180307 Zebra Longwing - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto
Zebra Longwing

captive Zebra Longwing nectaring

This photo proved somewhat divisive when I took it to the Toronto Focal Forum for critique. Yes, every group has its strident anti-butterfly faction, but that wasn't what the issue was. It was the nature of the photo itself.

Capital-N Nature photography is its own thing with its own style and conventions. Sharp front-to-back, descriptive, neutral, and natural. This is none of those things, but some people still wanted it to be. Including the word 'captive' in the title was supposed to be a clear signal that Nature-nature wasn't what I was going for, but nevertheless some consternation remained.

And that's fair.

I've been trying to decide for myself what kind of butterfly photos I want to take. Do I want ones that would look at home in a guide book, ones that are of butterflies but not precise, or photos that happen to include some bugs? So the meta-discussion about nature photography as a thing was helpful.

The style of photography I want to pursue is not something that I can really decide in the abstract, but just do and see what I like. After a trip to the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory it seems like I'm leaning toward the middle butterfly-plus option, but that'a an easy route to take for abundant and captive animals. When mucking about with depth-of-field isn't an option, and just catching the little bugs with the camera becomes an accomplishment in its own right, maybe my answer will be different. 

But probably not. My Butterflies of Niagara photos are here.


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