Blossoms & Bees

I was recently touring though a secondary hard drive of photo files that was filled with my images, and both flowers and bees on flowers kept jumping out at me. Flowers and bees are subjects that are currently available to most photographers, so I decided to make that the theme of today’s post.

I think every photographer has a fondness for any of their images that have tended to be accepted by others. I am not just speaking of pictures that have been published, but those that have been commented on and given a thumbs up by the public. This picture of Bleeding Heart has always been successful for me.

When I made this image I employed the time-honored technique of using a longer lens (240mm) to narrow down the background. In this case I positioned myself with the sun backlighting my subject, and carefully moved until I found a patch of background that was in deep shade. I exposed for the highlights, which darkened the background even more. In the editing process I added a little bit of contrast which separated the lights and darks even further.

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At the bottom of this page my two final bee pictures have a similar look to them as the Bleeding Hearts you see above. The difference is that you can see very clearly that the subjects are fact front lit. It is possible to photograph a front lit subject and find an isolated bit of shade for a background, but it is a more likely scenario when your subjects are back-lit. In the case of the bees, I used electronic flash set on full through the lens auto metering. The resulting exposure was biased towards the bee and Coneflower, which is closer to the lens. The background was distant, so the flash rendered it either under exposed or unexposed.

I’ve contended many times on these pages, that the most versatile subject that nature photographers deal with are flowers. There are a million ways to look at, or better said to “see” a flower.

When I decide to photograph a flower, it usually leads me to one of two journeys. Either I start up super close and begin to back off, or I begin more distant (even landscapes) and move in step by step.

Each of the next five images are of Lupine. It begins with landscapes, and moves in….and then moves in more. When I made the first two images, there were other photographers in the area. They were making macro images of various flowers. In both cases they eventually came up to me and asked what I was photographing. I said “the field full of lupines”. In both instances, but in different ways each stated that I would have to move in a lot closer. They were stuck in macro mode. They couldn’t back off and see the big picture. Normally I experience just the opposite. Photographers stuck in landscape mode that cannot see the details. There are a million ways to photograph a flower, and for that matter, everything else. Never compromise your photographic vision.

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On a personal level my favorites of the Lupine images are the second to last with a single flower in focus and out of focus flowers in the background, and secondly the very first photo. That single tree adds a lot as a compositional anchor.

Geranium petals and moss.


Shooting Stars


Desert Evening Primrose


Blossoms with bees, or bees on blossoms?

Shooting pictures of bees while they are on the face of a flower, is probably the easiest way to make this sort of image. Try to keep your camera parallel to the flower, and use enough depth of field (f11+ etc.) to cover the whole bee up close. If your dof (f16+) covers the face of the flower too, so much the better.

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Of course you don’t want all of your bees to be on the face of the flower when you photograph them. The bottom two images are the electronic flash pix aforementioned in the fourth paragraph of today’s article.

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All of the pictures above were made with my camera affixed to a tripod. I would be foolish to say that you should never use your IS/VR instead of a tripod while chasing an active insect. That is a perfect use for that function. Another great use is when you are photographing flowers, and you find that perfect composition of that ground dwelling flower, and you cannot get the creative angle you want without setting yourself free from the tripod. That having been said, when you are making images where a tripod is possible, I would suggest that you use it. Your thoughtful approach will be rewarded. All in all, you will make better pictures, with fewer crops when you “make it count” while you are in the field.  Most of the greatest pictures that have been made, have been made on a tripod. Tripods and IS/VR are tools. Both can help you to be a better photographer, depending on the circumstances at hand.

In one of my next two posts, I will return to sharing the images from some of the best photographers around.

God Bless,                                                                                                                                       Wayne

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