World Bee Day falls this month and I thought it would be great to celebrate that. Scientists and conservationists have for a while been discussing the importance of and risks to our pollinators so this international day is intended to raise awareness of the issues.
On a local level I have been talking recently with folks from the Redesdale Bee Society and learning about their work keeping the native subspecies of honey bee. For a long time it was thought the Dark European Honey Bee, Apis Mellifera Mellifera, was extinct; gladly they were found in several places where other subspecies struggle to survive including in Northumberland. These hardy bees are much better suited to life here, thriving with far less intervention, and pollinate all our native wildflowers. Some groups now seek to discourage the use of other variations such as the Italian subspecies (much more golden in colour) as interbreeding threatens the future of the preferable native variety. Read more.
Being both small and seldom still bees and other flying insects are a challenge to photograph. As wild spaces and gardens burst into bloom now is a great time to work on this skill. To some extent this can be a numbers game, take full advantage of a large memory card and feel empowered to take many images. Some people use burst mode and really lean into this idea, although I prefer a more methodical approach. There is an element of luck for this subject but I tend to agree with Gary Palmer when he said “The harder I practise, the luckier I get.”
Select a Fast shutter speed (1/800+) enabled by a high ISO.
Holding your breath and staying very still, manually focus on the head of the animal, notice that the depth of field is very shallow. This means looking at a side view of the insect gives the best chance of having most of the head and body sharp.
Bringing in The May has been important in British culture for a long time. Despite the different forms it has taken over the years a central theme is bringing flowers to decorate the inside or outside of the home. Not only would this be a lovely, and simple, tradition to take part in, it's very practical for photography purposes too. I suggest that taking close up images of a vase of flowers in a bright but still area, such as a windowsill, is the perfect practice for capturing bee photos later. Make sure you spend time working on controlling your focus- aim to be able to choose which precise spot will be the sharpest.