The Making of a Photo: Banded Hairstreak


A small Banded Hairstreak Butterfly hiding in a conifer.

90mm, VC ON, handheld, ISO 400, 1/100 F/3.2

Long time, no post!

I thought some people might be interested in my thought process on this somewhat unconventional macro photograph. This is a handheld shot with one of my basic setups, the Tamron SP 90mm VC F/2.8 lens and my Canon EOS 60D. Initially, this small butterfly was nectaring on a good-looking flower out in the open, which seemed like an opportune moment to snap some shots. Upon my approach, it flew into this small coniferous tree and remained there for quite a while.

The two most common approaches I take when photographing a butterfly are a profiling photo (ventral view) or a top-down view (dorsal view). When photographing a winged insect in either one of these manners, it often emphasizes the colors and patterns throughout the wings. Not necessarily easy shots to take when trying to fill the frame with a tiny flighty critter.

Obviously, in my Banded Hairstreak photo at the top of this page, neither of these angles are really possible. For me, situational photography is often a matter of problem-solving, like a rubik’s cube of sorts. I recognized the situation to make what I would call a “hiding” or “peak-a-boo” shot”. I decided I would limit the depth-of-field so that the green needles would have a soft and melty feel. I also wanted to get the butterfly’s face as close to the camera as possible for subject emphasis. Handholding a DSLR in a lowlight situation and dealing with wind to get critical focus near 1:1 magnification is also a challenge. Out of about 30 frames of this exact shot, I walked away with 1 photo that I felt was sharp enough.

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