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Innovative Techniques for Outdoor Photography

Lesson 16 of 21

Photographing Butterflies


Innovative Techniques for Outdoor Photography

Lesson 16 of 21

Photographing Butterflies


Lesson Info

Photographing Butterflies

It's talk about butterflies a few little extra tricks to do a good job with butterflies one is to have a little bit of a telephoto lens because they won't allow you to get too close the other is it's always good to have a flash on the top of your camera so that you don't have to worry about where the lights coming from if you're always having to worry about the sun being behind you or something like that then you have a problem because the sun is not going to be there or you go into a butterfly a theory there's one up by bouchard gardens there's one up there and you'll find him and other places occasionally infected and ben two years ago the museum of natural history or the high desert museum actually put in a butterfly garden for the winter or enclosure and they had all these butterflies lying around we actually got some very nice beautiful butterfly shots within that but as you go around the country there's a lot of butterfly avery's uh one of the best is in florida another one is in...

georgia one up by niagara falls there's they're all over the place but that's what these two pictures were taken of and I've got flash on the camera I've got enough ambient light in the background where I use the slow shutter speed but the flash took care of the movement and I'm you're gonna have to hand hold because they won't allow you in there with tripods so you need to have flash in order to bring your own light to do something like this this is in the wild it's a columbine in the sierra nevada mountains and came next to the campsite there was a little stream by the campsite and haywood comeback he or she would come back and nectar on these particular columbine's and I was ready for it I set up the camera system the next time they came by I nailed him I did a project in mexico in the seventies these air all kota chrome's and I've been there three times way were trying to get the monarch area they're protected it was in an area that was being logged and I was there with a with a biologist named lincoln brower and these air a series of pictures and this is the reason for showing you these is to talk about nature photography versus natural history photography we've all gone now to nature photography because we're looking for that one beautiful photograph instead of spending the time and getting a life history on something, we end up looking for that one beauty shot because if we get it published they're only gonna publish the one beauty shot they're not going to publish the whole sequence back in those days national geographic all national geographic still does it france launching actually went back to the same spot here and did a lot of the same areas that I did I was the second person to photograph this national geographic was the first one these areas of monarch butterflies hadn't really been discovered I mean the local people knew they were there the mariposa who has always been there and but the biologist didn't know they existed there was estimated one hundred million monarch butterflies in just one of these areas now they're in danger because of weather conditions whether changes because of within the united states where they move up into the air during the later part of the year what happens is that we've taken all offense rose out and we now farm all the way to the fence lines we do gmo corn and that will cause a problem with some with the butterflies so we have all kinds of problems I just want to point out here this is this is where we give you a test at the end in the life history of a monarch butterfly the mail catches the female in mid air they tumbled down into under the ground they copulate you can see them coupled here and then he flies off up and back up into the trees and they stay couples like that for quite some time she then has the eggs she will she will find milkweed way need the milkweed and again as we go through the midwest and areas now, the milkweed is being somewhat eradicated. We have also, uh, round up and things like that that kill a lot of these what they consider to be weeds, but milkweed is needed for the monarchs. They lay their eggs on the milkweed, the it hatches your first in star of the caterpillar, and the caterpillar gets bigger as it eats the milkweed. It gets bigger until it goes into a crystalline, and it hatches out from I don't know the word hatches is the correct word or not, but we'll have three or four generations of this during this year, and then was as we come to the fall who's ever alive at that point in time has to fly all the way back down to mexico to these mo high mountains at ten thousand feet, and stay there over winter and, uh, next in the spring of march or so they start moving back out into the looking for more milkweed and and mating in that kind of a thing so that's the whole history, this is the crystal of itself, this I actually shot in a studio, but you can see the crystalline turns into the the caterpillar turns into a crystal in and then out comes the butterfly a couple weeks later and it's all crumpled up it its abdomen is huge. It pumps the liquids and its abdomen out into the veins of its wing. It hardens. And now you have a butterfly that can fly. There will be a test if you could imagine sitting down in the middle of something like this. And looking above you. We talked about this as we first started this morning. Is you look at this and you cannot believe what is in front of you. And you ask yourself, how do I capture this? How do I bring this back to show other people which is my job? And why was there? And it's it's overpowering and in some, in some instances, I could remember taking this photograph right here in one of these branches. Crashed to the ground, broke off and crashed to the ground from the weight of the butterflies. And imagine how many butterflies it takes to be enough weight to crash a limb off of a tree. It's it's pretty amazing. The biology that was going on there were orioles that would come into here and they would taste test. They would actually do it. A little snippet on a wing. And if the butterfly heady milkweed that was poisonous they wouldn't take it there's a few species of milkweed in the united states that is not poisonous and what would happen was they would then say this is a good one and as you see, the oriole here would fly off and eat the butterfly but fortunately most of them and eaten milkweed most milkweed is poisonous and they wouldn't eat them but we were able to document that this is projected flash and the oldest method this's a kodachrome image the the projected flash was a parabolic reflector that would shoot the light out we would gain about two stops of light with it with a big battery pack and everything so things of changed dramatically over the years so you can't see the trees for the monarch butterflies this last one over here is actually eucalyptus, which is the butterflies on the west of the rocky mountains move into california toe over winter and everything east of the rockies travels down into the high mountains of mexico about one hundred, one hundred fifty miles from mexico city and that's where we were photographing these over here this is an oil mel tree or the pine trees that are up there and these other ones are eucalyptus and those were the ones that would be in california can't see the tree for the butterflies so nature photography as I started to say at the beginning, here is the beauty shot we all try to get the most beautiful shot and it's just natural that we would try to do that the natural history photography that we used to do and where I came into this and I have a background of three years of wildlife biology before I go ended up getting a degree in photography was you had to get the life history you had to tell the story. And now we have to tell the story with one picture or two pictures that would most of that will put in a in an article, and in the past we tried to show the whole thing. So it's changed it's just everything changes in some way or another so let's dwell into even closer and closer into these butterflies. This is the madagascan sunset moth that I bought from this agent from this company that sends butterflies out in months, and I wanted to get a very good shot. I wanted to test out a tw some point, I'd like to photograph the whole butterfly, but I wanted to just take this cross section because that looked like a very interesting area. And I have here this base or you could buy this on the internet, this little rig here where you have an x and a y axis, when if I haven't x and y axis, I could shoot a panorama goto another row shoot another panorama should another roll into another panorama and each picture in the panorama is going to be stacked ended up and you come up with one thousand four hundred thirty eight photographs. It gets a little crazy again. My wife was told do not come into my office do not give me a phone call anything because if I lose track of where I am, I'm in trouble and I did it piece by piece I did one row at a time so each one of these there's eighty positions on here then each one of these is a picture it's stacked another picture that stacked another picture of exactly when I got to the end I moved the x or the y axis across and I went back and there's an overlap here and there's an overlap there and that's why it adds up to so many so many photographs. This is just one photograph from this area right here in that butterfly wing that's just one of the stacked images so you can take this as far as you want to take it. You know you could be crazy if you want to be crazy, but the whole idea here was I wanted to show mike my long term reason for doing this is to take a whole butterfly opened up and to do this kind of information you make a very, very large print so that you have this butterfly on the wall and you walk up to it and you could count the scales on it if he wanted to it just brings you that much closer it's one thing to see one particular image on the butterfly it's a whole another thing to see ah whole butterfly in the same light of information so here it is this that one section after all of us put together with all of the problems and actually I'm didn't make any mistakes there's no soft spots or areas out of focus within it but it's only one's very small part of the butterfly we have a lot more to go to get the whole thing you'll find that these projects will take hold of the like the poppy project that I mentioned of the saw those poppy pictures and I did a book on the poppies it took me fifteen years and it's april into may of each year in some years there were no pictures and other years there were fantastic pictures so nature photography khun do really wonderful things for you it makes you see the world in so much closer way and brings you and sucks you into a project and in my case somebody will give me an assignment and it will take me into another world that I never I dreamt that I would ever be involved with

Class Description


  • Create a variety of dramatic panoramas.

  • Capture rapid movements, such as the flapping of a bird’s wings.

  • Take close-up shots that depict the beauty and vibrant colors of flowers.

  • Capture images of snowflakes using specialized equipment and intricate techniques.

  • Photograph and take videos of lightning storms.

  • Use various types of additional lighting, including electronic flashes.


Are you a major gearhead who loves hearing about the latest and greatest photography equipment on the market today? Do you want to learn some amazing techniques that will take your outdoor photography game to the next level?

If you want to shoot like a pro and get an inside look at how one of the greatest outdoor photographers around makes his magic, then this is the course for you. Celebrated photographer George Lepp shares some of his best-known photographs and describes the techniques and equipment needed to capture images of wild animals, beautiful flowers, and awesome landscapes.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Paint with high-powered flashlights during long exposures.

  • Use special techniques and post-processing software programs to extend your depth of field.

  • Take macro photography shots using special lenses and extension tubes.

  • Utilize tele extenders and other tools to get high-magnification shots.

  • Use HDR to get natural looking contrast control.

  • Perform time-lapse photography with movement and panning.

  • Discover a variety of DSLR video shooting techniques.

Experienced photographers interested in exploring the intricacies of outdoor photography will love hearing George’s thrilling stories about his great outdoor and travel photography shoots all over the world like Africa and his close calls with wild animals. By the end of this course, you’ll be inspired to challenge yourself and experiment with these truly incredible techniques.


  • Experienced photographers who want to learn about cutting-edge equipment and innovative techniques for outdoor photography.

  • Photographers looking to be inspired by one of the greats and wanting to hear about his personal experiences.

  • Those who are new to outdoor photography and want an inside look at what it’s like to be a professional in the field.


George D. Lepp is one of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers. His passions for natural beauty, technical precision, cutting-edge technology, and environmental responsibility are revealed in his beautiful and compelling photographic images. He is also widely recognized for his unique dedication to sharing his photographic and biological knowledge with other photographers through his seminars, writing, and inventions. George Lepp is a leader in the rapidly advancing field of outdoor photography and digital imaging. 

Lepp’s images have appeared in some of the world’s most widely viewed venues and on the covers of many books and magazines, including Natural History, Car and Driver, PC Photo, and Outdoor Photographer; at prestigious galleries and museums throughout the United States; and at the corporate headquarters of Canon USA, Eastman Kodak, and Epson America. He was chosen by Canon USA as one of the first members of its Explorers of Light program, which features the industry’s most influential photographers. He is known both for his sweeping panoramas that capture the magnificence of exotic locations and his stunning high-magnification macro renditions of subjects such as snowflakes and butterfly wings. His stock and assignment photography is represented by Getty, Corbis, and Photo Researchers. 

Lepp is regularly read in popular photographic magazines; he has contributed for thirty years as a field editor and columnist to Outdoor Photographer Magazine and more recently has published technical articles in Europe’s c’t Digital Photography Magazine. He is the author of many books, including Wildlife Photography: Stories from the Field, Golden Poppies of California, and Beyond the Basics I and II: Innovative Techniques for Outdoor and Nature Photography, as well as hundreds of articles on photography. He has taught at Photoshop World, Santa Fe Workshops, Palm Beach Workshops, and founded the Lepp Institute of Digital Imaging. Lepp is a founding board member and a fellow of the North American Nature Photographers Association and winner of many awards for his work, including Photo Media’s Photography Person of the Year and the prestigious Progress Award, the highest given by the Photographic Society of America. 

First trained in wildlife and wildlands management, George Lepp later earned a BPA and honorary MS in Professional Photography from Brooks Institute. Contact him through his web site, www.GeorgeLepp.com.


  1. Class Overview

    Get an overview of what you’ll learn in this course on creative outdoor photography, including how to do panoramas, extending your depth of field, and time-lapse photography.

  2. Types of Panorama for Outdoor Photography

    There are many different panorama techniques, from composite to hand-held to multi-camera. You’ll learn about all of them and the basic techniques for creating them right here.

  3. Gigapan and Action Pano for Outdoor Photography

    Learn to take a Gigapan panorama and get extremely big and detailed shots.

  4. Additional Lighting: Light Painting, Flash and Ambient

    George discusses options for additional outdoor photography lighting, including electronic flashes, the Better Beamer Flash Extender, and using high-powered flashlights to paint with light during long exposures.

  5. Extended Depth of Field

    Sometimes it’s important to have objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background all in sharp focus. Learn about various software programs and techniques to achieve extended depth of field photography.

  6. Macro Photography Techniques

    Learn about macro photography techniques, lenses, and extension tubes.

  7. Tele-extenders and Outdoor Photography

    Learn about using tele-extenders and other tools to get high-magnification shots of things such as a butterfly’s wings.

  8. HDR as a Tool

    High dynamic range (HDR) allows you to take multiple exposures at once and achieve natural looking contrast control within your final image. George offers a variety of HDR photography tips.

  9. Time-lapse Outdoor Photography

    Learn how to shoot time lapse photography with movement and panning.

  10. DSLR HD Video

    Learn about DSLR video shooting techniques and the essential equipment you’ll need.

  11. Cinemagraphs for Outdoor Photography

    George talks about the cinemagraph for outdoor photography, which is a still image with an element that moves.

  12. Photographing Birds

    Digital photography allows you to take incredible shots of birds and their movements. Get some bird photography tips and learn about shutter speeds and the equipment you’ll need to take your best images.

  13. Photographing Mammals

    George discusses wildlife photography techniques and his experiences shooting mammals, including speedy cheetahs, angry elephants, and hungry hippos.

  14. Photographing Birds and Mammals Q & A

    George offers some wildlife photography critiques and answers questions about his wildlife photography, including using a flash when taking pictures of birds and mammals.

  15. Macro Photography and Flowers

    George shares his flower photography techniques and confirms how he took glorious shots at Keukenhof Gardens in Holland.

  16. Photographing Butterflies

    Get some photo tips for photographing butterflies, including the importance of having a telephoto lens and a flash.

  17. Photographing Snowflakes

    Get the scoop on what you’ll need for snowflake macro photography, including special lighting, a copy stand, an adjustable base, and really cold equipment.

  18. Photographing Landscapes

    George offers some landscape photography tips for beginners and talks about some of his favorite places and landscape images.

  19. Photographing Lightning

    Learn how to photograph lightning and how to take video of lightning storms.

  20. HDR Landscapes and Time Lapse

    Learn about HDR landscape photography—compiling a series of pictures to capture various levels of light.

  21. Final Outdoor Photography Q&A

    Students get a chance to ask some final questions of George about outdoor photography ideas, including things such as panoramas, extenders, and white balance.


R. Hetrick

Amazing class! I particularly loved the macro and how to correctly take panoramic photos sections. George was not only a great teacher but he was super funny too. Would be happy to take any of his future classes.


I watched the entire class, and found it to be a very negative experience - in contrast to all of my other experiences with Creative Live, which had been very good. The problem with this class was the instructor. Mr. Lepp, rather than giving us practical, useful information, and techniques for approaching the subject of Outdoor Photography, instead used his time to show off his seemingly endless array of incredibly expensive and cutting edge gadgetry. For the first half hour or so, Mr. Lepp seemed pleasant and interesting, but it quickly became apparent that this class was NOT about anything relating to the art of outdoor photography. Instead, it was basically a seminar highlighting exotic equipment for the 1%. I have well over $25,000 of photographic equipment, but the arena in which Mr. Lepp plays begins somewhere around the $100,000 mark, and then requires a staggering ongoing budget for chartering helicopters, hiring guides, and constant upgrades to remain on the bleeding edge of gadgetry and accessories. From his gyroscopic mounts to his 40" printer, Mr. Lepp has it ALL and continues to spend, spend, spend. I admire his deep pockets, but I would have appreciated some real insight and technique and useful knowledge on actually getting great shots. (And I must say... Mr. Lepp's work... did not impress me to the degree that other teachers on CreativeLive have.) I believe those giving positive reviews here were more or less wowed by the sheer magnitude of his extensive, well-funded travels and his off-handed way of revealing the endless contraptions and combinations of gear he uses. The passion here is clearly about the gadgetry, and NOT about finding an original and creative voice in the arena of outdoor photography.


George really prepared a lot of information for his class. It is true, he does have a lot of expensive equipment and we may not be able to do some of the things he does with a smaller budget, but it is good incentive for us to plan for the future. He seemed to share new information constantly and stay focused and I was able to take a lot of notes. He talked about many kinds of equipment as well as software and websites he uses. I am pretty impressed that he is so up to date with recent technology. He especially loves macro/micro and stacking hundreds of images for minute focus on really large enlargements (for example, over 600 photos for one butterfly wing). That can get boring if you are not interested in doing that. I can take those tips and apply them to landscape photography though. I think it is more helpful for someone already doing outdoor photography and looking for new inspiration or new techniques as opposed to someone new to photography in general.