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Photography Question 
dennis w. mcclain

Butterfly Photography

I haven't done much nature photography (mostly portrait) and I havent a clue what lens would be good for shooting butterflies. I have a Digital Rebel. I would be grateful for any sugestions on the subject. Thanks!

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5/31/2006 12:01:57 PM

Michael H. Cothran   The most ideal lens may be too expensive for you, but if money is no object, I would recommend the Canon 180mm macro lens. As an alternative, Sigma makes a 180mm macro for less than the Canon version, and it has a very good reputation. As a third alternative, check the specs on some quality telephoto zoom lenses in the 70-200 range to see if any have close-focusing capability within 4-5 feet at the 200mm setting. If so, these would also work great, and cost much less than either of the 180mm macro lenses.
FYI: For butterflies, here's what you need in a lens - close focusing capability from a distance. Butterflies, like most living creatures, have a "safe" zone - if you invade that space, they will spook and fly away. So you need to keep your distance, but at the same time have a lens with a long enough focal reach to fill the frame with the butterfly, and a focusing distance to get you close enough.
If you plan to hand-hold your lens, you will also need a lens with an Image Stabilizer, which cuts down on your selection, and raises the price somewhat.
Good Luck.

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5/31/2006 1:17:31 PM

Dr Silly
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/28/2004
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  The pro who is a keynote speaker at our club meeting and shot butterflys around the world said a 105mm is the best lens to use. And to shoot before 8 or 8:30 am before the butterfly's get active. :O)

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5/31/2006 1:43:54 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  The earlier you get there, the closer you'll likely get to your subject before it flies off.
This statement is more true in the cooler months but is worth mentioning anyway.
Insects, butterflies and all cold-blooded creatures tend to become more active as the rising sun warms their bodies and their metabolism increases.
At midday, you'll be very fortunate to get to within full-frame range with macro equipment any less than 180mm. (Earlier in the day, though, you should be able to get within a foot or so with a shorter macro lens.)
It's also wise to be prepared for that unexpected individual who won't fly off no matter how close you get. You can "feel out" an individual with a longer lens to see how close you can get to it.
Sometimes their body language will communicate to you that they ain't movin' ... and you can back off and slap on a few extension tubes to get really close. It's always wise to carry along a set of 'tubes for those rare, cooperative subjects.

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5/31/2006 5:04:58 PM

dennis w. mcclain   ok I think ill go with a tele 75-300 it will focus at less than 5 feet. this will give me a good lens for woldlife I think. im hoping to get a chance to shoot some of them to. and the butterfly thing is first thing in the morning. hopfully the weather will cooperate

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6/1/2006 7:25:14 AM

  I mainline with a 35mm camera, but I've gotten very good results with a fast zoom lens and a 2X multiplier.

Have fun and keep shooting,
Mark H.

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6/1/2006 12:28:31 PM

Peter A. Gonzalez   Another factor to consider for uterfly photos. They are least active in the afternoon's. Having been to several butterfly farms, the later afternoon hours and even early morning will get your best results.

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6/6/2006 5:16:07 AM

Jackson Yw Wong   The LA Natural history museum had a butterfly exhibit, where hundreds of butterflies were released in an greenhouse, and since the butterflies were hungry, they would fly from floer to flower and eat. The would land on you too, and you can get close. I used a 28-300 zoom lens, and I didn't have to get that close to disturb the butterfies. I posted one, or if you like, I can show you. I was In santa Cuz, but the butterflies were way up in the trees, it was too cold, at the diaplay, you are sure to see the butterflies up close.

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6/6/2006 8:30:47 AM

Ralph Lindgren
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/21/2005
  One feature of the Canon line of EOS film and DSLRs that is quite useful when working with butterflies and other creatures (e.g., babies) that tend to move inconsiderately just as one is about to click the shutter is the Auto Focus Mode called AI Servo. If your Rebel has that feature, by all means use it with butterflies. Press the shutter button halfway down and the camera focuses continuously. Then if the focal distance changes (whether because the butterfly moves or you do) the focal distance changes to keep the subject in sharp focus. Quite useful in these situations. Hope you find this useful.

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6/6/2006 10:28:43 AM

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