Our professional photographer’s recommended gear
Julie was expecting to use a tripod, but Heather suggested she try a monopod instead. Butterfly houses are heated, and as temperatures rise, butterflies become more active. Therefore, you need to be able to shoot and move quickly.
There’s more risk of camera-shake than with a tripod, but using a monopod is still much more stable than shooting handheld. You’ll need to watch the focusing, though, as it’s hard to avoid swaying slightly while you compose the shot, and your subject might drift out of focus.
Long-range macro lens
Like Julie, Heather is a Nikon shooter. “I use a Nikon 70-180mm macro zoom, which has now been discontinued. It enables me to adjust for different subjects and shooting conditions quickly. The main requirement for close-up photography, though, is a longer-than-usual focal length, so that you can shoot from further away.
“This reduces the risk of frightening timid subjects, though it does make the depth of field shallower still. You’ll need to be extremely careful about focusing, as well as the angles you shoot from, which is why I emphasise the need to get parallel with your subject.”
Nikon’s R1C1 macro flash kit includes an SU-800 wireless commander and two SB-R200 flash units that fix to a ring mounted around the lens, which Heather swears by. These provide balanced illumination for close-up photography but can also be used handheld to provide backlighting.
“I use a Speedlight SB-900 fitted with a portable softbox, too. This provides controllable, diffuse lighting, and a remote flash cable means it can be used off-camera,” she says.
“The most useful kit isn’t necessarily the priciest, and sometimes costs very little. I carry a notebook in my bag all the time,” Heather says.
“However, I’ve covered it with aluminium foil so that it can be used as a reflector, bouncing light back into darker areas of a scene. This proves particularly useful in direct sunlight. Foil gives a bright, ‘sparkly’ light, while a matt white surface gives a softer, more diffused effect. It’s a great way to control the lighting without having to carry any extra gear.”
Anyone who’s tried close-up photography will know that nature isn’t always obliging. Plants grow where they want to, regardless of how this might interfere with your composition! My Wimberley Plamp (£30, $36) enables Heather to move stems out of the way, or place them where she wants them in the frame, without causing any damage.
PAGE 1: Meet our professional photographer and apprentice
PAGE 2: Close-up photography tips from our professional photographer
PAGE 3: Final tips from our professional photographer
PAGE 4: Our professional photographer’s recommended gear
PAGE 5: Shot of the Day