Common Rose 1
Finding facilities that house butterflies is becoming more difficult. The Wild Animal Park, north of San Diego, hosts a dozen species of tropical butterflies from Central and South America for a couple weeks in March. Why only a couple weeks? Apparently, these butterflies and their care is highly regulated by the USDA. The problem for the photographer is that everybody in SoCal who wants to see exotic butterflies heads to this relatively small facility.
There is nothing like negotiating your way between other photographers, tourists, and mothers with screaming children. My strategy is to find a location that is slightly less crowded and has a clear view of certain flowers that attract butterflies while being a little better lit than most other locations. I use a 200-400 telephoto zoom in order to get a closer view of the butterflies. Since there was no direct sunlight this year, only heavily filtered light, I had to jack up the ISO to 1250.
The image above was taken with a prosumer 12 megapixel digital SLR. The ISO was jacked up to 1250 which yielded shutter speeds in the 1/250 range. Aperture was set between F4 and F7.2 depending on the speed of the butterfly's wings. The lens used was a 200-400 F4 on a carbon fiber tripod in order to isolate the individual butterflies and work around the crowd.