Butterfly Macros


Link Posted 09/09/2010 - 22:43
Just discovered a butterfly house in my neighborhood, and started shoooting them. Pentax K10d - 50mm macro auto-focus lens - anti-shake setting. Not using tripod because the darn subjects won't lie still long enough. I shot at EV 800 which gives me unacceptable noise.

Feel I need auxiliary lighting in addition to the ambient (which is not all bad). Is ring light the best way to go? If so, flash or non flash? How useful are the less expensive LED rings, including under $50. (Can't afford the $300- $500 ones) If I do get a ring light, are the little tiny bulbs replaceable if they blow out (Screw-in screw-out; no good at soldering)?

Any suggestions appreciated.

Big Al


Link Posted 10/09/2010 - 08:57
Quite apart from needing more light, I think you should look at using a different lens. 50mm is very close for shots of live & jittery insects. 50mm is great for static objects and flowers etc., but not butterflies.

Consider a minimum of 90mm focal length for this type of work. The SMC-P D-FA 100mm lens is very good, as are some Sigma/Tamron lenses. I'd recommend the Sigma 180mm EX DG lens for what you are doing, but it's not cheap.

For my macro work I mostly use the AF160FC ring flash, but it's broken at the moment and on it's way to the Pentax flash hospital to be mended.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream


Link Posted 10/09/2010 - 09:43
Mannesty wrote:

I'd recommend the Sigma 180mm EX DG lens for what you are doing, but it's not cheap.

The D-FA 100mm and Pentax AF 1.7x teleconverter is actually a very good alternative (although just as expensive).

So much so I am thinking of selling my Sigma 180mm macro.
No equipment list here but thanks for taking an interest. My Flickr
Last Edited by Mike-P on 10/09/2010 - 09:43


Link Posted 10/09/2010 - 11:25
G'day and welcome.


Link Posted 10/09/2010 - 12:20
I wanted the Sigma 180mm for a long time but it's rare as hens teeth in Pentax fit and now discontinued over here.
Been using the Sigma 105mm for a while and getting some great results but, as I am always shooting handheld on walks, lack of light and subsequent wide aperture decreasing DoF was an issue. So, just bought myself the Sigma EM 140 DG Macro Ringflash from SRS.
K7, ringflash and 105mm feels like a nicely balanced package for handheld shooting, and test shots of items on my desk at work yesterday shot at F22 produce a lovely DoF. I'll be taking into the field (literally) this weekend, weather permitting, for a proper test.

I'd still love that 180mm though, or maybe if Sigma released the 150mm in Pentax fit I'd snap that up instead.


Link Posted 10/09/2010 - 12:36
Heres one I took the other day with the K-7, D-FA 100mm macro, Pentax AF 1.7x teleconverter and external flash with diffuser in HSS mode,

Butterfly by Mike.Pursey, on Flickr
No equipment list here but thanks for taking an interest. My Flickr


Link Posted 10/09/2010 - 16:56
Heers my experience with Butterfly Farms;

All the ones I've visited have semi-opaque roofs to let the light in, so its best to go on a bright day, dont bother if its overcast unless you want to continue shooting at 800ISO and running the images through noise reduction software.

Try and visit on a weekday during school term time, then the only noisy disturbances will be from school trips.

Its always worth having a chat with the staff to find out when the best time of year is to visit for maximum specimen availability.

Yes a longer focal length lens would be better for skittish subjects.
My Names Alan, and I'm a lensaholic.
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Link Posted 10/09/2010 - 17:25
Welcome to the forum.

K-3's, K-3II.
Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 DC HSM EX, Pentax SMC FA 35mm F2 AL, Pentax DA* 16-50mm F2.8 ED AL [IF] SDM, Pentax SMC DFA 100mm f2.8 WR Macro,
Pentax DA* 300mm F4 ED [IF] SDM, HD PENTAX-D FA 150-450mm F4.5-5.6 ED DC AW, Pentax DA 560mm F5.6 ED AW.
Pentax HD PENTAX-DA AF Rear Converter 1.4X AW .
Pentax AF160FC Auto Macro Ring Flash.


Link Posted 10/09/2010 - 23:01
Hi Big Al and welcome to the forum.


I gladly welcome C & C's. Being foggy minded they really help me learn.


Link Posted 12/09/2010 - 22:42
Thanks to all for your comments. Those who suggest a longer lens, I appreciate the concept, but financially, I’ll stay with my 50 mm macro autofocus Sigma. It has stood me in good stead on many many flower shots, and the butterflies will just have to make do with it. I do have an old manual focus 100 mm macro Pentax mount lens, but my tired old hands no longer function so well in that department.(age 89.)

I particularly like fatspider’s suggestion about going to the butterfly house only on sunny days to catch the stronger light coming through the domed roof. That presents some possibilities.

Still concentrating on contriving some flash or other artificial light for the macros. Been analyzing the ring-light options. Decided the ever-burning LED arrays won’t work, as they will scare the butterflies away before I can get in position to shoot. Build-it-yourself flash ring lights are just too cumbersome and ugly. It’s a shame the well-designed flash ring-lights are so expensive. I smell a rip-off there.

What I think I’ll be doing is rigging some cheap-o used small strobes with slave triggers in a two light arrangement on an E-bay Twin-Light Bracket, such as THIS . I can do the whole thing under Sixty Bucks.


What do you think?

Big Al


Link Posted 12/09/2010 - 23:03
That'll work, but you may need to fit the flashes to small ball heads to get them aiming at the subject in order to light it properly, especially as you're using a 50mm lens.

The bracket itself will not turn inwards enough without modification.

To modify it, take it apart and file off the edges that bind. When you get it, you'll know what I mean.

I have one, and it works fine, but it wll only support relatively light flashes so my recommendation is to get a couple of auto flashes that quench the light using an onboard photo-cell. Don't imagine you can hang a couple of AF540FGZ's from it, because it's too flimsy.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream


Link Posted 12/09/2010 - 23:06
I Bought one of these, link works a treat,
Last Edited by jackitec on 12/09/2010 - 23:08


Link Posted 13/09/2010 - 03:48
Interesting coincidence,jackitec. I ordered this very LED setup two days ago, but cancelled on second thought. I decided that in addition to ample light intensity, I need to get the advantage of high speed electronic flash, to guarantee sharpness. The butterfly house does not permit tripods, and camera must therefore be handheld.

The quality and crispness I'm aiming for can be seen here:

These were shot (again coincidentally) at the Detroit, Michigan Zoo, which is three miles from my house, and to which I have daily access via the Old Folks Bus run by my suburb. The bus even has an elevator to lift my electric wheelchair.

With the two-flash bracket setup I hope to get some modeling in the lighting, yet softening it with white pillow case cloth covering the strobes for diffusion, which will also serve to reduce overexposure. All theoretically, of course.

Big Al


Link Posted 13/09/2010 - 09:52
Big Al

First welcome

As to your butterfly problems I remember reading somewhere about a man in an electric wheelchair who had some gear fitted to his wheel chair so he in practice had a tripod fitting mounted on the chair - now I'm searching in my memory - I think that Manfrotto makes some gear that can be adapted in this way

Hope this helps
let the education continue

proud owner of a couple of cameras and a few bits and bobs
Last Edited by techno-terminator on 13/09/2010 - 09:52


Link Posted 13/09/2010 - 10:07
Welcome Al

Someone on this forum previously posted photos of a DIY two-flash marco set up. I think it was Mike P or Clarkey? Perhaps they will see this and re-post it.
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