High, Low and Long
Our Butterfly Bush is getting sparse and so are the Butterflies it attracts. And I’ve been scaring off the visitors with my presence. A perfect Red Spotted Purple was gone in a moment this morning, just as I approached. I wanted to try standing off with my longest lens at 300mm + 1.5x Teleconvertor for a total of 450mm. Trade offs are 6′ minimum focus distance and f22. Depth of Field would only be about a 1/2″ at 6 Feet, 3/4″at 8 ft..
Other than a few Skippers and Carpenter Bees, the only visitor for the better part of an hour was a Blue Dasher Dragonfly. The good news is, you have a chance to establish focus because they land and stay still. The bad news is, trying to hold focus by hand at 450mm with all that weight and mass and not much DoF is wildly optimistic. In hindsight, I’d have been on a tripod with a loose ball head but didn’t because I expected to be moving around and though it would be too slow to frame & focus. Of course, had I been on tripod, butterflies would have shown up and I’d have flailed around like part of a 3 Stooges routine.
1. Dragonfly: Top lit, mid-day sun, hard light, high contrast, high key
2. Dragonfly: Top lit, mid-day sun, hard light, high contrast, low key
My model did cooperate in that he gave me two lighting setups, one high key and one low key. In this case, the model moved (flew) so the background changed. The last time I did this was a portrait session. We finished the high key on white with soft light (umbrellas) and switched out the background to black and went to hard light (bare flash) with snoots.
Exposure was easy. Lens at f22 but actually f32 due to a 1 stop loss from the TC. Lots of light, so Sunny 16 as a baseline. Plenty of shutter speed to help with the really long lens, varying a stop or two, depending on open shade or pointed at sky. Moved ISO between 400 & 800, shutter speed between 1/800 and 1/1000 sec.. Of the two images I kept, one was a stop over and the other a stop under but both in the ballpark. At relatively low ISO’s, plenty of Dynamic Range with RAW files, easy to recover and keep image quality.
One other camera feature I rarely use was shutter burst mode. Today, I’d establish focus and fire 3 or 4 frames, trying to compensate for my movement. I have in body stabilization, so that helped. Out of 112, I kept these two. Pushing thing as I was, it’s tough to handhold and you won’t do it for long. And I just remembered my monopod!
Gear used in this post: Pentax K5IIs camera, Sigma 100-300/4 lens, Kenko 1.5x TC.
Editing Tools used in this post: Adobe CC2015, Nik Collection, Pixel Genius Photokit, Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet, Pantone Huey Pro