Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Monday, June 11, 2012


A point-and-shoot shot of a bee on
a lavender plant.
In the last three years or so since I started photographing flowers, I've always taken a particular delight in snapping shots of bees at work. These photos never make it into the "fine art" folder, but for some reason I get a kick out of watching bees do what they do best. Also, they are important pollinators and I am pro-pollination. Add to all that the fact that I've never been stung by a bee and the love-fest is complete. I'm not into cute artificial bees (you know, as decor and all), but I do like to see the real thing at work and if I'm out with my camera, I'll definitely point it at them. This worked out fine with my point-and-shoot in macro mode--sometimes the bee shot wouldn't come out, but a lot of times they did, at least well enough to put in one of my personal albums devoted to summer photos.

This underwhelming image was the best photo I got out of
 all my attempts to capture the bees on the rhododendron.
When I got my DSLR camera and my macro lens, I found the shallow depth of field to be a real problem when it came to photographing bees. My point-and-shoot's macro setting had an adequately broad depth of field that, so as long as the bee stayed more or less in the same place while I pressed shutter button, there was a decent chance the bee would be in focus. With my macro lens, and especially with my need to use the camera's autofocus feature because of my hand tremor, focusing on the bee became a problem. The autofocus feature chooses the point on an object that is closest to the lens as the area of focus and while there are ways of circumventing this feature, it's not so easy to do this when your subject is moving! And if the bee has entered a tubular shaped flower whose petals extend beyond the bee's body, forget about it! I spent days stalking the scores of bees that visited a large rhododendron in my yard and all I got for my trouble was a bunch of out-of-focus bee pictures. The lens either couldn't focus on the bee within the flower because of the autofocus limitations or couldn't refocus fast enough when the bee came buzzing back out. Since I just photograph bees for fun, I wasn't going to take the trouble to set up a tripod, point my camera at a flower, establish my focus ahead of time in manual mode, and then wait until a bee blundered into my setup!

Recently, though, I had a stroke of luck. I managed to find two different flowers on two different days being thoroughly explored by bees in adequate light!

The allium photos, which I'm displaying first, were actually the second set of photos I captured. (I'm saving the best for last.) I had tagged along on an errand to a local nursery specifically so I could photograph their alliums and found them crawling with bees. Because the myriad tiny allium flowers come together to form a solid ball, the bee stays on the surface of the flower and is therefore the closest thing to the lens, allowing me to use the autofocus mode to highlight the bee. Because so many little flowers make up the allium balls, if a bee moved, it seldom moved very far! That meant I had plenty of opportunities! The three below are the best and give a nice view of bees at work.

This next set of photographs were made possible thanks to the anatomy of the cornflower. The flower is in fact composed of many florets and the bee was slowly and carefully probing every single one, moving only millimeters at a time. This meant I had ample time to take picture after picture. One of the outer, ray-like florets was missing, giving my lens a clear shot of the bee as it moved over the surface of the flower. I love these photos because the macro magnification brings the details of the bee to life: the jointed exoskeleton, the bristling hairs, the intricate wings, all set against the gorgeous pinks and purples of the cornflower.

You can find more photographs of the cornflower and the bee here.

I love macro photography because it allows you to see the world around you in new ways. I've photographed all manner of flowers and plants and food and inanimate objects, but this is the first time I've been able to use it to reveal the unexpected wonder of a tiny animal. (Well, I had a delightful time photographing the shrew-mole, but the details revealed weren't nearly as amazing as those seen on this ordinary bee.) I feel very lucky to have seen the bee on the cornflower while I had my camera in hand! I stopped by that same flowerbed today, less than a week later, and found that the cornflowers are done for the year. I'm thankful, too, that I decided to invest in a 100mm macro lens, enabling me to take breathtakingly beautiful, unexpected photos!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful shots. I have a DSLR and I'm still learning how to use it. I love to watch our honey bees visit the flowers around our porch. These bumble bees are cute and fuzzy.