Shooting Butterflies at Brookside Gardens

Between July and October, you can see exotic butterflies at Brookside Gardens. During the summer months, the gardens are a profusion of colors and scents. Here a Black Swallowtail butterfly gathers nectar from an echinacea flower in the hot July sunshine.

Butterflies at Brookside Gardens’ Exhibit ‘Wings of Fancy’

During the summer months, Brookside Gardens opens one of their large conservatories as a butterfly house. For a small fee, visitors can walk the greenhouse and get a close-up view of large and beautiful butterflies. Brookside stocks the conservatory with a number of different and colorful species from North America, Costa Rica, Africa, and Asia. Equally impressive are the tropical plants and flowers cultivated in the building. A fake stream runs through the conservatory with small bridges to complete the effect. The butterflies seem largely unaware of the people wandering around, indeed they often land on the visitors looking for nectar and water. Moving back outside into the main part of Brookside Gardens there are times when you wonder if you are still in a butterfly exhibit. The different flowers throughout the gardens attract huge numbers of butterflies and other insects.

Swallowtail Butterflies

Swallowtails are large, colorful ‘birdwing’ butterflies that are very common in our part of Maryland. There are some 550 species in the world. The Black Swallowtail and the yellow Tiger Swallowtails frequently glide gracefully around our own garden and flock to the mint and butterfly bushes throughout the summer. The white Zebra Swallowtails are less common although we see more of them when we walk in less populated areas such as the Patuxent Research Refuge. This particular visit to Brookside Gardens was soon after I bought my first DSLR in 2011, a Pentax K-r. Prior to this, I had spent many years shooting with different generations of Nikon Coolpix Cameras, after moving from analog SLR’s to digital. Whilst I was familiar with photography techniques and utilizing the manual settings on the Nikon’s, I decided to start simple just using the Pentax auto-presets.

On the use of camera presets

I use auto-presets as a great standby for photoshoots, despite the fact that I often find people on Photography sites disparaging their use and belittling people who use them. I use presets in fast-moving situations where I have very little time to reset the camera and I almost always take an auto shot in addition to a series of bracketed photos when shooting for HDR, partly because it gives me a baseline to review post processing against but also as a basic back up if my exposures fail for some reason. For me, photography is more about portraying a story or an emotion and less about the purity of the shooting technique. I post photos that excite me, that stirs emotion in me. So should you. Don’t worry if your camera is not a Canon or a Nikon, don’t worry if you use the auto setting on your camera. Focus on composition and content, and always publish your best work. The work that moves you, the work that excites you.

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