The butterfly population of the UK has been in decline for many years now and photographing them out in the wild can be difficult. First you have to find them, then you have to make them sit still for long enough to capture that perfectly focused shot. It’s quite a challenge, and one that I enjoy, but when you want to experiment with your macro photography its far easier to head off to your local butterfly farm.
One of the biggest butterfly farms in the UK is right in the centre of Stratford Upon Avon and only an hour or so from where I live. It’s conveniently situated on the edge of a large car park, and they seem very relaxed about photographers going in. Having said that I’ve never tried with full tripod which would obviously give a much better chance of getting the focus right but a zoom/macro lens hand held is more than ok to get some half decent shots. One thing you do need to be careful of though is the condensation that can build up on your lens and in your camera and I would suggest you go just as the place opens or wander round for a good 15-20 minutes to avoid some serious steaming up. First thing tends to be best as the butterflies are a little less active and will happily “pose” without flying away. There is also less people during the first hour or so.
In terms of the technical stuff, I would shoot around F8-F11 to ensure everything is in focus but keep an eye out for a clean background. Its easy to get some clutter in the way when you just focus on the butterflies. Other than that this place really is a haven for testing out your macro skills so experiment, and have fun.