Flying Bee

400mm  f/10  1/800sec  ISO400
In a friends yard I spotted a group of plants with interesting pink colored blossoms. When I went to that group I noticed that hundreds of bees were running and flying around from blossom to blossom harvesting sweet nectar. This was my chance to try to capture some bees in flight. I grabbed my camera and sat down next to the plants. Because my lens has a minimum distance of 1.6 meter, or 63 inches, I was at a save distance. I sat down onto ground to get a nice perspective and to get a stable position with little shaking. To be more stable I rested my arm holding the lens onto my knee and stopped breathing while shooting.

400mm  f/9  1/800sec  ISO400
The time when I was taking these photos was at late afternoon. The sun was quite low and sent some smooth and warm light. I chose a location with the sun behind me for a nice illumination of the scene. Since the insects are quite small I needed a better control of focus point and therefore I switched the settings of my camera to center focus. The same did I with exposure control. I set it to center metering. Now it was my turn to keep the flying bee within the frame center. Later on in post-processing I cutted out a frame with a nicely arranged scene.

400mm  f/8  1/1600sec  ISO800
Taking photos of moving objects is quite challenging. If shutter speed is too low or objects moving too fast they get motion blurred. Another aspect is depth of field. If the time from focusing to releasing is too long, the object moves out of focus range. The key here is to achieve the right balance between aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Lower aperture values result in a narrow depth of field and increases the chance that the object has left focus range when releasing. To enlarge the range of focus you can increase aperture value. But this will slow down shutter speed and increases the chance of motion blur. Furthermore a higher aperture value brings out more background detail which can distract from the scene. ISO value is also in the game, but too high value result in image noise with is quite ugly.

400mm  f/10  1/800sec  ISO400
Usually, when trying to photograph insects, you have only little number of them and have to wait for the right scene. Here I had hundreds of bees flying around and I didn't know where to look first. So I had a lot of chances to play with different camera settings to get interesting and quite sharp photos. I was shooting in P mode and let the camera calculate aperture and shutter speed automatically. Later on I switched to Tv mode to control shutter speed. With other photos I used Av mode to adjust aperture value. All with a fixed ISO value to be sure, the camera does not adjust it too high automatically. I had lots of chances so I was not that sad if one or another photo was trash. A little re-sharpening in post-processing helps with not absolutely sharp photos.

400mm  f/8  1/2500sec  ISO800
One last word about this interesting, strange looking blossoms. Without the magnification of my zoom lens I didn't see their exact shape. That's why I was amazed when watching the photos at my large screen. There are no colorful leaves. Instead some cones with sweet nectar are folded out. In addition the blossoms provide an intensive scent to attract insects. It took me some time to identify the plant. It is some kind of Milkweed or Asclepias, but don't ask me of the exact species.

For those, who are interested: The camera I used was my EOS 500D and the lens was my excellent EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L zoom lens. The camera settings I explained already.