Week 18 of the 52 Week Challenge: “Patterns in Nature”

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The challenge this week was Patterns in Nature. A perfect topic for visiting the Calgary Zoo! The butterflies start emerging from their chrysalises in May, and if you time it right you’ll be walking into a kaleidoscope of beautiful butterflies in the Enmax Conservatory. This year I was a bit early – there were only a few butterflies and many, many caterpillars. Some of the cherry blossoms at the zoo had just bloomed too, and those always captivate me. I only had an hour in the zoo so I focused on the butterflies and flowers, all of which had natural patterns in their wings, leaves or petals. Below are some of my favourites from this week’s session:


A few challenges from this week’s shoot:

  • It was incredibly windy outside! Very challenging when trying to get sharp photos of the cherry blossoms while they are being blown around by the wind. I ended up raising my ISO so that I could use a fast shutter speed (1/640 second). 
  • I found the macro lens had a very shallow depth of field, even at small apertures like f/16! The shallow depth of field led to some parts of the butterfly being out of focus. I ended up using a very small aperture on my macro lens in order to get the entire butterfly in focus. Thanks to it being a macro lens, it still had a nice bokeh even at smaller apertures. 
  • The conservatory was a bit dark inside, due to it being an overcast day in late afternoon. I used a tripod for several of the shots to eliminate camera shake, and so that I could slow the shutter speed and avoid increasing the ISO too much. Several of the butterflies were quite patient with my macro lens and let me get pretty close for a while.
  • There are a few things that I would try next time:
    • Use flash. A faster shutter speed was needed for the butterflies that were moving (even a little bit). This entailed using a high ISO in those low light conditions and led to significant noise in the photograph. Adding light from a flash would provide more light and allow me to use a faster shutter speed.
    • Switch to a different lens, one that does not have as shallow a depth of field at large apertures. A larger aperture would let more light in and a lower ISO could be used.
    • Try focus stacking. This wouldn’t work that well if the butterflies move, even a little bit, so I’m not sure how plausible this option would be. It might be worth a try though so that the macro lens could still be used and to avoid the need for flash.



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