180310 The Way of the Butterfly - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

Going to the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory was a way to quickly learn a few things before trying to photograph them in the wild. For that it was very successful, and worth the eight-hour round trip. I'll probably do it again in a month or two, before flight season starts in the grand outdoors.

One thing that I learned – something I had suspected for a while – people like butterflies more than they like caterpillars. Not all of the butterflies in the conservatory are imported from afar as chrysalis, but even the ones that are bred locally just emerge with wings, fully formed. Likewise the pro-polinator forces of society like the flying forms better than the crawling ones. And I'm just the same with my new photography interest. Something to watch for.

Giant Swallowtail

Perhaps the most important, practical thing that I learned is that it's impossible to track a butterfly in flight. If it's big enough for the focusing system to see then it's already too close, moving too fast and too erratically, for me to keep up with it. And it's worth knowing that I have the reflexes of a cat… who's basking in the sun after a large meal and a hard day's work.

But knowing that means that I can concentrate on other things, like predicting takeoff and landing and getting there first. And by giving up on butterflies in flight then I can concentrate on light and composition, and remember that I'm trying to take decent photos in addition to being there for fun and sport. 

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