Pluto Sphinx Moth Photography Rant
If you're looking for good photos of a Pluto Sphinx Moth, scroll to the
bottom or visit pages 1 and
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.
After feeding my Pluto Sphinx Moth caterpillars
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
spent an entire afternoon getting the two good ones, but wow I was happy
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
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