CLASSICAL PHOTOGRAPHY by Jess Isaiah Levin, Raleigh, NC

l250eddings, portraits, seniors, corporate events, fine art prints.

read previous entry

November 24, 2009

Butterflies, and other fairly small subjects - "almost macro" photography

Macrophotography is often strictly defined as life-sized reproduction of the subject on the camera sensor (or film). This 1:1 ratio has some optical justification, and it is certainly useful to have some stated boundary between macrophotography and "ordinary" photography. However, the definition given takes no account of the enlargement factor used when the image is displayed on a screen or printed. So if for example an insect is captured at a 1:2 magnification (1/2 life size) on a 24x36 mm sensor, then the image is enlarged a bit more than four diameters to make a 4x6 inch print, we have the final result of an insect printed at about twice its actual size. Sorry about mixing metric and Imperial/U.S. Customary units. The most common paper sizes here are not metric! You can think of the sensor size in the example as being close to 1 x 1.5 inches.

A good macro lens can be very useful over the full range from 1:1 reproduction to subjects extending toward infinity. In particular, it is very handy to be able to focus continuously on small subjects as they move in and out of the range that would be covered by a lens of more general optical design. Here are some colorful fliers photographed during my first visit to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC.

alighting butterfly

owl eye butterfly

A backlit butterfly and leaf:

comparing shapes

butterfly on flower

Preparing for take off:

butterfly takeoff

These creatures are seemingly never still:

blue butterfly

patterned butterfly

butterfly and bloom

A flurry of wings, with one butterfly almost stationary for a split second:

butterfly flurry

Finally, this one remained on the leaf for some time, gently moving its wings. I never turn down an offer to pose for a portrait!

posing butterfly

This poison dart frog is in a very dimly lit terrarium, also in the Museum of Life and Science:

poison dart frog

The rest of these subjects are close to home (or even in it), and all lent themselves to the perspective resulting from the close approach permitted by the macro lens, and the angle of view afforded by its focal length of 100 mm.


This mushroom might have made a suitable container for the tomato, except that it was of course much too fragile for that.

amazing mushroom

A magnolia blossom:

magnolia blossom

A gourd squash that looked like a coy bird:

bird-like squash



All images on this site © Jess Isaiah Levin