To bee or not to bee--a photographer.
Capturing images of honey bees is a delightful leisure activity.
You don't have to sign up for a safari on another continent, or invest in thousands of dollars worth of camera gear.
You can do it all in your backyard (especially if you provide bee friendly plants). Or, you can head for a bee garden or park.
Lately, my objects of interest are the honey bees foraging on our tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). Earlier this spring, five towers of jewels graced our backyard. Now we're down to one; the others are spent. (They're biennuals and have completed their life cycle.) The sole Echium apparently doesn't know it's time to quit; it has been blooming off and on since April.
Which is wonderful for the bees, beekeepers and photographers!
To get photos of honey bees, I don't poke 'em, prod 'em or pin 'em. I don't spray 'em, glue 'em or freeze 'em. The bees do what they do naturally; I am a visitor in their habitat. I quietly pull up a chair--keeping low to the ground and as obscure as possible--and watch them. No, they won't sting you when they're foraging. They are more likely to show defensive behavior when you're too close to their hive entrance (such as blocking their flight path); when you haven't smoked the hive properly; or when you swat at them.
Lighting is everything. Photography, in Greek, means "writing with light" and that's what you do. Write with light. A little backlighting and a honey bee absolutely glows. Adjust your camera settings and you can stop a bee in flight or capture the redness of its tongue (proboscis).
Early in the morning is the best time to photograph bees. Their flight muscles haven't quite warmed up yet; they move at a slower pace; and they linger longer on the blossoms. One of the bees below clung to the same Echium blossom for two hours before it buzzed off.
These photos were all taken around 7 a.m. the same day on the same plant. The tools: a Nikon D800 camera and a 200 mm macro lens.
Cameras are just that--a tool. They don't make the image; the photographer does. Folks who say "You must have a nice camera" don't understand the creative process or the making of an image. They would never tell a gourmet cook "You must have a nice set of pots and pans" or an artist "you must have some nice brushes" or an athlete "You must have a nice pair of shoes."
That being said, bee photography is something each of us can do, each in our own way.
Read your camera manual. Know the settings. Know what your camera can and cannot do. Learn from other photographers. Look at photos in art galleries, in publications, or on the web. Then head out for a bee safari.
On an African safari, you may not find "big game." But on an insect safari, you will always find "little game."
Every year the Entomological Society of America (ESA) invites its members and other interested persons to enter the Insect Salon juried photo competition.
It's a highly competitive event, drawing photographs from around the world. The non-profit Peoria (Ill.) Camera Club coordinates it.
The macro images are amazing. You'll see, on the Insect Salon Web site, insects in the act of being themselves: feeding, flying, crawling, taking off, resting, hanging around, mating--and yes, even a honey bee cleaning her tongue. (That would be one I took of a cooperative bee in Tomales, Calif.)
The winning images include bumble bees, carpenter bees, damsel flies, dragonflies, katydids, grasshoppers, monarchs, moths, scorpion flies, skippers, swallowtails, robber flies, and assorted beetles.
ESA members viewed the winning images on screen at their recent meeting in Indianapolis.
Bigger than life!
If you spot a ladybug, don't just start reciting "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home."
Aim, click and shoot.
With a camera, that is.
Agricultural Research Service scientists and entomologists at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and South Dakota State University, Brookings, are surveying the country's ladybug species.
They want you to photograph every ladybug you see and send the photos to them so they can inventory them. They are specificially seeking rare species, such as the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse ladybeetles, but any and all ladybugs will do.
Ladybugs, also known as ladybeetles (family Coccinellidae and beetle order Coleoptera) are the "good guys" and "good gals." They prey on insects that eat our agricultural crops. They also help protect our nation's forests.
The good folks at The Lost Ladybug Project also offer some photo hints. They know that the bugs may not sit still for a photo shoot (let alone "smile") so they recommend you pop them in the freezer to slow them down. "You can do this in a freezer at home or in a cooler in the field," they say on their Web site. "Lady beetles can be chilled in a freezer safely for 5 minutes (over six may kill them) and this will quiet them for 2-4 minutes. Coolers are not as cold as freezers so it will take 30+ minutes to get 1-6 minutes of quiet time. They will survive for days in a chilled cooler."
Nope, I did not "chill" my ladybugs. No ladybugs were harmed or "chilled" in the making of these photographs. I popped the 60mm macro lens on my Nikon and stealthily waited amongst the Russian sage.
I've always loved the wit and wisdom of insect-inspired poets.
God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.
- - Richard Vaughan
If you look at the world through a viewfinder--as I have a habit of doing--it’s a wonderful, exquisite place, especially if you capture critters in their natural habitat. They don’t complain when you make them look fat, skinny, nice or ferocious.
Blow flies, honey bees, carpenter bees, spotted cucumber bees, the ten-lined June beetle, and mosquitoes all appear in my viewfinder. Okay, I know. We’re not supposed to like some of these pests (such as the carpenter bees, spotted cucumber bees and the ten-lined June beetles), but hey, all of them are pretty enough to sing the national anthem at the Olympics.
Photography, or writing with light, is just that. Writing with light. Back before the digital technology age, we used to process film, make prints and then hang them out to dry. We "pho-togs" marinated ourselves in Dektol, DK-60 and Hypo.
Our "pheromone" wasn't always appreciated. But the images were.
But the images were.
Bees are black, with gilt surcingles,
Buccaneers of buzz.
- - Emily Dickinson
The mosquito is the state bird of
- - Andy Warhol