View Full Version : Bees On The Wing

2nd August 2008, 02:07 AM
I've had a lot of fun lately experimenting with my 70-300mm plus close-up lens to capture insects in flight. I expected bees to be much easier to catch at the right moment than, say, Hovver Flies as they are larger and relatively slow moving.

How wrong could I be?! I now fully appreciate the old saying, "As busy as a bee," they are never still - even when on a flower they are constantly moving, making close-up photography with limited depth of field very challenging. You could say they are a hive of activity! Here are a few of my first efforts (critisism and advice most welcome):-






2nd August 2008, 02:39 AM
Hi John you've got some pretty good shots there. I've tried a few times to get some pics of bees never with as much success as you seem to have. I agree they are definitely not easy to capture they just never keep still, well apart from the odd time or two when they go so far into a flower head that you can't take a picture anyway. Thanks for sharing these shots with us


art frames
2nd August 2008, 08:32 AM

I have as many 'not quite yet' pictures of hummingbird hawk moths. They are equally difficult and busy about the flowers. I can share them if you would find it helpful to see you are not alone in this quest.

With a sigma 105 macro I am able to have a reasonable working distance and with brilliant light and some ISO fiddling I have increased speed, and eventually stopped the wings at about 1/2000th. But then two things happen which I didn't anticipate.

Your attention is drawn to the composition which was always not right, and would need different camera settings and more care to improve it. And the picture doesn't show the hassle you had in getting it at all.

OR the stopped wings look odd and your brain is trying to work out what is going on. I am torn between stopping the wings and leaving a slight movement.

Looking at these I see you have exactly the same issues.

I won't be critical of the results. I have learned on my own work that I prefer slight wing movement but sharp bodies. A strong point of focal interest (they have long tongues) to make the shot have a purpose.

The rest is down to luck, light and a bit of tidying up afterwards.
Nice to meet another flying insect man, Don't start me on dragonflies!


2nd August 2008, 09:39 AM
Hi John

These are really coming on well. It is not at all easy to capture bees in flight or, for that matter any insect, in flight using Macro. The technical challenges are far greater than for any other type of photography. You have to get the very best from your hardware to achieve more than a passable result. The need to keep the shutter speed high, noise levels low, dof acceptable and subject in the focus window are some of the factors to be controlled. Thats all before considering the normal composition requirements for an image.
You have achieved these well with your shots.

The question as to whether the wings should be totally frozen in movement is a tricky one. Any flying object including birds but particularly insects changes its wing attidudes to brake/turn/accelerate away which is difficult or impossible to predict. This will cause some odd wing beat attitudes which when frozen, look unnatural. It is therefore a question of luck to get a 'natural' look. I think a slight blurring of the wings is better as this is more likely to be acceptable to viewers.

I shall be away for a week in North Yorkshire and hope to be able to take some more Macro shots (as well as others with my Bigma) and will share them with you. Since starting down this road I have enjoyed the challenge of this type of photography and look foreward to seeing more of your work.

Cheers Peter

PS I hope the description above gives other E members an insight to the difficulties involved with this type of photography and maybe we can get others who have not tried it yet to have a go.