I saw this Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore) butterfly on a dry twig. I was carrying my Canon EOS 5D mark III fitted with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM + Canon EF 1.4x III Extender. I find this 420mm rig is my favorite and helps me to cover both tele and closeup photos with one setup. The 300mm f/2.8 lens without extender gives magnification of 0.13X at Minimum Focus Distance of 2.5m (8.2 feet). Extenders do not affect the Minimum Focus Distance of the lens they are mounted behind, thus the Maximum Magnification of the lens is also multiplied. So with 1.4X Extender I get 0.18x magnification at the same Minimum Focus Distance of 2.5m. Even though it is not as great as having 1:1 magnification of dedicated macro lens, but is close enough get good closeup photography. If I add 2x converter I get 0.26X magnification. I was using my Benro C45T Carbon Fiber Monopod to support this heavy rig. To get better depth of field I first chose f/8.0 which still seemed shallow. Only at f/10 aperture the depth of field was sufficient. You can notice a very smooth bokeh in the background. You can know more about Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore) here and here.
As there was not much scope to get any other view of this butterfly I wanted to experiment different framing of the subject and its effects on the viewer. The photograph above is the common mistake most photographers do. Keeping the subject in bang center of the frame. Camera manufacturers have provided the common focus points right at the center of the frame and once you start using them to focus you tend to stick to them and present the photo with subject at the dead center of the frame. If you study great paintings you will realize most painters used the rule of thirds to enhance the appeal of the photo. The butterfly looks static when you place it in the center and viewer will loose interest even though the picture is beautiful.
Compare that photo with this photo. Here the butterfly is on one side of the picture. We have followed the direction mentioned in the rule of thirds and placed it at the intersection. Here in this crop, there is lot of blank negative space in front of the butterfly. That makes the picture heavy on one side of the picture. It looks as though it is getting tipped to one side. Too much negative space without another object to anchor does not feel nice. If I had one twig or a tree to balance on that edge then this picture would have looked better.
Now we come to the proper balanced picture. Here the butterfly is on the other 1/3 of the picture and the twig on which it is sitting is giving weight to the opposite side. So the picture looks balanced, dynamic and nice. You need not achieve full rules of thirds with pin point accuracy but visually it should feel that way. After all we appreciate a picture visually.
To make you think more on the visual appeal of composition, I made two more crops of the same butterfly who was patiently basking and waiting for the mate to pass by. The picture at the beginning of this blog has a square crop. This is one of my favorite crops. Our cameras unfortunately natively don’t do this crop which was the norm in medium format cameras like Hasselblad, Contax, or Mamiya. Now you either need a high end point and shoot which can shoot in square format or shoot normally in your digital camera and crop afterwards. Very easily you will be able to learn to see your composition in a square aspect ratio after some practice.
The format above is the portrait format of crop. Even here the same rule of balance appear. Since the width of the portrait crop is smaller the balance aspect is not really that pronounced as in the case of the landscape format of the earlier photos. Following rule of thirds whenever possible gives you a best method of showing your picture nicely, if you don’t remember any other rules of composition.
If you are interested to know more, you are free to join our Mangalore Photography Club Photo-critic Group on Facebook. Here we critic photographs which are submitted to the forum and it will be a nice platform to learn better composition, photography techniques and tips and tricks.