Behind the Scene: The Leopard Lacewing Butterfly

Over the last several years I have been collecting quite a number of butterfly images.  This is thanks to a nearby butterfly house.  This does feel a little bit like cheating, however.  Sort of like visiting a zoo to get photographs of African animals.  On the other hand, the local butterfly house is quite a bit cheaper than traveling to exotic butterfly havens like Costa Rica. 

One of my new projects is to identify and label my collection of images.  A favorite of mine is called the Leopard Lacewing.  In doing some research online, one Web site called this one of the seven most beautiful butterflies in the world.  Who am I to argue with that!

What I like so much about the Lacewing butterfly is the ornate underside.  This is a bold pattern with lots of dots and bars, and many colors. With a little bit of "fill flash" from a flash with diffuser mounted on my camera's hot shoe, the colors come out very nicely

This is my most recent image, taken a couple of weeks ago. I think this specimen
stands out nicely against an all-green foreground and background.
As I recall, the flip-out display on my Olympus E-M5 made it easy to hold the camera
at waist height to capture the butterfly at this angle.
1/200th; F8, ISO400 and a touch of fill flash.

Topsides the Lacewing is also beautiful and I have posted an image below showing the vibrant top of the wings.  The bright orange indicates that this is a male.  Apparently the female is a bit drab, with gray instead of orange.  I don't seem to have a picture of a female. I'll have to keep my eye open for one next time.

The Leopard Lacewing is found in India and Southern China, down through the Malay Peninsula and Singapore.

1/650th; F8, ISO400 and a touch of fill flash.
(If I were doing it all over, I'd drop it to ISO200 and 1/325th)


Favorite Stuff: Duluth Trading Company's "Working Man's Vest"

I'm a big fan of Duluth Trading Company. At Christmas time, it's my primary source for useful gifts. It's not well known but their stuff is excellent, and like many classy online stores they unconditionally guarantee their products.

Last year at this time, in preparation for a two week adventure to the Canadian Rockies, I purchased a "working man's vest" on the recommendation of a colleague. I was/am very happy with this purchase. This garment has pockets everywhere, both inside and outside. There is mesh on the sides and in the back, so it feels very light and comfortable even in summer.  (Warning: they do run big.)

What prompted this post is that I received an email this week (I'm on their email list for special sale items) showing the vest for $10 off. I have no idea how long this sale runs.

Below is a screenshot from the email.

No coupon code is needed. But the $10 off only seems to work if you go to this link:


If you can afford it, I recommend ordering two sizes and returning one after you try them both on.


Sony NEX-5R deal of the century

I have never bought something more quickly than when I saw the following deal on Amazon, thanks to a post from another photographer on one of the Sony online forums.  In fact I ordered it so quickly that I forgot to change the default postage to the "free" shipping option.

The screenshot below is what I bought.  This is Sony's latest NEX-5 series camera.  For $328 I wonder if this was a misprint?  Regardless, they honored the price. 

This second screenshot is the same thing, as advertised the next day! This second price is pretty good, too, if you find some of the filler items in the box to be beneficial.  For me, only the second battery (a generic worth about $15) and the 32gb memory card (worth about $22) are worth keeping.

This really is one small camera.  And to think it has the Sony 16mp APS-C sensor in it!  I am not too sure I am happy with the sharpness of the 18-55mm kit lens but I can easily sell it on Amazon or EBay.  I may keep it, I may not keep it.  I'm not sure yet.

What I have done is put the "pancake" 16-50mm zoom on it, which I already own.  This makes a wonderful alternative to a compact camera.  I've tested the 16-50mm lens against my go-to compact camera, the Panasonic LX5 and found that the 16-50 outperformed the LX5 at all common focal lengths and F-stops.  This testing was done on another Sony camera, the NEX-6; however the sensor is the same on both the NEX-6 and NEX-5R.

How will I use this camera? 

At least for now, the NEX-5R and 16-50mm pancake zoom will be slotted as my "grab" camera.  I have a small padded fanny pack that is a perfect size for the camera with lens attached, spare battery, and the auxillary flash.  I do have one concern ... if any of my kids see me wearing a fanny pack, I'll never hear the last of it.  haha.


Butterflies with the E-M5 plus kit 40-150mm plus Metz 50 AF-1 flash plus deflector

In April I made two trips to Westford's Butterfly Place.  I have been there quite a few times over the last few years, but find that I am still able to "capture" new varieties.  Hopefully, too, I can get better and better images of some of the varieties I already have in my growing "collection" of tropical butterfly photos.

Earlier this year I acquired for $100 a brand spanking new Olympus 40-150mm zoom for m43.  It works rather nicely with a 3 foot focusing distance when zoomed to 100mm to 150mm.  At 150mm I can fill the screen with a composition 4" across.  I usually start with the lens at 150mm and zoom out if I want to add more environment to the image.  Of course, I can always back up.

My standard lens for flower and butterflies had been the 70-300mm designed for reg43 bodies.  But on the m43 body it focuses slowly and noisily.  That's okay for flowers but not so much for things that move. The 70-300 is sharpest when zoomed to 100-150mm, and focuses at about 3 feet.  But it has slightly more magnification than the 40-150.  At 150mm I can fill the screen with a composition that is 3" across.

Nevertheless, I think the 40-150 for m43 is a better choice for me.  It focuses fast and quietly and is very lightweight, which I notice after my (typically) two hour butterfly sessions.  By the way, the 40-150 is light because it is all plastic, even the lens mount.  I'd rather have a metal lens mount, but for $100 I have nothing to complain about.  As far as I can tell the optics are excellent in the range I am using for butterflies and at my preferred aperture setting of F8.  Though I don't get quite the magnification I have with the 70-300, a bit of cropping isn't particularly problematic with the 16 megapixel sensor of the E-M5.  When I started with the 70-300, it was on the Olympus E-520 which was a 10 megapixel sensor.

I used a flash during both April sessions.  The flash is a Metz 50 AF-1 to which I attached a cheap deflector.  I also have some other deflectors I expect to experiment with.

I used manual exposure settings.  Almost always I shoot at 1/250 and F8 and whatever ISO is required to provide underexposure of about one stop.  I then set the flash at TTL.  I use flash exposure compensation if adjustments need to be made.

Below are my two favs from April.  Neither specie was in my collection so I was happy to have seen these specimens and also to have found them in perfect condition.

Emerald Swallowtail

White Peacock
The rest of the images from my two April outtings can be viewed on my Web site, here:

9 images from April 7 at

9 images from April 20 at