Monarch Butterflies

Often in the July/August time period I have opportunities to photograph Monarch butterflies as they visit various blossoms in my backyard. One of their favourite spots is a large butterfly bush that is adjacent to my back deck.

A few days ago I spent some time sitting in a lounge chair on my back deck photographing Monarch butterflies. It was one of the most productive butterfly photography sessions that I’ve had in quite some time.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 381 mm, efov 760 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3837 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.7 metres

I spent about an hour photographing Monarch butterflies and literally didn’t even have to leave my lounge chair to capture a good number of images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 334 mm, efov 668 mm, f/8.6, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3706 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.7 metres

At times I had three or four Monarch butterflies all flying around the same butterfly bush that is adjacent to my deck. As various Monarch butterflies launched from a blossom I’d use Pro Capture H to capture them in flight.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 413 mm, efov 826 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4039 pixels on the width, subject distance 4 metres

I would try to pick out Monarch butterflies that were positioned in decent light, and with a clear shooting angle.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 413 mm, efov 826 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3888 pixels on the width, subject distance 4 metres

Whenever I use Pro Capture H I very seldom change from my standard camera settings. Pre Shutter Frames and my Frame Limiter are both set to 15. I use 60 frames-per-second. I am very comfortable with these settings… and I’m confident knowing what to expect from my E-M1X.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3815 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.5 metres

I love using these settings with Pro Capture H as they tend to produce a good number of potentially useable images without negatively affecting my buffer performance. This allows me to fire off multiple Pro Capture H image runs in quick succession. Using UHS-II memory cards is strongly recommended.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4118 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.5 metres

There is something magical that happens when I can capture images of Monarch butterflies in flight. I love the sense of timing and drama.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 473 mm, efov 946 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4247 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.3 metres

I very rarely create images of perched Monarch butterflies… unless I can find a shooting angle that provides good subject separation.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 403 mm, efov 806 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3537 pixels on the width, subject distance 4 metres

The sun angle in my backyard is best in the morning. This affords me good exposure on subject Monarch butterflies, while also providing me with shade under my pergola. At times shadows on subject butterflies can be an issue.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 403 mm, efov 806 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3491 pixels on the width, subject distance 4 metres

Like many photographers when I begin a photography session I’m not particularly discerning with the position of subject butterflies. Initially it is more important to get my shutter release timing properly coordinated, and to study the behaviour of individual butterflies.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 420 mm, efov 840 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3358 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.2 metres

After about 5 to 6 minutes of general practice, I then become more selective and watch for Monarch butterflies landing on specific blossoms.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 420 mm, efov 840 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3630 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.2 metres

Until I switched to Olympus gear with its Pro Capture H technology photographing butterflies in flight was always a hit or miss affair… most often miss. I can now go out with absolute confidence that I’ll get useable images as long as there are subject butterflies in my backyard.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 420 mm, efov 860 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4099 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.2 metres

I used to explain to some photographer buddies that Pro Capture H expands what is possible. I now realize that this description is not completely accurate. While something may be possible… it can still be quite difficult.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 370 mm, efov 740 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3771 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.3 metres

A better way to describe Pro Capture H is to say that it expands¬† what is absolutely achievable. Going from a hit or miss situation to feeling totally confident that I’m going to ‘get my shot’ is a significant performance difference.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3696 pixels on the height, subject distance 4.7 metres

I appreciate that many photographers are focused on sensor size and performance due to the nature of their work. And… folks should buy whatever equipment best meets their individual needs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 420 mm, efov 840 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3785 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.2 metres

For the work that I do, a bit better sensor performance in terms of additional dynamic range and colour depth, pales in comparison to ‘getting my shot’. Pro Capture H provides me with the technology I need to consistently capture precise moments of action. For me, that is where a huge amount of joy is found with photography.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 434 mm, efov 868 mm, f/8.9, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4171 pixels on the width, subject distance 4 metres

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted. This is the 1,052nd article published on this website since its original inception.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 370 mm, efov 740 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3758 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.7 metres

How you can help keep this site advertising free

My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to support my work, you can purchase an eBook, or make a modest $10 donation through PayPal. Both are most appreciated. You can use the Donate button below. Larger donations can be made to tom@tomstirr.com through PayPal.

As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store.

Word of mouth is the best form of endorsement. If you like our website please let your friends and associates know about our work. Linking to this site or to specific articles is allowed with proper acknowledgement. Reproducing articles, or any of the images contained in them, on another website or in any social media posting is a Copyright infringement.

Article and images are Copyright 2021 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

6 thoughts on “Monarch Butterflies”

  1. I have really enjoyed your articles and photos. These Monarch photos are stunning. I recently was reading your past articles about the 4/3. I have the OMD 1 Mark III and was wondering if you ever posted your settings for the Custom Modes…. explaining your starting settings you use for your different areas of photography.

    1. Hi Barbara,

      I’m glad you have been enjoying the articles. I have two E-M1X bodies. One is set up for bird photography so all of the Custom Modes on that body are skewed in that direction. Here is an article about those settings: https://smallsensorphotography.com/bird-photography-settings

      I use my other E-M1X body as back-up for client projects (which have been non-existent for the past 18 months or so). With COVID restrictions I haven’t got this second body set up as I’d like for general photography and special features like Live ND, Live Composite, Handheld Hi Res etc.

      My wife uses an OM-D E-M1 Mark III. Basically she uses Manual settings that I assist her with adjusting. Again, with COVID we don’t have her Custom Modes programmed yet.

      For general photography I basically use Manual mode most of the time and don’t refer to Custom Modes… at least not at this point. I find the handling and ergonomics of my E-M1X is outstanding and I can adjust settings very quickly.

      Tom

  2. Just subscribed, because I am becoming Olympus curious. Great post. Trying to figure out where to begin in M4/3, so I am looking forward to reading more.

    1. Welcome to the website Steve! I hope you find your visits here enjoyable and helpful.

      In my mind where to begin with M4/3 is with your own photography and your plans for the future. As photographers we are lucky that there are so many excellent camera systems from which to choose. I started using smaller sensor cameras exclusively in July 2015, after I sold all of my full frame gear. My switch to Olympus began in June 2019 so I’m still fairly new with the system. As a result I’m still actively experimenting and pushing my gear to see what it will do. My E-M1X bodies and M.Zuiko lenses fit my needs perfectly. Whether you’ll find that the system is a good fit for you… is something only you will be able to determine.

      On the navigation menu you’ll find various subject headings which include a break down of articles by sensor size. It may be useful to spend some time with the M4/3 (OM-D/M.Zuiko) section where you’ll find almost 300 articles featuring images captured with my Olympus gear.

      Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *