Page 3 Pluto Sphinx Moth Photography Rant Xylophanes pluto
If you're looking for good photos of a Pluto Sphinx Moth, scroll to the bottom or visit pages 1 and 2.

This page shares some of the not so good photos I took on the way to the good ones as I got acquainted with my new camera.

Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too yellow
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark, and too blue
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too brown, and bad depth of field
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark, too blue, and too much shadow
After feeding my Pluto Sphinx Moth caterpillars Firebush leaves every day until they made their cocoons, and then waiting for them to emerge, I was anxious to take pictures of the adult moths and add them to my site. Right around that time my camera got a spot inside the lens, and I found out that repair cost was roughly equal to replacement cost. Bummer! I was used to the camera, feeling very comfortable with it, and getting photos I loved.
Well.... I did want to get better close-ups, and the pocket camera I'd been using wasn't designed for add-on lenses, so the only way I could get them was with a magnifying glass held in front of the camera. If you're curious about how that worked out for me, have a look at my Parasitic Wasp Photos. I spent an entire afternoon getting the two good ones, but wow I was happy with them!

Ok, on to the point. My sweetie replaced my camera with a "real" camera. I used one years ago, but knew I had a lot to remember and learn anew to achieve the photographic results I wanted. I knew that lighting was important, but this moth really illustrated the need for good lighting; I should have picked an easier subject to begin with, but the moth was in hand, and needed to be set free.

I wanted to take pictures of my moth inside so it didn't escape before I got pictures. I also didn't want it to buzz out of sight inside and vanish behind something. Hide and seek with a fast moth isn't my idea of a good indoor game, and my spouse isn't all that thrilled at the idea of my bugs coming inside either. So, I opted for the smallest room with a window and shut myself in with my bug. Here are some examples of the results I got. I tried all morning while the sun shined in the window, and again late into the night:

Too dark, too blue, too yellow, too much shadow, too little depth of field, too blurry (well, it is  a MOVING target! Just when I got it in focus, it would start crawling up the wall, or wiggle, or fly....)
This next photo was a fun one. The moth is vibrating his wings to warm them for takeoff. It buzzed around the room for a while before settling on a perch, and I was shocked at how loud it was in flight. I spent as much time waiting for it to land again (and again, and again....) as I did taking pictures of it.
To increase the depth of field (make the picture sharp and clear near and far) you need a small aperture. That sounds simple enough, but it means that you either leave the shutter open for a long time, or increase the light, or both.

Light - no problem, I thought. A few hundred photos and a couple of hours later I was drenched in sweat from the heat of the various lights I'd strung all over the bathroom (well I did say SMALLEST room, right) like Christmas lights after a severe windstorm. Imagine drop lights dangling from the shower curtain rod, a 300 watt halogen lamp perched precariously across the sink, a floor lamp in the tub...

I was running out of outlets, lamps, and patience when my sweet husband braved the depths of our attic to retrieve his tripod for me. I wondered if he was tired of hearing of my howls of frustration each time I reviewed the latest pictures, if he was afraid I'd trip the breaker if I added another lamp, or if he was just as exhausted as I was... it was pushing one AM and I wasn't quitting until I got the picture I wanted because I planned to let the moth go that night. I concluded that it was love.
With the tripod and the lamps, after playing with the ISO and the white balance, I got slightly better results, but not what I really wanted. I concluded that mixing light sources isn't the best idea, and decided to wait for morning and risk moth loss outside.
The sky and other light backgrounds didn't work well, but I found a spot in dappled shade under a tree that did great, sort of. It was windy, so there were a lot of blurry pictures when the sail like moth wings caught the breeze. Persistence paid off though, and I finally started getting pictures I was reasonably happy with.
After tweaking the settings just a bit more to get maximum depth of field, the fastest time I could get away with, and holding the moth in brighter sunlight with a dark background, it got better, but the wind still made it tricky:
Close, but still too dark and too fuzzy:
Ah, that's better:
The really good photos of this moth are on the previous page, Pluto Sphinx Moth Page Two.
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark, and moving wing blur
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark and too much shadow
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark and too much shadow
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark, bad depth of field
Pluto Sphinx Moth, bad depth of field
Pluto Sphinx Moth, photo too dark, and bad depth of field
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