Approaching Butterflies 接近蝴蝶

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If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.
Robert Capa

 If the butterflies in your photos aren’t detailed and sharp enough, you’re probably too far away from the butterflies.  To get closer to the butterflies, you basically have two options:

  1. Approach the butterfly so you are close enough
  2. Use longer lens to pull the butterfly closer

If you read books or articles about butterfly photography, people often say you need long lens to take better photos.  It may be true in some cases.  However, there are some major drawbacks in using long lens:

  • Photos are more prone to blur due to vibration
  • Longer lens are more sensitive to error in focusing.  Auto-focus takes longer time and the chance to miss is higher

Let’s go back to the fundamental problem:  Is it really so difficult to approach the butterflies?  Think the other way round:  If we can approach the butterflies and take photos closer, we may use shorter lens.  Photos are less prone to vibration blur.  Auto-focus is faster and more reliable.

Insect Vision – Strength and Weakness of Compound Eyes

Try not to see the world just from your own eyes.  Spend some time to think:  From the eyes of butterflies, what will they see?

Like many insect, butterflies have compound eyes that covers nearly all directions.  Therefore, they can sense approaching objects from nearly all directions.  While they are more sensitive to any change to the surround environment around them, they are not exactly sensitive to distance of the object.  Based on this nature, pick the right angle to approach the butterfly by moving forward carefully.  You are more likely to get closer to it.

Try not to be too greedy.  You may progressively take photos and approach them.  Take two to three shots.  Get closer.  Take more shots.  Get even closer.  Repeat until you feel you are close enough.  In this way, you can progressively get closer and closer.

Behavior of the Different Butterflies

Sometimes, butterflies fly away not because of you.  Instead, it can be other reasons for them to fly away.

Some of the butterflies are very sensitive to approaching objects.  They may be cautious about predators, or they may want to expel any intruder to their territories.  Anyway, the shoot-and-approach method always works.  You must not hurry, but you have to be fast.  Always expect the target will fly away.

Some of them may be so active that they will fly away no matter what.  They may just take a short break.  Again, the shoot-and-approach method always works.

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