Cabbage White butterfly

Cabbage White on Lace by Todd Henson

A female Cabbage White butterfly backlit on white lace curtains.

Sometimes you don’t even have to leave the house to photograph wild creatures. They just have a way of getting inside, so why not take advantage of this?

I was visiting my folks house and saw the cat moving around the front bay window. I didn’t think much of it until later when I noticed a little Cabbage White butterfly resting on the lace curtains well above the reach of the cat. The butterfly had seen better days. Perhaps the cat had done some damage, or perhaps it was just nearing the end of its life.

I happened to have my 105 mm macro lens with me so that’s what I used. I cranked the ISO up to 1000 since it was a little dark inside. It was afternoon and the sun was behind the house. The light shining through the window was not direct sun, but it was still fairly bright compared to inside the house.

Macro lenses can naturally give a very shallow depth of field when focusing up close. So I wanted to stop down the aperture to let me capture the entire butterfly in focus. However, I was hand-holding the camera so I couldn’t let the shutter speed drop too much or I’d get a blurry photograph. In the end I settled on an aperture of f/8 and a shutter speed of 1/160 second. This let me expose for the butterfly, letting the background go bright without blowing out any details.

My goal was to create a nice high-key image with the light-colored butterfly standing against a glowing bright white background. I wanted it to feel soft but still have the butterfly in focus. I’m happy with how it turned out. Even if I never do anything more with the photograph than post it here, it was great practice. I pictured how I’d like the image to look then worked on finding the settings that would get me there. I encourage you to practice in the same way.

When I finished photographing the butterfly I gently captured it and let it go outside. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done this, as I later learned Cabbage Whites are not native to this area and are considered a garden pest for the damage done by their caterpillars, and this did appear to be a female based on the number of spots on its wings. Oh well, native or not, it’s still fun observing and photographing these beautiful little creatures.