Bees (in flight)

December 03, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

The city where I live has a beautiful garden. Bright flowers are everywhere. They attract bees. When the bees harvest pollen from the flowers they don't fly very fast. As the flowers attract the bees, so the slow flying bees attract me.  First, I looked for flowers that are isolated a bit. Perhaps one is higher than the others, or to one side where I can get a clean shot. Then I setup and wait, watching the bees do their thing. When one of the bees goes near "my" flower, I am in business.

It can get frustrating watching the bees tend to all the flowers except "my" flower. But patience pays off. I wish I had a lens that could focus closer so that I could follow the bees more nimbly rather than setup and wait for them with my 200-600mm. The almost two and a half meters (six to seven feet) minimum focusing distance is a real pain. I was trying to photograph some dragonflies too (a future blog on them will follow), but the minimum focusing distance meant that I had to crop a lot. Luckily, I do have 60mp of resolution to play with. But if there is one fault to that lens it would be exactly this (and perhaps faster focusing motors would be nice too - but hardly an issue). Then again, we should use the right tool for the right job and perhaps this lens was not created for this task. The new Sony 70-200mm F/4 is a semi-macro lens and can focus on subject very close to it. Perhaps I should exchange my 70-200mm F/4 for the newer one.

In a setting with lots of colorful flowers it also becomes easier to choose a nicer background.

Focusing is an issue. The bees can come from any direction making pre-focusing difficult. However, pre-focusing in the middle of "your" flower makes it easier for your camera and lens to focus because the focus is already almost there. It just needs fine tuning rather than hunting to focus. This helps to make focusing a bit faster. Also, most modern long lenses are equipped with focus limiters. By limiting the distance of focus to a shorter range (you know how far "your" flower is) it becomes easier for your gear to perform since it no longer has to search for focus throughout its entire focus range (2.4 meters to infinity for this particular lens).

          If I am honest, the autofocus performance of my Sony A7R IV was somewhat disappointing. The AI animal eye detection was totally useless for insects (at least those I was trying to photograph). I believe that Sony's newer cameras with the new AI focusing chip in them are brilliant and best in class at accurately recognizing and locking focus on their eyes. This greatly increases the accuracy of acquiring focus but does not necessarily help with the speed of tracking moving subjects.

          Overcast but bright days work best for this type of photography. You don't want harsh shadows or bright flowers in the background to overshadow your subject.

          Either way, no matter where you are there is always something to photograph. Go out there and shoot.


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