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Butterflies – the best plants to plant and the best tips for photographing butterflies

November 11, 2018

Butterflies are a welcome addition to any garden, and they don’t have to be hard to attract no matter if your garden is a sprawling rural property or a tiny deck city courtyard.
While our studio was on Tamborine Mountain we planted four Richmond Birdwing butterfly vines and were rewarded with never-ending sightings of these beautiful endangered butterflies visiting our garden, along with many, many others.

Birdwing_8642 _1400pxBirdwing butterfly
Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

Plants that attract butterflies and butterfly friendly-gardening tips
If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, as they provide a natural beautiful subject for you to photograph, (though they can be often a challenge to capture and we’ll discuss this a little later) – here’s a few tips on plants to consider plant.

Butterflies like full sun, so position your butterfly-attracting plants where they receive a good amount of sunlight. Butterflies also don’t like too much wind, they are special and delicate.

Borage and fennel are two herbs that butterflies adore. The list of natives is endless…. which makes your planting choices imperative, especially if you are buying plants as this can become very expensive. Acacia, callistemon and grevillea species are all popular.

grevillia_1800Many Australian natives attract butterflies to your garden
Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

Limit your use of pesticides as butterflies like a pest-free garden, as we said, they are delicate subjects.

Butterflies see on the UV spectrum and love bright colours. They not only need a variety of colours but nectars as well. Planting loads of butterfly attracting plants especially in the hot pink, white and red regions should soon have you seeing these beautiful insects in your garden. Nectar is the key along with colour.

DSC_7522_1_cropped_1400._no text_squareButterflies love full sun and colour
Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

Some say a shallow dish of muddy water is beneficial as butterflies like to sit in the water and suck the moisture from the soil, I am trying this now with the new Bluedog studio plantings and will let you know if it works.

Butterfly photography tips
1. Keep the shutter speed high

I aim for 4000 second if I can though will go lower if they are relaxing and feeding.

2. Know your point of focus and depth of field (DOF)
This is critical for what you want to get into focus. If you are working with a dedicated macro lens your DOF extends each way equally, if not it is one third: two thirds with the one-third being in front.

3. Cut the crap
Only photograph what you need – cut all the outside crap you can without interfering on the insect’s daily chores and distributing him or her.

DSC_8659 copy_1200Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster


4. Do I need a macro lens?
The short answer is no, though a macro will allow you to get a larger image and one that is life-size. Any other general lens will give you a close but not true macro image. This image below was shot on a 70-300mm stock lens.

IMG_2489_Edited_web_1 Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

 5. Source out butterfly attracting gardens and national parks
Before your travel, do a google search for parks and gardens – even many zoos have butterfly gardens. Some butterflies are only seasonal unless bred and kept in captivity while many are only attracted at certain times of the year to a plant.

DSC_8664_1_72_1400Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

Did you know:
A butterfly is an insect. In fact, a flying one. Like all insects, they have six jointed legs, three body parts, a pair of antennae, compound eyes, and an exoskeleton. The three body parts are the head, thorax (the chest), and abdomen (the tail end). The butterfly’s body is covered by tiny sensory hairs.

DSC_8679_1400Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

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