Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, April 4, 2014

White Lined Sphinx Moth Photo Tutorial

Plenty of sites will offer advice as to how to capture the best shot of a Hyles lineata, or White Lined Sphinx Moth, in mid-flight. I am not here to tread familiar ground.

No no, I am here to show you how with a little effort, one can achieve intriguingly fuzzy, not-quite-in-frame shots of one of the fastest feeders in town.

Before we get started however, I'd like to point out I've been at this a very long time.  You must not get discouraged if you find your photos consistently turn out in predictably sharp focus.  We can't all be artistic all the time.

It could be your talents are simply guiding you elsewhere. Frankly, modern technology can do a lot for the amateur photographer, but it cannot replace a false sense of confidence combined with decades of poor habits.

Whew.  It feels great to have that out of the way.  Shall we proceed?
Sphinx moths are fast.  When trying to "lead" the subject, be sure to click the shutter juuuuust before the moth arrives.  

Fortune smiled - extra points granted for a bonus not-in-focus specimen.  Beside the blurry moth please note the anole to the far right, just below the midline of the image. 

It takes a precisely chosen depth of field to get very nearly focused without actually achieving clarity.  
Even experienced photographers occasionally get careless. This came dangerously close to being in sharp focus.    

So there you have it.  A series of lyrically unfocused glimpses of Hyles lineata, the white lined Sphinx moth.  A paean to the near miss, an ode to the almost was.  You're welcome!


Debra said...


The first time I saw one of these guys I knew I was in a really weird and wonderful place. It sounded like a hummingbird. One of the things I like best about Texas is even the insects are huge!

TexasDeb said...

Thanks, D. The bugs here do command a certain amount of respect, don't they? Some days I am all about the garden, other days it is more about the visitors!

Kris Peterson said...

I'm glad I'm not alone among the experts at fuzzy wildlife photos. We don't have sphinx moths but my hummingbird pics meet the spec. My brother, who takes crisp and clear wildlife photos, tells me I just need time and patience but I comfort myself that his stockpile of expensive cameras and accessories make the difference...Thanks for visiting my blog!

Tina said...

Thank you for this. I always am discouraged when I attempt a photograph of these speedy winged-wonders, but your tutorial gives me permission to simply do what my eyes do anyway with them: to catch a glimpse and be grateful for the gift.

TexasDeb said...

Kris P: I cannot tell you how many blurry photos of hummingbirds I've tossed out (which you'd have to take my word for because you might not tell what they were from looking). I don't have anything expensive, just a lot of enthusiasm and loads of near misses. Thanks for dropping in and hope you'll be back for the wide shot tomorrow!

TexasDeb said...

Tina: You are welcome and a half. If I had to stick to only the highest quality photos I'd be leaving out many of the serendipitous glimpses of guests that draw me to my gardening spaces. Those surprise drop-ins and fly-bys are every bit as entrancing to me as any blooms or fruit or foliage I admire.

Christina said...

It's butterflies for me, I have discarded hundreds of those images. Fun post.

TexasDeb said...

Thanks for dropping in Christina. Butterflies can be super tricky to capture for me as well. Then there are certain birds around here that seem to have it built into their DNA to know how to avoid getting a good picture taken. So frustrating!

Anonymous said...

Quite the wildlife multi-story apartment in those photos...cholla cactus to protect, flowers and food, and so on! My pics of a sphinx moth last spring was more blurry...with the drought, definitely far less than some past springs.

TexasDeb said...

DryHeat: Just gotta brag that you snapped a blurrier photo, eh? : ) I hadn't thought of that area as a multistory apartment setup - that is so great. From now on I'll be considering that my "high rise" bed. Thanks for dropping by!