Shadow Dancin’

In photography, timing is often everything. Click the shutter too soon and your subject might have blinked. Too late, and they might have flown the coop.

A few summers back, I was in Cambridge, Ontario, visiting their incredible Butterfly Conservatory. This is the most amazing place, with literally thousands of butterflies roaming free within the confines of a lush tropical garden. Walking about is a pleasure as you immerse yourself in steamy green flora. A delicate waterfall offers one of many photo opportunities that you’ll find here, for your camera will never leave your eye. Be it butterfly or bird, something is always flying about, and you’ve got to be ready.

Like everyone else—it was midsummer, and there were a lot of people around me—I found myself gawking at the most colourful collection of butterflies. They seemed to be everywhere, and I had captured some decent images. But all of a sudden, I saw this little fellow land on a big leaf. The light was perfect in the moment, coming down from just the right angle. It cast a perfect shadow, including the antennae, and I knew I had to move quickly.

I was carrying a big lens, a heavy Canon 70-200L 2.8. It’s a big piece of glass and isn’t easy to hold steady when you’re crowded. I had to wait for a number of people to pass by so I could get a clear view, all the while fearing the worst. Shots like this don’t come around very often.

I set my aperture and shutter speed to give me a narrow depth of field; I wanted the background blurred so as to focus the viewer’s eye solely on the subject. I clicked the shutter, and the instant I did, the butterfly took off. I thought I’d missed the moment, or at least, thought I’d caught nothing but a blur.

Luckily, timing was everything.