By Jim Zuckerman
Butterflies can be manipulated through temperature. They can’t fly if the ambient temperature is below 55 degrees, and this means that they can be placed on a flower or leaf at your discretion when they are cold and then, when it warms up, they will spread their wings and fly away – after you’ve taken their picture.
I caught this eastern tiger swallowtail in Michigan with a butterfly net, and then I put it in an envelope to keep the wings protected (the delicate wings can easily chip or break if the insect flaps them wildly, trying to escape). The envelope was put in a Tupperware container that, in turn, was put in a refrigerator overnight. In the early morning, I placed the chilled butterfly on the Indian paintbrush flower and caught sunrise lighting backlighting the beautiful setup. After I got my shots, the butterfly’s wing muscles warmed up and he flew away.
In photographing this, I made sure that the back of my camera was parallel with the plane of the insect’s wings. This ensured maximum depth of field. I used a tripod, of course, because macro photography without one is a pointless endeavor. You must have a firm support or else you can’t control the amount of depth of field in the image.