Cape May Butterflies

Is there something wrong with me?

I noticed something the other day. I don’t know what to make of it. I found that when I am out enjoying my hobby, doing my art, expressing my inner innards, swimming in geek….. I share a hobby with a bunch of old ladies. Engrossed in some technical puzzle deep in the bowels of my camera’s menu system or staring for an eternity at some fuzzy bug on a flower, I look up, and sure enough, there are two old ladies cackling away just a few feet away from me. Shoo! Go away! Sheesh! How did this happen? It always happens. How did I end up here, older, wiser, and always standing next to some old lady with more flowers on her dress than the entire Philadelphia park system?

Hmm… I need to rethink things. Is this where I wanted to be? Did I want to grow up and spend my time hanging out with craggy wrinkles, stinky perfume, and endless boring stories that go nowhere? Nope, not me.

I got it!!! Let’s get rid of all the old ladies!  Yep! Pass a law.  Keep them out of the places we sophisticated photographers and artists need to be.  We are too smart and too important to be hampered by well…. whatever it is that hampers us.  Maybe just a “protection zone” is needed around us.  My friends already respect my zone and don’t get near me anymore.  I respect them and they respect me.  They know to leave me alone and not bother me with silly talk like “How are you?”.  They are good friends.  Now we need a law to keep the other nuisances away.

Cape May – Bird and Butterfly Migration WOW

Cape May in the fall, particularly in September, is just outstanding for viewing bird and butterflies. This is peak migration time, and Cape May is ground zero. Being on the lower tip of New Jersey and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay, southbound birds concentrate there where they stop and fuel up for a long run across an expanse of water. This is world-class birding.

I always meet folks from all over the USA as well as Sweden, Norway, Germany, and the UK and am shocked at how well Europeans can identify these American birds. Really, if you live within a day’s drive of Cape May, you really owe it to yourself to go and check this place out. Don’t expect discounts on hotels…. this may be off-season for sunbathers but still prime time as hotels are booked solid with bird nerds.

Some tips……

Check out my other blog piece on how to shoot butterflies by clicking here. There I go into a bit of technical detail.

Cape May is the place to go, but where once you get there? I will save my opinions on where to shoot birds in another blog post, but for butterflies…. try anywhere! I took all of the pics above in a place called Triangle Park on the corner of Lighthouse and Coral Avenues near the lighthouse. If you drive around the neighborhood near there, you will find a few homes loaded with butterfly-attracting plants and flowers. Drive by and just ask a homeowner sitting on a porch if you can snap a few. I was never turned down and the folks are more than happy to share their environments with you. Another place to stop is the office building at the light house where they have a nice garden that is always loaded with butterflies.

Beware your background. This is a “foundational” aspect to taking good photographs. For butterflies, I like to try and get a smooth, homogeneous, creamy backgrounds. You can get this nice background by doing a few things:

  1. Shoot against the sky. I like this… nice blue… but your butterfly may be a bit dark against the light sky. Try bumping your exposure compensation +2/3 to lighten the butterfly. If you bump up exposure compensation, the blue sky will become whiter.  This is OK because you can darken blues in software later to return the sky to its original color.  If not the sky, find something far away but still a single, smooth color.
  2. Open your aperture all the way. This always works for blurring backgrounds but depth of field is so shallow that parts of the butterfly may be out of focus. This only works if you shoot the butterfly with its wings perfectly perpendicular to your camera.
  3. Make sure the background is far away. This will allow you to close down your aperture to say f/8.0 thus getting more of the bug in focus, but the background will still be blurred being farther away.
  4. Don’t use a wide angle lens. If you use a focal length of say less than 50mm or so, you run a chance that the butterfly will be bulged and distorted.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Canon 24-105 L f/4.0 IS
  • Canon 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS II, with
  • Canon EF 12 II extension tube
  • LightRoom 5.2

Location Types: Garden and Jersey Shore. Galleries: Bugs and Critters and Butterflies. Tags: 5D Mk II, 70-200mm 2.8, and Extension Tube.

One Response to “Cape May Butterflies”

  1. Sam August 4, 2014 12:28 pm #

    “Is there something wrong with me?”


    Happy to help.

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