After doing a set of studio shots for D'arcy and Connor's naming day ceremony (D'arcy, D'arcy, Connor) which incorporated a butterfly I decided to 'borrow' one of the weekend release candidates and get a picture of it that would tie in with the portraits.
I also wanted to have a go at a bokeh background so after 20 minutes of rummaging through boxes in the garage I finally managed to dig out the Christmas tree lights. Another 10 minutes of untangling and I had my background props sorted out. I strung the lights up on a reflector arm holder in front of a seamless orange background and plonked a light stand in the middle of the room. With the camera on a tripod, I set the lens wide open and focused in close to the tip of the stand before turning the auto focus off. With the room lights off, I started experimenting with the shutter speed to get a nice pattern in the background. Two and a half seconds turned out to be the magic number.
With the background sorted out, I set up the stick for the butterfly to sit on. As I was using my reflector holder for the background lights I had to find something else to hold it. A garden spade sat in a bucket was the first thing I found in the garage that would do the trick and this became an impromptu prop holder. I added a super clamp to the spade handle and wedged the twig into this to hold it in place. The extra weight of the clamp made the whole thing a bit top heavy so I added another clamp to the front of the bucket to balance things back up.
With the twig in place, I taped a small post-it note where I wanted the butterfly to sit while I set the lights up. With the long shutter speed and the wide open lens I only needed the flashes on low power. I started with an SB-28 on 1/64th power in a large soft box over the top of the twig. I also added another grided and orange gelled SB-28 on 1/4 power to the front left of the butterfly and in the final shot I included a third grided and gelled SB-28, hand held from the right behind and below the butterfly.
With everything in place, the model was revived from it's semi-hibernation state. It is supplied in a specially designed package that keeps it cool and as butterfly's are cold blooded this sends it into a state of suspended animation. After a few seconds it started to wake up and when I placed it on the twig it gripped on and because the lights were off, it sat still. Unfortunately, it was not very conducive to spreading its wings. I guess they must pull them up into the closed position when it is dark. It was because of this, that I added the hand held back light. Without it, the underside of the wings looked a lot duller than the top side. With it, the wings lit up and looked almost as good as the top side.
At this point, it would have been nice to have the use of a macro lens but as that hasn't quite made it to the top of my 'stuff to buy' list yet I had to make do with a 'zoom and crop' shot. Still I was pretty happy with my first bokeh background shot! :)
Setup shot here: Butterfly Setup
Learn how to light: www.strobist.com