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Chasing butterflies – Photofocus

It’s spring down under, which means flowers and of course, butterflies. Even with summer wrapping up in the States, there are still some butterflies around. Things that flutter and fly can be a challenge to capture. But with a little luck, some patience and a few key settings, you’ll be capturing some natural beauties in no time. Here are a few things to consider.

Keep it simple

Shooting either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority is a great starting point. I mostly wanted a large aperture, f/2.8, so I went with Aperture Priority for this shoot.

But I wanted a fairly high shutter speed to freeze the action and keep them in focus, too. Keeping my shutter speed above 1/1250s, up to around /13,000s or higher worked well most of the time. I also had Auto ISO set, with a minimum shutter speed.

Cairns Birdwing - Female
Cairns Birdwing — Female

Keep things bright and colorful

Butterflies adore being in sunlight, so try to get the sun on the right side for shooting, and not have them in the shade or blown out. They also love bright flowers, blue, orange, pink and purple. So if you see a butterfly visiting some flowers, pick a flower and wait. A little patience can go a long way. The spray and pray approach doesn’t work very well, or so I have found.

Know your target

Different regions have different butterflies, so it’s handy to have a list or photographic reference chart of which species is around and what it looks like. I recently visited the Bribie Island Butterfly House and found out so much about these sweet and helpful insects.

Fun facts

While most facts are common like butterflies have four wings, they only live a few weeks (some up to nine months) and feed on nectar from flowers using a strawlike tongue called a proboscis. Butterflies mostly fly during the day, but did you know these fun facts?

  • Butterflies taste with their feet
  • Caterpillars are eating machines, while butterflies are egg-laying machines
  • Some butterflies, like the Monarch, can fly up to 4,000kms to escape the cold (eg, Canada to Mexico)
  • Many butterflies never go to the toilet, they use up all they eat to make energy
  • Butterflies are coldblooded
  • Butterfly eyes are made up of 6,000 lenses and can see ultraviolet
Cairns Birdwing - Male
Cairns Birdwing — Male

Butterflies are wonderful, peaceful, beautiful, amazing and awesome! Butterflies are a sign of joy, peace and happiness. But they are very fragile, so enjoy and photograph them, but please never touch them.

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Rafael Jones

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