Flash

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The light was so appalling today that I didn’t know where to start with taking a photo. I checked the forecast for all my usual haunts, and nothing better was predicted anywhere else than the deep gloom we were experiencing in the damp trench we call home, so I’d almost decided to break out the light pad when I realised that last week’s daffodils have gone too far over to be photogenic. Then I remembered that it’s Tuesday, and that I hadn’t been to Stratford Butterfly Farm for a while – so off I zoomed with the macro.

I don’t really like taking flash photos of insects, and I’ve recently been looking at a small adjustable light that attaches to the hot shoe of a camera. But I haven’t yet decided whether it will be a properly useful addition to my kit, and as I could barely see my hand in front of my face in the flight room of the Butterfly Farm (which is only lit via natural light through the glass roof, filtered through a net lining), and the 7DII creates quite nasty noise if the ISO is pushed too high, there was no other sensible solution but to get out the flash unit. After a few trial shots I worked out a power setting and a flash head angle that provided light without bleaching out or freaking out the butterflies, and I have to admit that using flash did make photographing them very easy, and created one or two interesting images.

This is a Harmonia Tigerwing, a butterfly that’s found from Mexico down through Central America and into Colombia and Brazil. It’s a toxic species, a fact it advertises through its bright orange and yellow colouring; alkaloids are absorbed by the larvae from the plants they eat, and make both the larvae and adult butterflies unpalatable to birds. Because of this the patterns of the tigerwing butterflies are mimicked by some longwing species, which are not themselves toxic.