Utah Lepidopterists’ Society Meeting: January 14, 2011

I finally made it to a meeting of the Utah Lepidoptersts’ Society.  The meeting was held at the Natural History Museum of Utah on the campus of the University of Utah and is adjacent to Red Butte Gardens.  The community room sits next to the museum café and is a fantastic place for the meetings when they are held in Salt Lake.  This was the first meeting held at the new museum and it is a beautiful venue.  I didn’t have time to take a tour, but will go through next week some time with my wife.

I’m sorry I can’t remember the names of everyone in attendance, but those I do remember are: Col. Clyde Gillette, Jack Harry, Jacque Wolfe, Todd Stout, Alan Myrup, Tony Jones and John Richards.  President of the ULS, Ben Cieslak emceed the meeting. Craig and Josh from the Utah Society of Entomology were also present.  If I missed you in the list, please chalk it up to old age forgetfulness and an inability to read my own notes.

Todd Stout allowed me to peruse a copy of the new book Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America
he had received from David L. Wagner, one of the authors.  This is a massive book of more than 800 species with over 2100 color photographs.  I’ve put a copy in my wish list at Amazon. Publishers, please make this one available on the Kindle.  The new Kindle Fire presents digital images beautifully and this book would be stunning in that format (and many pounds lighter).  Todd also pointed out that my image of Papilio indra indra on the blog’s header should more appropriately be Papilio indra minori.  He sent a couple of images via email and my faux pas will be remedied in the next day or so. LOL

Tony Jones gave the presentation: “Tips to Photographing Bugs in the Wild”.  Here are some notes I took during the presentation which consisted of the following 6 tips and display of many of his beautiful images:

  1. Get your images labeled within 2 days. You must get your images labeled within two days of taking them.  You just can’t trust your memory after that. Myself, I use a standardized field note form to track these kinds of things.  Additionally, I carry a GPS device set in tracking mode.  I sync the camera clock to the GPS clock before I start shooting.  Then when I get home, I first download the GPS tracker file, and then I download the images from the flash card using Downloader Pro 2.2 from Breeze Systems.  Downloader pro knows where I was at based on the tracker file and codes the metadata in the images with the correct GPS coordinates.  Downloader Pro even has automatic place name lookup. By the way, I always shoot in Raw format and convert the proprietary Canon CR2 format to the open source DNG format on importing.  I want to be able to have my images opened forever, and DNG being open-source should ensure that. It seems that the new meta-data formats will allow the creation of custom fields.  It would be nice to have a Family and Species field to populate once the insect is identified.  I’ll  need to research this.
  2. Shoot the subject multiple times. This is a trick used by most professional photographers. Once you get the lighting and camera settings right keep firing!  Shoot horizontals, verticals, try different compositions.  Shoot wide, shoot tight.  Shoot high and shoot low.  As long as the subject is cooperative, just keep shooting.  Bits are free.  We’re not shooting film anymore.  You never know which image is going to be the “Killer” shot.  Scott Kelby did a class on KelbyTraining.com called “Crush the Composition” where he talks about precisely this subject.  You keep working the scene as long you can.  That said, as we know butterflies; rarely hang around to let us just keep shooting an unlimited number of frames (that’s where tip #3 comes in).  By the way, Tony also recommended shooting a marker frame when imaging a new individual of a given species.  He shoots an image of his kids.  I take a photo of my hand at the beginning and end of HDR and Pano sets.  Other suggestions were a shot of plain sky and taking a shot with the lens cap on.
  3. Sometimes to get the best shot you have to capture and pose the specimen after cooling it. While this is somewhat controversial, I have no problem with it.  So long as the image is being used as an art piece or is clearly labeled as posed it doesn’t matter to me.  Net the butterfly then put in your cooler for a while.  Its metabolism will slow and allow you to pose the critter wherever you want and shoot for a quite a while before it warms up.
  4. Photos do not always provide adequate information to identify the insect. Sometimes you have to capture to identify and then release or dispatch to put in your collection.
  5. Keep all your shots for possible future use.  You never know when one of your discarded shots will be useful in the future.  It may be needed for later study of the species or habitat.  One of the reasons I keep mine though is that some would be great if I was able to process out a bit of motion blur or other problem.  We have no idea what improvements lay ahead in technology.  Recently Adobe demonstrated a possible new filter for Photoshop that essentially removes all motion blur from an image!  Hopefully we’ll see that in CS6
  6. Don’t be afraid to get dirty, wet or tired. Perseverance may pay off. Tony gave an example of hiking five straight days up Mt. Olympus to get a shot of a particular butterfly.  He didn’t get squat until the fifth day.  Also sometimes, you have to crawl on your belly to get the shot.  John Richards suggested knee-pads.  I added a pair to the jeep this morning.

Bonus Tip: You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretsky. This one is the number one tip of the presentation.  In the book “Outliers” it was explained that a person needed 10,000 hours of practice before mastering a skill.  How many hours have you put in?  I know I haven’t put in near enough.

For his butterfly photography Tony uses a Canon 50D and his favorite lens is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro. He also carries the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens.  In a few weeks I will be renting the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Telephoto Lens with a Canon EF 1.4X III Telephoto Extender. These have been recommended by a number of butterfly photographers on various forums who say this combination gives very good image size while allowing one to stay out of the fright range of the butterflies by keeping back 5 or 6 feet.On my new Canon 60D this combo is equivalent to a 672mm f/5.6 lens with a close focusing distance of 59 inches!  It has a 1:3 sensor/image ratio. I’ll also use flash to add fill light and to freeze any motion of the butterfly or lens.  I have read a few great books recently on butterfly and macro photography and will get some reviews up in a couple of days.

At the end of the presentation Tony held a drawing to give away a beautiful butterfly print he had made.  Tony also brought the refreshments.  You can’t go wrong with a seven-layer bean dip.  Thanks Tony.

I had a great time and forked over the $10 that “She Who Must Be Obeyed” reluctantly allowed me to have before leaving the house.  I am now officially a member of the ULS, having paid my dues and volunteering to bring refreshments to the March meeting.

The next meeting will be in Utah County at BYU: Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, Room 310, 10:00 AM.  Wayne Whaley will be presenting on the Papilio indra complex 2012 update.

GW


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