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  • William Hunton


Don’t take photography so seriously. Sometimes it is fun just to chase bugs around the yard. Sometimes the best you can do for everyone is present something pretty.

Dr. Irving Finkelstein died in 2015. He was a good friend. He taught art history at Georgia State University. His joy was butterflies and moths, about which he knew an awful lot. A true teacher, he was not out to impress you with what he knew about them, but instead, he wanted you to be as excited about butterflies (and other insects) as he was. He gave a lot of his time to our kids teaching them the joy of bugs.

He spent a lifetime capturing and cataloging butterflies and moths. His collection was physically large and it covered a lot of territory – many species and varieties. Sadly, before his death, when he tried to donate his collection to any of the universities in Georgia which would take it, not even his Georgia State University was interested, and now the collection is in the Florida Museum of Natural History. I got to see it once in his home in Atlanta.

I wish Irving had been been with me yesterday. August is butterfly season in Georgia and I went over to the Smith-Gilbert Gardens again to chase around the little flying flowers. They have a nice butterfly house and I think I counted about ten different species or variations flitting about. There were about as many flying around freely as well. Besides the butterflies there are several paths, a couple of coy ponds, and artwork of various kinds on display. You can hide out in the woods on a bench if you like.

But I was there to sweat it out with the butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds. The temperature rises quickly in Georgia in August and when it does the bugs are moving fast. They were everywhere; fish in a barrel as they say.

I never use a tripod when I photograph butterflies. They move so fast, by the time I set up a camera and tripod they would be gone. So all the photographs here were with the camera hand held. I set the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second. Setting a fast shutter and relatively slow ISO, means that the camera will be choosing a wide f-stop, shallow depth of focus, with an out of focus background.

Given that speed and movement are involved, I use a fairly high ISO setting, starting at 200, but going up from there. I also shoot with fill flash. Now you might think that such lighting would be contrasty and result in dark backgrounds and artificial looking photographs. However, when you are dealing with a small subject, and up close, then the on-camera flash is more like a broad studio light.

I used my Nikon D7500 and D3400 cameras (APS-C) and a 60mm Micro Nikkor and 55-200 zoom Nikon DX G lens. On a Nikon APS-C sensor, multiply the focal length of the lens by 1.5 and you have the approximate effective focal length in 35mm or full frame terms. So for both cameras the 60mm lens is equivalent to a 90mm lens on a full frame camera. The zoom becomes more like a 300mm at the far end of the zoom range. About half the photographs I took using manual focus. The other have I used dynamic focusing.

I took over 400 exposures. Here is where digital really shines. In film terms, that would have been 13 or 14 rolls of film, then processing cost. My digital investment is sunk in the camera and a 64 GB SD card. I can shoot until I go blind, I don’t have to change a roll of film. I know, you may be wondering why anyone would consider film for nature photography. You may even wonder if film is even available. It is, and people are returning to analog, as they call it now. For this job… rather for this fun job, digital is the way to go.

Here ya go. They are not great works of art. There are only a couple that I thought were illuminating – the ones of the butterflies flying toward the flowers. Most of them look very much like other butterfly photographs I have seen. I will still upload them to stock anyway. The main thing is the joy of the chase and capture. No butterflies were harmed.


#butterflies #NaturePhotography #Flowers #bumblebee #insects

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