Have you ever actually tried to photograph a butterfly? Its incredibly hard. These majestic, beautiful little winged insects seem to come into our lives only for fleeting moments, and we usually never have our photography equipment with us, nor would we have time to setup at an instant and capture these beautiful moments. Most often, as our luck would run, we would be waiting, outside, gear all setup, waiting and waiting for the moment to come and it never does.
What if it were easy though? What if there were a sanctuary where we could go and the conditions would be perfect to be overwhelmed by the beauty of these creatures? It so happens that this sanctuary exists, and with the guiding hand of a professional we can all learn to capture those fleeting moments to our hearts content. The San Francisco Conservancy of Flowers has a butterfly exhibit on site for a limited time, and pro-instructor Ellie Stone and myself were able to teach a group of budding (pun-intended) macro photographers the ways of photographing the elusive butterfly along with the thousands of specimens of beautiful plant life at the Conservancy.
The entire bay area has been beset by rainstorms this past week, and outside, the weather isn't quite so favorable for flower (and least of all for butterfly) photography. Meeting underneath the small confines of a welcome awning, our class began with the traditional Aperture Academy salutations and such. Ellie and I introduced ourselves, as well as explained the details of what to expect, once we stepped inside the giant white greenhouse.
Once inside, we have to wait a few moments, to let the humidity equalize on our equipment, lest we be walking around with foggy lenses. We took the time to explain about how to setup cameras, what constitutes a good composition, and ideas about what to photograph with visual examples. We made our way to the butterfly exhibit first, and spent the next hour or more walking around the enclosed space and providing guidance in all manner of things. This truly is the best environment to capture these guys! By the hundreds they fly around the west wing of the Conservancy, periodically landing to rest their wings, or if you wore some bright colored clothing (Ellie), trying to suck the nectar our of your beanie! It is magical how close you can get and interact with the butterflies, and even though its a closed environment, the Conservancy is a beautiful place providing the butterflies plenty of natural scenes to photograph them in.
We spent the next few hours traversing the Conservancy in its entirety, Ellie and myself pointing out interesting flowering and non-flowering plants along the way, and providing help at a moments notice with advice on compositions and camera settings. There is a wealth of photographic opportunities here!
Nearing the end of our class, we took time to stop and do some image review on our students cameras, pointing out ideas on how to make things better, new ideas to try out, different angles to capture things at, etc. And then, its group photo time! With my camera precariously resting on the lip of a fountain we squeezed everyone into a beautiful little nook, and snapped our group photo. Ellie and I hung out in the butterfly exhibit to answer any lingering questions, and by then our class had come to a close. Its a shame these little guys aren't here year round!
Thank you to our students, we heartily enjoy helping you to expand your understanding of photography!
Until Next Time,
Scott, Ellie and the rest of the Aperture Academy.
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.