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Guest blog by Angela Robertson-Buchanan

It’s really pleasing to see such a great reaction to the Head On Photo Exhibition in Centennial Park – being able to share my work and passion for photography in such a setting is a privilege. I thought in this blog post I would look at the interesting but rather tricky skill of photographing bees!

Firstly, I want to stress that it’s very important to be respectful of bees. Most of the time they are focused on gathering pollen and appear not to ‘mind’ you poking a camera near them – however they can be unpredictable.  If you are allergic to bee stings I’d recommend you find another subject!

The most common bee you are likely to see is the European Honey bee, however Sydney also has some spectacular native bees to look out for, such as the Blue Banded, Carpenter and Stingless bee.

This was my first Bee photo! My settings were F4, ISO 400 (it was a bright sunny day) and shutter-speed 1/2500 (I had no flash!).

This was my first Bee photo! My settings were F4, ISO 400 (it was a bright sunny day) and shutter-speed 1/2500 (I had no flash!).

When to photograph

Bees are most active when there is high pollen and dry weather. High humidity dampens pollen and rain will wash it away.  We have had some glorious sunny warm autumn weather and I have noticed bees on Grevillea, Bottle Brush and lavender.

What to look for

There are two ways to photograph bees:

  1. you can pick a flower that you anticipate them to visit, set up your tripod and wait for the bee (this requires lots of patience); or
  2. you can hand hold your camera and  ‘follow’ your bee bearing in mind that they are sensitive to quick movements (handy hint: approach bees with the sun facing you as not casting a shadow).

Choosing your flower is also important. If the flower is cylinder-shaped, for example, the bee will likely enter it to gather the pollen, so chances are you will mostly get the back end of the bee!

I like flatter and small flowers that the bee can’t hide or climb into – this also means you can shoot side-on or face your bee.

Camera settings

If you have a compact camera, it’s important to keep the angle wide but shoot on the macro mode.

For DSLR cameras, use a macro lens, continuous shoot mode and manual focus (a bright day is also preferable here). I won’t go into much detail about DSLR camera settings (you can check out my last blog), but if you do want to capture a bee in flight and do not have a flash to ‘freeze’ the moment, then you will need a high shutter speed of at least 1/1000 to stop wings blurring.

My last tip is to look out for interesting behavior and angles. Bees are great to practice your camera skills especially learning to use manual focus on a fast moving subject!

Some of my bee photos

Interesting and unusual behaviour: I spotted this bee in the grass and found its behaviour really intriguing. It kept walking/fluttering up the blade of grass and then falling back down.

Interesting and unusual behaviour: I spotted this bee in the grass and found its behaviour really intriguing. It kept walking/fluttering up the blade of grass and then falling back down.

I anticipated its next move and set up the next shot. F11, ISO 400, shutter 1/250 (my macro flash ‘freezed’ the moment and its wing flap!)

I anticipated its next move and set up the next shot. F11, ISO 400, shutter 1/250 (my macro flash ‘freezed’ the moment and its wing flap!)

I spent an hour with this bee, before it eventually flew away.

I spent an hour with this bee, before it eventually flew away.

If you would like me to elaborate on anything in this post, or have any questions, please feel free to email me: angela@photographicpassions.com

I also offer Macro photography fieldwork/tuition during the spring and summer months.

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Head On Photo Festival in Centennial Park runs until 22 June 2013. Full details here. Don’t miss it!

 

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