Butterflies and Moths with Balanced Fill Flash

Disappointed with my last set of hummingbird photos, I decided to try again with a flash.  I went out on July 3rd with the 70-200 plus 1.7x teleconverter and an SB-800 flash, but no hummingbirds showed up. On July 4, I tried a different approach. I went out with the Nikon 105 f/2.8 micro (macro) and an SB-600 flash with a Sto-Fen Omnibounce diffuser.  I decided I would go into Ninja stealth mode and get close to the hummingbirds.  And it might have worked, if any hummingbirds had shown up that day.

Fortunately, some butterflies and moths arrived, and I got a chance to test the rig. Because the flash syncs at 1/250 of a second, I definitely lost some images to motion blur, but I have to commend the Nikon lens’ vibration reduction system, because camera shake was rarely a problem. Without the flash, which was set at -.7 stop, the images below would have been far too contrasty, with harsh shadows or blown out highlights. All in all, I think it worked out pretty well.

My wife says this is a painted lady butterfly on a lantana plant. I really should know this stuff, but for some reason, plant and animal names don’t stick in my brain.

Neither of us knew this guy’s name, so let’s call him Ralph.

The careful observer will see evidence of the flash in this one, but I don’t mind.

Without flash, this image would include a silhouette or a blown out background. With flash, I was able to balance the foreground and background exposures. And when I say “I,” I mean the computers in the camera and flash balanced the exposure.

The 105 micro is no slouch when it comes to bokeh, the rendering of out-of-focus areas. Before I got my 85 f/1.4, I was using the 105 as a portrait lens, but the effect is not quite so nice at portrait distances. I always say it’s not about the gear, but great lenses can make a difference.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Camera Settings, Lighting, Nature Photography

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