DIY Butterfly Release

Imagine a Butterfly Release. The bride is holding the top of the release container, and the groom is holding the bottom. The bride then pulls the top of the release container away and suddenly the bride and groom are standing in a cloud of colorful butterflies. Some of the butterflies land on the bride and groom. Some fly away, and some land on other members of the celebration. It’s an unforgettable moment and results in amazing memories and beautiful photos!

Before You Start

  • Temperature – To have a successful butterfly release, the temperature must be at least 60° F, and preferably 65°+ F. If the air is colder than that your butterflies will not be able to fly.
  • Rain Rain Go Away – If it rains at your wedding, cancel your butterfly release unless it’s a light rain. A light rain will cause them to land right away. A heavy rain could kill them. Just wait till the rain is over and release them then.
  • USDA regulations – Warning: release butterflies in the same state you collect them in. USDA regulations require a permit to release butterflies in a different state from the one they were collected in. This is a very important law that protects not only the butterflies but also farmers. For example if you collect a pretty white butterfly called the pieris rapae and release it near a cabbage farmer you could cause problems for him/her. They know pieris rapae as “that caterpillar that will try to eat my entire crop”. The common name of that butterfly is the “Cabbage White”. Be responsible and only release butterflies reasonably close to where they were collected and never across state lines.
  • Expired Butterflies – Even if you do everything perfectly, you will still end up with some expired butterflies. This is because most butterflies have a short lifespan. Some species live as little as two days as an adult. Most butterfly species have an adult lifespan of roughly four weeks. Because you are not raising your butterflies from caterpillars like butterfly farmers you cannot know how old they are. If you happen to catch a 23 day old butterfly it probably will expire before you release them.
  • How Many Should I Collect? – We recommend at least 1 dozen butterflies. 2 or 3 dozen is better. By law you may not release more than 250 butterflies of one species at one event.
  • Ants and Sunlight – The two biggest dangers to your butterflies will be sunlight and ants. Always keep both in mind when you’re moving your butterflies. From the second you start collecting make sure you keep your butterflies out of direct sunlight and away from ants. Simply placing a box of butterflies on the ground near an ant nest or in direct sunlight can result in dead butterflies. I recommend placing your butterflies in the ice chest (more on that later) as soon as you catch them.
  • Bug Spray and Frontline – Another thing to be aware of is bug spray. Butterflies are bugs, and most forms of bug sprays will kill them. Don’t spray anything in the same room as your butterflies, and don’t place your butterflies in a room that you have used bug spray in within 2 weeks. Frontline deserves a special notice. If you use frontline on your pets, keep your butterflies at another house. Frontline will kill the butterflies even if your pets do not get near them.

For Catching Butterflies you will need…

  • 1 Package Glassine Envelope w/ungummed flaps – Glassine Envelope w/ungummed flapsYou will need one per butterfly. The envelopes should be roughly 3″ X 2″ with the flap on the long edge. As you catch butterflies you can slide them into these envelopes to protect them. You will probably need to order this online.
  • 1 Butterfly Net – Butterfly NetThe butterfly net should have a handle that is about 2″ – 3″ long. The opening in the net should have about a 10″ diameter. The net’s “pouch” needs to be at least twice as deep as the diameter. Please read the “Catching Butterflies” article before buying your butterfly net. You will probably need to order this online.
  • 3 Cold Packs – Cold Packs3 cold packs or 3 bags of frozen vegetables will work perfectly. Do not use ice. Ice melts and bags leak. If the butterfly’s container touches water they will probably die.
  • 1 Small Box – Any small box that is at least 3″ deep and at least 4″ on the longest side will work. A shoe box would work perfectly.
  • 1 Towel – Any towel will work. This is to cover the cold packs so that moisture cannot reach the butterflies.
  • 1 Ice Chest – Ice ChestThe ice chest must have room for 2 ice packs covered by a towel and the small box. It’s nice if the ice chest has a strap so that you can easily carry it with you when your netting butterflies.

For The Release Container you will need…

  • 1 Ruler
  • 1 Pair of Scissors
  • 2 Packages Tissue Paper – Tissue PaperThis the gift wrapping kind of tissue paper, not toilet tissue.
  • 1 Low Temp Hot Glue Gun – Low Temp Hot Glue GunMake sure it’s the low temp version.
  • 1 Small Box – Small BoxIt is very important that this box is the right size. You need to have a box that is at least 1″ deep and between 3″ and 4″ square. If it is to big the butterflies might damage their wings, or slide out of place. Please read the “Building An Instant Butterfly Release Container” article before making this purcahse.

Building An Instant Butterfly Release Container

If you are going to be painting your butterfly release container, make sure you paint it at least 2 weeks before placing butterflies in it. Fresh paint may harm your butterflies.

Some types of glue may harm your butterflies. Hot Glue is safe, but if you are using any other kind of glue we recommend waiting 2 weeks before placing butterflies in the container just to be safe.

Each butterfly release container can hold a maximum of 4 butterflies per fold. Make sure you have enough release boxes for the number of butterflies you plan on releasing.

Before you make your butterfly release container take the time to decorate it. Please remember that if you are going to use any glue other than Hot Glue, or any paint we recommend waiting two weeks before placing butterflies in the release container.

  1. Stack 4 sheets of tissue paper with the edges lined up. Then place the butterfly release container against the top left edge of the paper, and mark a line against the edge of the release box. Then do the same with the bottom left edge.
  2. Using a ruler or other straight edge connect the two lines.
  3. Use a knife or a pair of scissors cut along the line marked.
  4. Check and make sure the tissue paper fits snuggly against the edge of the release container. It is very important that the tissue paper fit tightly against the edge of the container. If you leave a gap the butterflies may slide into the crack. It’s OK if the tissue is slightly folded along the edge.
  5. Glue the edges of your cut tissue paper end to end to form a ribbon about 2 to 3 foot long. To do this you first run a line of hot glue down the edge of one piece of the tissue paper.
  6. Then place the second piece of tissue paper on top of the first with about 1 inch of overlap. Then run you finger down the paper pressing the two pieces together.
  7. Fill the container to about a 1/2 inch from the top with loosely packed tissue paper.
  8. Place the tissue paper in the box, filling edge to edge. You should not have gaps along the edges.
  9. Fold the tissue paper back from the edge, creating layers of tissue paper. Continue creating layer after layer till only have about 4 inches of tissue paper left.
  10. Using your Hot Glue attach the edge of the tissue paper to the top of the box.
  11. Put the top on the instant butterfly release container.
  12. Make sure everything is working by doing a practice run. Hold the bottom of the box in one hand, and the top of the box in your other hand. Then pull the top away from the bottom unfolding the tissue paper ribbon. Fold the tissue paper back into the box and your release container is ready for decorations. We will cover how to place butterflies in your butterfly release container later.

Finding Butterflies & Knowing your local laws

You need information before you can start gathering butterflies for your butterfly release. The first thing you need to learn about are your local laws. If there is an endangered butterfly species in your area you need to know what it looks like so you can avoid it. You need to know where you can legally find and collect butterflies locally.

Fortunately there are two groups that you can contact that are able to help you find butterflies. Both will know the local laws, and both groups tend to be friendly and helpful. The first is your local college’s Entomology (study of insects) department. The second is any local lepidoptera (butterfly) clubs.

How to catch a butterfly

Take your butterfly net and swing it horizontally a few times. If you look at the net as you swing it you can see that the pouch forms a “cave”. Near the end of your swing twist your wrist 45 degrees clockwise and you close the “cave”. The reason you want to have a deep pouch is so that you are able to close the “cave” and still have lots of room for butterflies in the bottom of the net.

When you are in the field and see a butterfly, walk slowly near it and wait for it to land. Then swing the net horizontally “skimming” the surface the butterfly has landed on. After near the end of the swing, just before you slow down, twist your wrist to close the net. Keeping the net closed carefully reach into the net and get the butterfly.

How to hold a butterfly

Butterflies do not have teeth or stingers, so you are in no danger of being hurt by a butterfly. The reason you don’t want to just grab a butterfly is because you can hurt it, not because of any danger of it hurting you.

Holding a butterfly without harming it is easy as long as you hold it correctly. A person can accidentally kill a butterfly by squeezing to hard, you can also rub the scales off the top of a butterflies wings with your fingers.

To hold a butterfly without hurting it “pinch” the wings closed between two fingers. Holding the butterfly this way will protect the scales from being rubbed off by your fingers, and you can hold it tight without worrying about crushing it.

Placing a butterfly in a glassine envelope

Holding the butterflies wings pinched closed, slide your fingers into the glassine envelope. When you have the butterfly all the way in the envelope, release the butterfly and close the envelope. With some practice, this is easy to do.

Going to collect butterflies

Check the butterfly release supplies page for a list of the gear you should have.

Before you leave, place an ice pack in the bottom of your ice chest and then cover the ice pack with a towel. Then place a small box on the towel. You will carry this with you when netting butterflies. After you catch a butterfly and place it in a glassine envelope, place the envelope in the ice chest. This will keep the butterflies cool while you collect more.

Make sure you never place your butterflies on the ground unless you are watching them. This is because of ants. Keep a close eye on your ice chest when you are not carrying it.

WARNING: Never leave butterflies in the car! Even in an ice chest they can quickly overheat and die!

WARNING: Never let the glassine envelopes come into contact with water! This includes condensation on ice packs. That’s what the towel and box is for.

Find out which fold to start at

Before you start you need to know how much of the tissue paper will be pulled out when the butterflies are released on the release day. Have someone (preferably whoever will be doing the actual release) hold the bottom of the box in one hand, and the top of the box in the other hand. Then pull your hands far apart quickly unfolding the tissue paper.

Spread your hands as far apart as you can comfortably reach. Then take the bottom of the tissue paper and fold one layer back into the release box. This fold is where you need to start placing your butterflies. Do not place them any deeper than this point so that you can get a full release with one pull.

Place your butterflies in the release container

Count and see how many folds have available. You need to stop one fold from the top of the release container. Now divide the number of butterflies you have by the number of available folds. This will let you know how many butterflies you need to place in each fold. For example, If you have 24 butterflies and 6 folds you will need to place 4 butterflies in each fold. (note: 4 is the maximum number of butterflies per fold.)

Having an extra pair of hands is really helpful for this part. Take a butterfly out of it’s glassine envelope and hold it flat against the inside edge of the bottom fold. If you are placing more than one butterfly per fold, then have your partner place the next butterfly on top of your butterfly while you release the butterfly you are holding. This way they are holding both in place and you can add another butterfly to the stack.

Once you have filled the a fold, simply flip the tissue over and use it to hold the butterflies in place while you fill up the next fold. Once all folds are filled put the top on the box.

Package your butterfly release container

Now that you have your butterflies loaded into the butterfly release container, you need to package it for travel. To do this place an ice pack or two (depending on how big your ice chest is) in the bottom of the ice chest. Then cover it with one of the hand towels. Place your butterfly release container on the towel and close the ice chest.

As the air in the ice chest cools the butterflies will go dormant and act like they are sleeping. One and a half to two hours before the release you need to remove them from the ice chest and let them warm up to room temperature.

Photo Tip – Get Rid Of The Turkey Neck Waddle, Use Butterfly Lighting In Your Portrait Photography!

In previous articles, we’ve been discussing photo lighting patterns where we place the light source to the side of the subject – split lighting, loop lighting and Rembrandt lighting – and create shadows that go off to the side. Continuing with our series of portrait photography lighting patterns, today’s photo tip discusses “Butterfly Lighting”!

Keeping in mind that it’s shadows that create 3D depth and form in our photos, these lighting patterns are good ones to make our subjects come to life and “POP”.

But, the flip side of shadows showing form is that they sometimes show things we may not want shown!

For example, what if we are doing a portrait photograph of an elderly lady? I’m not talking about some moody character study; I’m talking about a nice photo of grandma.

Everyone over a certain age wants to look younger. As an old dude myself, I can tell you that my outward appearance has absolutely no relationship with the way I feel inside and the way I wish I looked!

In other words, I’m a 23 year old trapped in a 63 year old body.

But, what makes us look older?

It’s sagging skin and wrinkles that visually age us. The older we get the more – and deeper – wrinkles we get.

If we could tone down the wrinkles, we would visually appear much younger.

By the way… never COMPLETELY get rid of them, it looks fake and will make the portrait worse.

Since it is the shadows that show form, it is the shadows that visually create wrinkles. The darker the shadow, the deeper the wrinkle – and vice versa. So, to visually eliminate or tone down wrinkles, all we need to do is lighten the shadows that visually created them. Obviously the way to do that is by shining a light into the wrinkles.

To do that means we have to have the light coming from straight in front of the subject – at the camera angle.

A ring flash (a ring light is an on camera flash, but completely circles the lens) can work.

In fact, we most often see ring lights used in modeling shots where they need an absolutely flawless skin.

This is the ideal light for removing any sort of blemish or wrinkle, but it is a very flat light and really isn’t that good for portrait photography. It leaves an odd looking, unappealing catch light in the eyes too!

Slightly better is the on camera flash that is normally attached to the top of the camera. But we still have a flat light – and with both ring and regular on camera flashes we have problems with red eye.

So, we take the light off the camera and – staying at the camera’s position, we raise it up. It’s above our head and we will actually be shooting from under the light.

This creates the “Butterfly Lighting” pattern because it casts a small butterfly shaped shadow under the nose. It can be tiny and almost unnoticeable, or slightly larger – depending on how high you position the light. But, it is enough to add some depth and life to the photo.

The butterfly lighting pattern fills in and lightens a lot of the shadows in the wrinkles – but not so much that it looks phony – and it will create a shadowed area under the chin too! This visually gets rid of that turkey neck waddle we old people get!

True, this can be done in Photoshop – if you want to spend hour after hour retouching. Or you could spend 5 minutes setting up a butterfly lighting pattern. Your choice!

Grab your favorite model and a flashlight… get out there today and experiment with this photo tip. Learn how to create a butterfly lighting pattern in your portrait photography and your wrinkly older subjects (and acne ridden younger models) will thank you!

The Butterfly Tattoo – Which One is Right For You?

The butterfly tattoo has to be one of the best loved of inks. You may already know that the word for indelible figures inked on your body came from tatau, which is both Tahitian and Samoan. Nearly everyone in Polynesian society was tattooed, as it was an indicator of rank, social function, accomplishments and family. Although you see “tattoo” written in the dictionary, many people prefer to write this design style as “butterfly tattoo”, maybe in tribute to the exotic origins of the word.

The butterfly tattoo is used by men and women alike. This beautiful, light-as-a-feather insect has a full set of symbolism in every part of the world, although it means different things to different people. But whether you are from China, Ireland, Zaire or New Zealand, the lepidopteran is associated with the soul. It’s something we all have in common, and probably a major reason for the picturesque design’s universal appeal.

Butterfly tattoo design is nearly as varied as the insect itself, of which five hundred sixty-one varieties are known! That would be like a whole book if I wrote about them all, so I thought maybe to write about just one of the most popular designs that I’ve seen around.

Maybe you’ve heard of it: the tribal butterfly tattoo. It’s a stylized type of artwork that is not strictly photo-realistic. This is kind of nice, because realistic butterflies can never quite look like the real thing anyway. So why not go with your imagination and have your own unique tribal lepidopteran design?

Black lepidopteran designs are the ones seen most often – when they’re tribal, anyway. There might be lots of reasons for this, but two that come immediately to mind are highlighting the actual design over the color, and the color schemes of your ink clashing with your clothes.

There are so many great ideas to choose from when selecting the butterfly tattoo of your dreams. Some of the most common ink styles I’ve seen around include the semi-realistic line drawing, the gothic, the Asian-themed, and of course the always popular tribal ink.

Japanese family crests regularly feature butterflies. While most people probably don’t want someone else’s family crest tattooed on them, these family crests do have lots of great tribal butterfly tattoo ideas, and some of the design parts could be borrowed. Potential for black Monarch designs can also be found in Celtic designs. There are some beautiful and intricate inkworks combining a tribal design and Celtic knot work, for example.

A butterfly tattoo seems to work best at about actual size or less. That’s just my opinion, naturally, but this also gives you the option of adding to your lepidopteran collection over time, eventually collecting an entire garden of butterflies if you see fit.

In addition to the beautiful winged insect’s image itself, a secondary decorative image is often placed beside or intertwined with the first. A butterfly tattoo design can be in band form, with a Monarch falling in the middle of your band of intricate knot work or some other such design. A more modern look is the tribal butterfly tattoo placed within an art deco-style decorative design. I’ve seen secondary designs as simple as a row of gradated circles or dots. Beautifully simple and elegant.

As an example of more complex secondary designs, there are combinations of designs that could stand on their own such as a Japanese or Chinese character, or even part of a poem, entwined with your Monarch as calligraphy. So much has been written about butterflies that there is no lack of ideas for text to accompany your butterfly tattoo. If you are out of ideas, you could always consult my first article on this design style of ink, which covers a lot of general history and literary references to this charming winged creature.

Butterfly tattoo, anyone? That’s all for now about tribal and black tribal butterfly tattoo designs. In the next article, we’ll look at the possibilities for colored butterfly tattoo design. One last thing: your exquisite lepidopteran will be with you for the rest of your life, so please choose a skilled tattooist to ink the design, and maybe even more importantly, choose the design itself very carefully. You can find tens of thousands of designs on the Internet, and the better websites have an easy search interface, so take time to find what you want. Now enjoy your new ink!

Gearing Up For Travel – Making Better Photo Equipment Choices

I love to take photos, visit new places near home and take trips to other countries. No matter what the occasion, I run through a mental checklist to determine what photography equipment to pack. Once I committed to digital photography in 2003 I eliminated film canisters and thus one bulge in my baggage. I transitioned to the digital age with the Nikon Coolpix 4500, which is quite compact and versatile. A few years later I purchased a Nikon D50 (DSLR). This new equipment meant I had many more decisions to make before leaving home.

The basics
Essential basics for either camera are extra rechargeable batteries, the charging device and a few memory cards. After that, choices multiply very quickly. When I was using the Coolpix I got interested in wide-angle exposures, so I invested in a lens for that. In preparation for a trip to the Norwegian Arctic in 2004 I was concerned about getting better color saturation and removing reflections, so I bought a polarizing filter. It isn’t a big item, but something else to include in my bag. I always consider the best equipment to preserve my photos during a trip. How will I review, edit, manage and show them off during a trip? My solution has always been to take my laptop computer with the AC power cord. The camera itself is still reasonably compact, but the support elements really add up.

Image storage
There is another choice to manage my images when I’m traveling. That hardware is referred to, in general terms, as a portable digital storage device. Other than a computer, this is a secure and highly efficient method to download, review, sort, and back up my images on the road. These devices include products like Smart Disk Trax (80GB), Sandisk Sansa Pocket Media Player, two models from Epson (P3000 and P5000) and Canon M80; and the list goes on. Prices range between $500-600 for those with a higher storage capacity and more functions. While the cost is substantial, such equipment does provide a compact and efficient way to safeguard photos when traveling. Unless you will be using your laptop for other functions like email, you might want to consider leaving it home.

My backpack
As I became more committed to the digital photography world and reclaimed my love of taking photos from the bygone days of my Minolta 201, I purchased a photography backpack (Tamrac Adventure 9) and dedicate it to the essentials first. If there is any room left after the camera gear is in, I squeeze in the iPod and headset, a flashlight and perhaps my medical supplies. I’m always surprised at how heavy that pack can become in a very short time. Most recently I bought the Tamrac Velocity 9x, which goes over only one shoulder, and I can carry almost all the gear from the backpack with the exception of my laptop. What I like about this one is that since it is on only one shoulder I can swing it around in front of me and everything is immediately accessible.

As mentioned earlier, I now use a DSLR, which means I have at least two lenses to consider taking; my most frequent choice is the Nikon (18-135mm & 70-300mm VR). I love these two especially because they both take 67mm filters. This means I only need one polarizing filter and one neutral density filter adapter for both. During a trip to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands in 2007 I added the Arctic Butterfly dust-cleaning tool to my pack along with the lighted loupe. I had a prior bad experience with dust on my sensor and didn’t want to be confronted with an emergency like that at the end of the world. Another must in my bag is a large hand blower. In order to minimize the space required for that, I compress the bulb and tie it with a Velcro strap.

Speed-light and tripod
For a fill light and highlighting the brilliant colors of the King Penguins of South Georgia I used my Nikon SB600. It’s small and light enough to be comfortable in a belt pouch where it is ready and easily accessible. In that cold climate the batteries stayed warm under my parka. I’ve always believed that keeping them warm prolongs their life. I use rechargeable NiMH batteries in the 2600-2900mAh range, which gives me ample service between charges.

For nighttime shots or longer exposures, I carry my little electronic shutter release, which fits neatly in a case and hangs from the camera strap. Oh yes, and how do I take the long exposures at night, you ask? I forgot to mention, I also carry a tripod. My choices are a heavy-duty Bogen or a lighter version Manfrotto. When I’m not pressed to capture images of animals on the move like birds in flight, my tripod serves me well. One must realize the advantage or disadvantage of each type. The better tripods give you the additional choice of an adjustable swivel head, which can easily add another two pounds or more.

As for flying birds in Antarctica, I found that my monopod was actually a better tool for stabilizing my 300mm lens because it allowed me to move quickly and to follow the target. The steadiest of youthful hands will find that even a ‘stabilized’ lens can be improved by a physical support to ensure the sharpest image. Stabilized lenses are a wonderful advancement in technology, but having a physical support to ensure the best image is still a time proven method. Mounting my camera on a tripod also forces me to spend more time thinking about all the elements of my exposures.

In the end, all these and even more choices are part of the fun of photography. It is still up to you, based on your degree of interest, finances and motivation whether you hang a 12x super zoom point and shoot around your neck or pack all your toys like a survival weekend in the mountains.

The choice is yours
With more than one bag to select from, I’ve expanded my options of what to take based on the anticipated conditions of light, weather and subject. In preparation for my 2008 adventure in the Baltic from St. Petersburg to Copenhagen, I seriously thought about leaving my long lens home since I would be in cities where people and architecture were the subjects. At the last minute I caved in and took the big one too. I used it twice. Was it necessary? Probably not, but I have some shots I would not have gotten without it. I suppose that is why for some, the newest big zooms that can range from 18-300mm are certainly an option.

My conclusion is to have fun and experiment. As a famous cowboy used to say, “Happy Trails”, and hope to see you out there.