Before You Go: Bumblebee Edition

bumblebee head with proboscis extended hovering away from rhododendron flower

This bumblebee left the rhododendron flower licking its chops (sort of).


It is kind of a foolhardy task given my macro rig, but every once in a while I get the urge to try for some “flight” shots. I put that in quotes because really “hover” shots would be more accurate. Naturally hover flies (i.e. Family Syrphidae) are targets. Occasionally, I’ll go for a beetle. And sometimes I’ll go for a bee, usually a honeybee or as in this case a bumblebee. There really is not a good bet among them, although the hover flies and bees are a little easier to time. A beetle can be herky-jerky, and they have just as much chance of dropping like a stone into the underbrush as flying off into the bright blue. I suppose the bumblebees aren’t all that much easier; they have to dislodge themselves, often in that noisy, clumsy bumblebee way they have. They are kind of like someone driving a bigger car than they are used to, backing out slowly and erratically before peeling out in whatever direction they are headed.

The bumblebees love the rhododendrons, and in my unscientific opinion, especially the white flowers. I almost nailed this shot. I got great focus for a moving target and lined up a nice background. Unfortunately, my trigger finger was a little slow, and I only got the head — a nice head though! The “tongue” hanging out is the bee’s proboscis, the mouthpart used for drinking up nectar.

Until the next flight in the dark shot.


2 thoughts on “Before You Go: Bumblebee Edition

  1. Nice sharp focus…how did you get the bee in focus while the flower was not? It’s hard to focus on a fast moving target. I would have focused on the flower and stopped the lens down as far as I could…but then the bee movement probably would have been blurred. Well done.

    1. Hi Pat, I use manual focus, and because the depth of field is so fine, to adjust I almost always move the whole camera itself to adjust the focal plane. For a moving target like this, I essentially pick the focus zone I think the subject will be in and just try to time the firing of my trigger. Using the flash is key to “freezing” the subject and preventing blur. Stopping down is an option to increase the depth of field but it usually comes at the price of other things like sharpness, background illumination, etc. You can compensate for certain things by adjusting basic settings like ISO, shutter speed, flash output etc. but those adjustments will change your result to one degree or another.

      To say that luck is involved is certainly fair, though it’s the kind of thing if you practice long enough you can make your own luck so to speak. Problem with “practicing enough” is, it’s a pretty frustrating task. I like to think I am a pretty patient person, but I don’t go for these shots too often.

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