Butterfly Pictures


As you can see from these two photographs taken during the summer of 1970 (I was 12 years old), my love of butterflies goes a long way back. I recall spending nearly every day of the summer heading out on my bike or on foot to some undeveloped field (by myself or with friend Kevin Haack) covered with wild flowers waiting for a butterfly to make it's appearance in a field in Wauwatosa or Brookfield. Of course I caught a variety of insects, but butterflies and dragonflies were by far my favorites.

Today I wouldn't dream of using a net because now I'm armed with a digital camera!  Besides doing no harm, I find that taking butterfly photographs far more satisfying than capture because you need to get in much closer than I would carrying a net.    


See a Queen butterfly emerge from it's chrysalis! Beware, this is a large file (1139K) but worth the download wait. I collected this near home and took this time series in the living room starting at about 10:00PM and the butterfly popped out at about 5:00AM, just before sunrise. The pictures are at about 10 minute intervals during the early evening and then 1 minute intervals just before and after the emergence. The butterfly was then taken outside to fly away to hopefully make more butterflies.

Click here for another Queen series! 787K.

Collecting Butterflies and Other Bugs With a Camera

Insect and Other Bug Galleries*

Click on the links or the images to enter the gallery

Butterfly 1. The Queen Butterfly.  

Butterfly 2. Painted Lady's.

Butterfly 3. Julia and Zebra Longwing.

Butterfly 4. Buckeye and Malachite.

Butterfly 5. Monarch's.

Butterfly 6. Swallowtail's.

Butterfly 7. Emperor, Snouts, and Blues.

Butterfly 8. Fritillary Butterflies.

Butterfly 9. Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies.

Butterfly Misc. Miscellaneous Butterflies.


White-lined Sphinx Moths



Miscellaneous Bugs.

A Day at Boyce Thompson.  Galleries of pictures taken on single days at this wonderful location for butterflies and dragonflies.

Praying Mantis


Attack of the Killer Bees!  No, they're not Killer Bee's, just regular Honey Bees! 

Bumble Bee & Carpenter Bees  The large bee collection.

Wasps and Hornets

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This space, too!

Oct 2006 Butterfly and other bug pictures from October, 2006.

Reserved for future gallery

Reserved for future gallery


* All photographs Copyright © Gene Hanson, 1997-2012, all rights reserved. The photos may not be copied for commercial use without the express written permission of Gene Hanson. My rates (i.e., no charge) are very reasonable!  Click here for information.

Gene Hanson today taken in Payson, Arizona. Northwestern Fritillary

Left: Gene Hanson armed with modern butterfly hunting equipment with a butterfly on my index finger. Photo by Marceline VandeWater.  Right: My picture of that same butterfly.     

Nature, Posed, or Captive?

Though it is my intention to show butterfly and other insect pictures taken in nature, be warned there are two other ways that me and other photographers utilize.  One is posed.  That is when we have captured (hopefully temporarily) the bug and placed it in a setting to easily get a photograph.  One pose method (which I have never used) is to keep a cooler at hand and temporarily freeze the insect so it can't move or doesn't move much.  One natural way to exploit this effect is to photograph in the early morning - a technique that doesn't seem to work very well here in Phoenix! ;-)   My pictures of butterflies emerging from their chrysalis' is another example of posing.  The second one is captive.  Photographing in a Butterfly Pavilion where the subjects are quite tame is a prime example.  Photographing in a butterfly pavilion is practically effortless.

So ... what difference does it make?  To look at the final photograph, none at all.  But I (and others) feel there is just a bit of dishonesty to present a picture without revealing that it was taken either captive or posed.  And not to be overlooked is a bit of pride, too.  It is a lot more difficult to capture insect images in the wild!  Therefore, I have tried to mark every photograph so you can tell how it was captured.    


What Equipment / What Skill?

Occasionally I'm asked what equipment I use to capture these images.  Almost all the photographs have the EXIF data retained so you can see exactly what camera, lens, and camera settings were utilized.  (In order to see this data, you must download the image and open it with a photo editor or browser than can display this EXIF information.)  One of the big reasons to ask what equipment is used generally drives photographers nuts: you're photographs are very nice, therefore you must have very good equipment!  Well, on this point I plead guilty.  These days I have a couple of Nikon DSLR's and a wonderful 150mm macro lens.  But more modest equipment also works extremely well!  Most of the smaller "point and shoot" digital cameras which are becoming ubiquitous offer macro modes that will allow extremely close focus.  Though I can assure you that equipment can be very important, it means nothing if you don't have the skill to go along with it.  You need to know how to use your equipment - setting appropriate shutter speeds and aperture, and getting the focus point acceptable when the depth of field is razor thin in macro work.  For this type of photography, you need to have skill in being pretty sneaky to not startle the skittish butterfly / dragonfly / other bug  you're wishing to photograph.  Clothing is an issue, too!  I'd love to wear white during our 6 month Phoenix summers, but I find dark blues and reds seem to scare insects the least.  Finally, photographing in the wild where you might have only seconds to capture your subject means hand holding your camera so you can quickly get into position.  And hand holding means being steady enough!  I chose the 150mm lens because I felt it was the longest lens I could reasonably hand hold without visibly seeing too much shake in the images.

My short answer to the question, what's more important, skill or equipment - both are important!           

Shooting Fish in a Barrel


Butterflies at the Desert Botanical Garden

Okay, not fish but butterflies! Live butterfly exhibits are gaining in popularity throughout the country. In 2002, one appeared at the Desert Botanical Garden here in Phoenix. Take a tour of the Marshall Butterfly Pavilion.


2002 Desert Botanical Garden Pictures

In 2002, the Desert Botanical Garden debuted it's Butterfly Pavilion here in Phoenix.


2003 Desert Botanical Garden Pictures

More butterflies in a barrel! The butterfly exhibit returned in 2003 for two months during the spring until Phoenix's summer temperatures make things too uncomfortable for the spectators.


So what do butterfly pictures have to do with variable stars? I can't think of any relationship, but I'm not the only variable star observer into butterflies. Take a look at these wonderful butterfly images from Gary Poyner in England .


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