Cattleheart Butterfly at Magic Wings Butterfly House

There is a new destination on my list, the Magic Wings Butterfly House in Durham North Carolina. It’s rates 5 stars as a “Photographer Friendly” location.

They expect people to take photographs, and have constructed an enclosure that makes capturing great images about as easy as it’s ever going to get. In this post I’m going to talk about the images, but I think I’ll make another trip there to find out more about their facility and programs. The Magic Wings Butterfly House is just one part of the Museum of Life & Science, and I didn’t explore the everything that’s there by a long shot. So that will be coming at a later date.

When I was there earlier this week, the featured butterflies were tropical. Apparently they have different selections at different times, including North American butterflies.

The first guy at the top of the page is a Cattleheart butterfly. I believe this specimen is Parides arcas. There are a lot of subspecies in the Parides group and I’m far from an expert at identifying each and every one. Not having a good ventral shot makes it worse.  Parides arcas is my best guess.  Correct me if you have expertise in this area.

The true photography nerd will also note this image was taken at f/4.0. A long way away from the more typical f/8 – f/16 range where all the photography manuals say you should be capturing butterfly images. The light was not great and I was trying to hold ISO 250. Shutter speed was 1/160, so that was the compromise. With such an extremely narrow depth of field, manual focus is required, not much room for error here. This may indicate that a flash setup with a softbox is in my future.

Bengal Clipper Butterfly at the Magic Wings Butterfly House

This image is a Bengal Clipper, Parthenos sylvia. We’re on the other side of the world now. This species is native to southeast Asia and India. They have truly amazing patterns with quite subtle color.

I had increased the ISO to 320, the aperture down to f/5.6 which left me at 1/25 for shutter speed. Since I’m hand holding a 105mm Sigma Macro lens with a telecoverter, we’re getting into a really marginal setup. I did have the Sigma’s image stabilization function turned on all day. I’m sure several marginal shots were saved as a result. As much as I like manual focus and old school methods, there are times when technology makes a big difference. This was one of those times.

Quote of the Day
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
Muhammad Ali


Magic Wings Butterfly House

Butterflies of America – Cattleheart