This is one of my favourite butterfly shots of the year. The season’s pretty much over now, so the changes are this will remain my favourite form the year. For a start, I think the Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) is one of the nicest species we have in Ireland, but this shot also illustrates why I love my Nikkor 55-200mm F3.5-5.6 zoom lens very well. When you’re shooting flowers or butterflies, you want the subject to be in sharp focus, and the background to be out of focus so that it doesn’t distract from the subject. You don’t want a busy complex background competing for the viewer’s eye. It’s that blurry background that gives shots that pro feel, sometimes called ‘the magazine look’.

This lens allows for a really shallow depth of field right in the sweet spot of the lens (around f8), and gives a wonderfully smooth and creamy bokeh (the out of focus areas). As lenses go, this is a cheap lens, I paid less than €300 for it a few years ago, and it’s come down in price since. A great value lens of you’re a Nikon DX shooter. There’s a new fancy VR (vibration reduction) version of this lens too, but TBH, I think VR is over-kill on this lens. If you can afford it, great, but I certainly don’t miss it. This is my work-horse lens, and I love it to bits.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
on FlickrFull-Size

  • Camera: Nikon D40
  • Lens: Nikon DX AFS 55-200mm
  • Exposure: 1/800 sec
  • Focal Length: 200mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/11
  • ISO: 400
  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Exposure Bias: -0.7ev
  • Processing: This shot is pretty much as it came out of the camera. It has been cropped to improve the composition, and subtly tweaked in Aperture’s Dodge & Burn plugin to selectively improve the contrast on the butterfly.