Featured butterfly potion

Discussion in 'Nature' started by piggsy, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    Some photos of spring 2016's enormous butterfly migration.






    The caper whites do this every 6-10 years or so and come through in huge numbers after exhausting the stocks of caper creepers and bushes. The migrations seem to be wind driven and don't necessarily have any aim or progression towards other food stocks, they just explode in numbers, strip the local vegetation and migrate in such huge numbers that they can clog radiators.


    This one above was actually the very first one I photographed of the season in late september on an early morning walk. Natural light stack of F2.5 images at 1/60, iso500. Was super impressed with myself for getting it and had no idea there were about to be millions of them coming through.

    Some news articles from the time -

    Millions of butterflies flutter through south-east Queensland skies

    Caper white butterflies flock to Brisbane

    Millions of butterflies herald insect influx in hot and humid Queensland spring

    Gotta tip the guardian here for picking up on the horrible plague of black flies that came along with them also :D



    Can see some of the structural blue coming out in the black here.







    Big boom in crab spiders during the spring/summer too, with these white ones being the most common around here.


    Probably most proud of this out of all of them, image stack of natural light images at F2.5-1/160-iso200. Had to do a loooot of aligning and sorting out of 100s of images to get anything worth having out of it but it worked pretty well in the end.

    The weather also turned to suit butterflies (very hot - 38 degrees daytime, and high night temperatures - and humid) and combined with the caper whites taking up a lot of roosting positions, pushed other butterflies into easier to photograph territory.
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  2. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    An evening brown, have never had luck with these ever before. This is 3 different shoots where I was able to get up really close and take some in both natural light and cross polarised flash conditions. They're normally only active in the evening and early dawn and very nervous. There's a really strong structural component to the reflective component and colour of the wings which you can see here very clearly.





    A low roosting crow butterfly, in my bottlebrush. Still had to stand on a couple of milkcrates to get it though. One unfortunate drawback is that as much as they seem to like the record setting heat, the high night time temperatures make shooting them pretty fraught, they're not really awake but not really asleep either.


    Common white migrant.

    https://abload.de/img/pb070128uduio.jpg pb070128thw0r1k.






    This is as far as I know just another colour morph of the same basic species similar to the other coloured migrants like the yellows, but wow.


    Meadow argus.
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  3. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    Painted lady male and female...






    This is I think the largest stack I've ever done at about 9000 by 7000, had to split the job into two halves because it was too difficult to do depth and width otherwise. Had to keep saving it at lower jpg quality because abload doesn't like eating more than 10mb for an image :D








    Another one that was a real pain to assemble as a stack but hopefully worth it.

    Anyway I hope you all enjoyed this, it's been a while putting it all together with big bouts of not wanting to see another butterfly photo as long as I live in between bits of working on it :D
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  4. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    These are just spectacular. Love the painted lady stacks.
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  5. retiredfromlife

    retiredfromlife Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    Very nice sets, still with the E-P5 and that big lens ?
  6. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    Thanks! Most are on the tokina 90 or olympus 60. 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 21, 39 with the tamron 180mm.

    Yeah I was lucky to have several of them roosting around over several days to have a few goes at it. They have a really annoying tendency to shuffle their wings like the swallowtails do and man that resulted in a lot of junked stacks.
  7. Great work. You have a lot more species than I have locally.
  8. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    You should have seen all the ones I missed getting because it was too stupid hot to hang around outside in the sun or that were too awake at night! There's a species guide to what you can find around brisbane on this guy's page split into 4 sections (1 2 3 4) :D
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  9. Sam0912

    Sam0912 Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 1, 2012
    As a complete learner, I'm gob smacked by these. The detail is astonishing and just the kind of quality I dream of being able to achieve one day....I hope you don't mind some (Probably very daft) questions?
    -Firstly, tripod, no tripod or a bit of both? I'm presuming shots as amazing as these are all tripod, but thought I'd check!
    -You say you "Stacked images", I've been trying this with images from my EM5 in Affinity photo, but that's with star shots, I presume you have to fire off pretty fast shots to stack something like butterflies?
    - Other than stacking, do you do much else in Post?


  10. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    They're all handheld, I have a little tripod but I only used to to position one of the flashes rather than the camera - for some of the rainbow coloured migrant butterfly and painted lady closeups I had one flash on the flash bracket, one flash on a tripod firing from closer to the background or firing through the background, sometimes the subject or foliage would cast a shadow onto it or it would be too dimly lit at F11-F13 otherwise.

    The stacked ones - some are flash exposures of a subject that isn't moving (much) and don't really need any great speed, your main concern there is actually moving too fast and lighting them up too much too quickly, which will wake them right up. The natural light stacks vary - the one of the single caper white was in very still conditions around 4.30am on pretty much the last cool (sub-25 degree) morning of the spring. The one of the spider eating the caper white was in high wind and pretty much every element of it moved against each other, with low depth for any one shot, so it was basically sorting through loads of images to find ones that could get blended into each other with subject details and no weird geometry. The one of the evening brown at dawn was just a very lucky encounter with a cooperative subject that had no real reason to stick around - actually they were the main bane of shooting the caper whites anywhere, they're awake very early and very late, and will usually fly off at a distance of about 2-3 feet further away than anything else, and usually make a big enough impression to wake up everything else around them too.

    I do the stacks in photoshop, really the handiest feature it has is just the different ways you can mess with layers - skewing their geometry, blending sections unevenly, lets you just make sections of images up if there's no coverage, blabla. The drawback is of course that it doesn't do a fantastic job auto-stacking (with it being too conservative about focus areas mainly and tends to give sharply contrasting stuff a bokeh halo) but for the way I do it - handheld and at deeper apertures and only a dozen or so shots - it works a lot better than zerene/helicon. If I was using a rail or doing 100s of images at shallow apertures it would be different though.

    The biggest challenges were the closeups of the caper white and painted lady faces, by far. The magnification of that - 2.23-2.5x on 2x crop - and these subjects, with loads of protruding bits of hairs and scales, is enough that you start running into geometry projection problems with this kind of lens setup, it really needs a bi-telecentric lens like you'd use for "proper" microphotography for engineering purposes. Basically you can end up in situations where, because there'll be one photo with a hair in perfect focus, with it shown actual size and geometry projected onto the sensor, and every other shot out of focus will have it as a different size projected onto the sensor, you can end up with no actual coverage of stuff it was obscuring, because at all other focal positions it occupied more space as bokeh than it occupies in reality. And to minimise that you end up leafing through, whatever, 6-12 different exposures looking for bits you can pull out to mitigate that effect.

    (ed - just remembered I brainfarted on the actual term for this behaviour, but it's a parallax effect :D)

    So in addition to double checking what photoshop has got wrong, it can be that technically the blur portion has more contrast and information in it than the real in focus image, but it's not accurate to the subject. There are a few other errors that come from just, lens weirdnesses if you look very close - like the antenna positions seeming to change as they cross high contrast surfaces behind them, which looks like the antenna was moving during between exposures, but it's actually an artifact from how light travels through the lens.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
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  11. Sam0912

    Sam0912 Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 1, 2012
    Thanks a million, a lot to digest but great info for me work on!
  12. Chris5107

    Chris5107 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 28, 2011
    Very impressive!
  13. macro

    macro Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 22, 2012
    New Zealand
    Nice ratios and very sharp shots. Impressive work from behind the gear.

    All the best and loving these.

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