Different techniques for bee photography

Started Sep 20, 2014 | Photos thread
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philzucker
philzucker Veteran Member • Posts: 8,593
Different techniques for bee photography
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It's late September, and today we had a sunny afternoon. Our asters (or Michaelmas daisies) were blooming prettily, and the bees must have seen the weather forecast - we're in for a drop of temperature, more clouds and possibly rain in the coming days, so the bees decided it was the right time to do a mass visit in our front garden.

I naturally got my K5-II with the 90mm Tamron macro lens and tried to get some good shots of them.

Really found that veryhard to do, and so tried a multitude of techniques: MF and AF, AV, TAV and fully manual, ISOs between 100 and 6400, with and without flash. I was at it for almost two hours. Well, time can fly if you do photography!

Here some results from that shooting with the diligent bees:

First one is taken at f2.8, 1/400s, ISO 400. I had an extremely low yield going wide open - DOF is just too small, and getting something useful was happening mostly by accident, if at all. But I got lucky with this one - the eye of the bee is in perfect focus, and I like the overall mood:

Next one was done with the lens stopped down to f13, 1/160s, ISO 400 - this was for most shots a much too slow shutter speed, because the bees were moving constantly and very fast. Also the flowers moved in the wind. I got very few keepers - but sometimes got lucky with everything being still for a moment, for instance here with this picture of a very successful bee - look how much it already got collected!

Or here with a less hard-working feller - he even took a time out cleaning himself. So I got him at f16, 1/160s, ISO 500:

To get more keepers I changed to a very aggressive method: I upped shutter speed to 1/1000s for less movement blur, closed the aperture even beyond the diffraction limit to f22 and switched to TAV mode - ISO stayed at 6400 for most shots. This way I got less sharp and of course more noisy pictures - but movement blur was eliminated completely, and the larger DOF also helped with both manual and auto focus. So I got this one of two bee pals (one in focus, one nicely OOF in the background) - and sharpness and noise are tolerable downsized to 2000 pixels width, I think:

Finally I hauled out my largest flash, a Metz 45 CT4 with a LumiQuest bouncer attached, and fired away going fully manual with f16, 1/125s at ISO 100 - the flash guaranteeing "freezing" of movement this way. The bees didn't seem to mind, but of course even with the bouncer softening the light I had to try different angles for best results. Here is one of those:

This really was hard work, and in spite of that doesn't stand up to lot of fantastic bee pics I've seen here on this forum. So please share your techniques - next time I want to get better!

Phil

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