Butterfly Morning

Butterfly Morning

This was one of those photos where everything just worked.

I took this on a Friday morning. Two days prior my wife and I were out biking around the neighborhood with our kids and we went past a pretty large field full of yellow and red flowers, and at the time I told her that I’d like to return the next morning to take a picture. We talked about how the red flowers might really stand out against the yellow ones, and in the right light it might look pretty cool. Sunrise was about 6:20am and I knew if I left for work at 6:45 I would have time to drive past this field, hop out, snap a few pictures before the sun was too high in the sky, and then get to work right on time.

Things didn’t work out for a photo opportunity the next morning but when Friday rolled around I was able to get out the door with a few minutes to spare–enough to drive past this field and stop to take some pictures. I brought my D750, 50mm lens, and +4 close-up filter just in case I wanted to get a few macro images. The flip-out screen on my D750 made compositing much easier since I was able to put my camera in Live View, hold it close to the ground, and see precisely what the scene would look like as I took some pictures. (Even though I normally prefer the optical viewfinder when using DSLRs, Live View does have its advantages.)

A few minutes later and I just wasn’t having much luck. I had plenty of shots of flowers but nothing that really stood out to me though perhaps I might share one here in the coming weeks anyway. I liked the lighting, I liked the colors, and the dew drops covering the grass were a really nice added touch that helped lend some unexpected sparkles to the pictures. The problem wasn’t necessarily finding a good scene, it was finding a good composition. How could I use the various elements to create a solid photograph? And that’s when I saw this butterfly.

I now had a clear subject and focal point for a photographic composition, and I carefully made my way over to the place it was resting in order to take a couple of pictures before it flew away. Once again Live View and the articulating screen helped immensely, and I took several shots at various apertures in order to play around with background blur and overall subject sharpness. No matter what I wanted the butterfly to be as sharp as possible so I shot some at f/1.8, others at f/2.8, and a couple more at f/4 just for good measure.

What I didn’t expect when I loaded the image into Lightroom was how much I liked the bright spots of light thanks to the dew on the grass. They added so much to the image that I ended up choosing this as my favorite picture form the morning even though the butterfly is just a tad soft compared to the shots at smaller apertures. Even stopping down to f/2.8 had a hugely noticeable effect on the bokeh balls (is that what they’re called?) on the left side of the composition, and that was a compromise I just didn’t want to make.

This image also reminded me of one I shot nearly five years ago with the exact same lens, but on my old Nikon D200. It’s fun to revisit old photos as a way of seeing how much you can learn with a little time and experience :)

Comments

  1. Rebecca Burlingham says

    Man! What a difference the dew drops made. The colors and the bokeh balls give this image a magical presence.

    • Thank you! As soon as the dew disappeared this photo would have looked totally different. It’s kind of cool how much little things like that can add to a picture :)

      • Rebecca Burlingham says

        I have two FB friends, both early birds, who take brilliant early morning images. Both know how to play with the light and the dew drops.

  2. Simon,
    What a beautiful image. It all works together to give a dreamy feel to the image. Nice work!

  3. David Beresford says

    Lovely shot. Congratulations.
    Excellent composition and colours. The butterfly commands your attention in the photo despite all the other elements.

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