Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bumbleebees in Basil

Bumblebee in Basil I
This year the heat and humidity have been brutal, and with the exception of a Cuckoo Bee who slept in my lavender for a few days, there's no such thing as a dormant insect. I have found some critters resting in the shade during the hottest parts of the day, but they get up under flower petals and leaves where it's difficult to get a good angle on them. Add to that the simple fact that I'm getting bored with shooting static subjects so I was forced to look for a way to take images of hyperactive ones. Since they have a tendency to keep still when they are occupied I decided to start injecting some 2:1 sugar syrup into the flowers that they feed on so they'd have a reason to let me get close.

Bumblebee in Basil III

On the hardware side: If you want to keep the background from being black then you pretty much need the sun behind you, and you need to shoot no higher than 2x. As the magnification goes up the amount of available surface area in the background drops, so you'll quickly reach a point where you'll have to set the shutter too slow, ISO too high, and or the Fstop too low. I've found a pretty good balance with my camera set to 1/60, ISO 200, and F11. Then all I have to do is adjust the FEC, usually setting it at about -1. The key is to dial in your camera settings, cast a shadow over and focus on a flower you've baited, and take a shot with the flash off. If you've got some color and detail in the background, and as long as it's not over exposed and the flower is nearly black, then you should be good to go. As long as the flower is horribly under exposed with the flash turned off, then the flash will be the only significant light source on the subject when its turned on. So it's the flash, and not the shutter, that's going to freeze the motion in the scene (just like shooting macro with the flash as the only light source). Set your flash to second curtain sync just in case you do get some motion from the natural light (it will freeze the area in motion right before the shutter closes, giving you detail in that area even though there was movement).

Bumblebee in Basil IV

Bumblebee in Basil V

Get happy with the delete key on the keyboard -this is not studio shooting...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bee-Havior Part 3

Honeybee in BasiI I
Sometimes the weather, and the critters, just don’t want to cooperate. Lately it’s been hot and humid –temps at 25C (77F) and over 80% humidity. With one rare exception everything has been hyperactive even before the sun comes up. So I’ve been experimenting with mixed light sources and injecting a few flowers with some 2:1 sugar syrup. They sweet stuff gives insects a reason to let me get close, but I still have to work fast.

Bees have a tendency to pull away from me, and I used that behavior to my advantage for this next shot. A head on shot looking down into the flower got stuck in my head after one session of shooting feeding bees. But I knew that the limited depth of field, even at F16, was going to be problematic. But positioning myself over the top of this bumblebee caused it to pull away from the flower, allowing me to place the thin flat area of acceptable focus over the proboscis all the way to its eyes and head.

Bumblebee in Lavender I

On mixing natural light and flash: Changing the sensitivity of your sensor (the ISO) or the amount of light coming into the lens (the Fstop) will effect both the natural light and the flash in a scene. But as long as you stay below the maximum flash sync speed for your camera the shutter will only impact the natural light. So the “trick” that I’m using with images like this next one is to lower the shutter speed so I can use natural light to expose the background, and since I’m deliberately shading the subject the flash can still freeze what little motion is left to give me sharp details in the subject. I don’t care about motion causing the background to blur since it will be out of focus anyway.

Wool Carder Bee in Basil I

This is the last post in this series. I have some more behavioral info, and well as a lot to say about composition. But I’m going to save it for my next book (hopefully get it out this fall). Until next time happy shooting :)