May is the month to photograph Bugs!

05 May 2016

Region: London


May is the month when we really start to see significant numbers of butterflies, hoverflies and dragonflies and bumble bees on the wing. These all make wonderful subjects to photograph but their small size can pose problems to the photographer. For such small subjects you really do need a lens that enables extremely close-focus. Most zoom lenses will not permit this but this can be overcome through using extension tubes or close-up lenses that screw onto the front of your lens just like a filter. A dedicated macro lens is the most ideal solution and my favoured focal length on a full frame (FX) camera body is 105mm or 200mm. I’m not a fan of smaller (60mm) macros on full-frame bodies since you are then required to be much closer to the subject (which makes it harder for you to get really close) and you have far less control over background coverage due to its wider angle of view.

It’s surprising how quickly bees and butterflies move around a flower feeding or collecting nectar so keep your shutter speed high to at least 1/250th second and your aperture small (f/11 or smaller) to increase your chances of a sharp image. Personally, my favoured technique is to work at either end of the day (dawn and dusk) when insects become less active and begin to roost for the night. Since they are unable to move, you have far more control over your composition and in producing images with creative flare. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea getting up so early or staying out so late but the sight of a butterfly or damselfly covered in dew clinging to a flower is one that makes all the effort worthwhile! 


Image Marbled-white butterfly © Robert Canis