Photography at North Somerset Butterfly House

Walking through the garden centre to get to the boring poly tunnels out the back was not what I expected for the start of a day of photography at a butterfly house.  The small shop was full of everything butterflyie (yes that is a real word now!), from girly tat to stunning photographs,  but "wow" the enthusiasm and knowledge of the owner was amazing.  Warming cameras with hairdryers before entering was a hint to the tropical heat that was to hit as we passed through the 'air-lock' doors into a subtropical world.  In this new world we had entered there were flowers of every colour, caterpillars slowly munching their way around the tunnel and butterflies flitting everywhere (as you would expect from a butterfly house!).  Slowly we worked our way around.  Unsure if macro, zoom or just plain stealth was the best way to go.  Breaking every so often for cool English air and rehydration we filled the day with colour.

Photography in a Butterfly House

This is slightly different to normal butterfly photography with heat and low light it takes some practice and a lot of rejects.

  1. Warm your camera before you go in.  Either use the heater in the car take a lens cloth with you to ensure you can wipe the condensation from warm air hitting your cold lens.  
  2. Visit at quieter times.  Wet weekends and open days are not the time to visit for photography
  3. Take time to wander around, look for the butterflies that settle and feed and those that are busy all the time
  4. Find a bright area where the butterflies settle to warm and bask
  5. Look in hidden corners and up high, the butterflies will be everywhere
  6. Tripods may not be allowed and may not allow the freedom needed to capture the butterflies in their hiding spots
  7. Come in close and focus on the smaller details
  8. A macro lens is the most useful or a zoom lens so you can get details without disturbing the butterfly.  The butterflies will react to your presence in different ways so you will need to work out where their 'personal space' begins!
  9. A flash may be needed but all of my pictures were taken hand held with natural light
  10. Set the ISO fairly high so the shutter speed can be kept low
  11. The f/stop can be varied depending on where you are in relation to the butterfly and what is in the background
  12. Keep an eye on the background.  The best images have a coloured but plain background.  Busy backgrounds distract from the butterfly itself