. In fact if you stand still too long one is likely to land on you. Hardest part was getting flash/ambient exposure balanced and focusing accurately. (I had more than a few otherwise good shots ruined by the focus being off).

    Kevin: The working distance with the Sigma 150 is pretty nice, that's the main reason I chose it over other options. The minimum focus distance is around 15" from the film/sensor plane but that's for 1:1. For these shots I was probably a couple of feet away in most cases, some slightly more/less depending on the composition. The black and white butterflies are actually fairly large, for instance that 3rd shot I think I was a good 4 feet away if not a bit more.

    Gilles: Thanks, those are my favorites too. Those black and white butterflies are really neat, and I think they make for strong compositions because of the way they stand out.
  6. Thanks for the explanation, Jeff. So are you enjoying the 150? I was debating between that and the Tamron 180. I wondered if the HSM on the Sigma made it snap into focus.

    In a moment of weakness at the camera store, I walked out with a 60mm but I still think I'd like this kind of focal length. This lens certainly looks like a winner!
  7. Thanks for sharing these excellent butterfly images Jeff. Beautiful work.
  8. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Gordon, thanks for the kind words.
  9. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    I'm very happy with the Sigma 150 Macro. Compared to the 180 and 200 macros it's faster and smaller/lighter. Compared to the 90 macros it has a longer working distance which I find helpful. As Goldilocks would say it's "just right". It's also got pretty nice bokeh. Sharpness is excellent from f/2.8 to about f/16, at f/22 it doesn't do quite as well which is why for 1:1 work some have recommended that the 60 Micro or Tamron 90 might be better. But my uses for the lens fall more in the category of closeups than true macro work, so I don't really find myself using f/22.

    The HSM helps, focusing is silient and relatively fast although because it's a very long-throw focus like all macro lenses, the AF performance isn't as fast as it would be on a normal HSM/AF-S lens. And as you get closer to 1:1 manual focus becomes more appropriate. Still the HSM focusing is useful in many situations and being able to switch to MF on the fly is also convenient.
  10. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    Very nice shots Jeff. I'm leaning more and more towards getting a true macro lens (as opposed to the 70-200VR + 500D), and you have just added another candidate to the list. I'm about to go to the B&H site to check it out. 8)

  11. These butterfly shots are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
  12. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Vinh, thanks for looking.

    Frank: if you want a fast macro lens with a good bit of working distance I think the Sigma 150 should definitely be on the short list. It's priced pretty reasonably when you compare to something like the 200 Micro (which I'm sure is a fabulous lens but not something I can justify for macro shooting). Build quality is also excellent.
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