Balance and Purpose
A suburban garden near Paris on a Summer’s day delights the eye with its peacefulness, scents, gentle breeze, gorgeous flowers and busy visiting bees. Patiently trying to capture their activities is challenging, given their flying speed and rapid changes of direction, but this image fell into my lap as a beautiful specimen rested acrobatically on the stamens of a flower and drank up the nectar from the blossom.
In researching the subject, I learn that the feeding habits of bees are immensely more complicated than I had ever imagined, fulfilling their needs for different forms of nourishment at different stages of the lives of each type of hive member, but I will spare you the details of their “honey stomach” etc, in pursuit of this photographic explanation.
Balance and Purpose
It was only after I could view this image at full size that I could enjoy the wonder of the symbiosis between the insect and the plant. The stamens offer a complex landing ground on which the bee delicately positioned itself with apparent ease and without the need to hover in flight.
Through the offer of the nectar, it is evident how the plant obtains its pollination benefit from the “dust” flecks caught up in the hairs of the bee. Other photographs I have taken show the bee collecting pollen and storing it on its back legs. I had not realized until my reading that the pollen is used in the hive as “bee bread” and is not simply a plant-beneficial side effect of nectar collection. Nature is incessantly surprising, wonder-making and incredibly beautiful. That is one excitement that pushes me to photograph.
It is always wonderfully freeing to have the benefit of the kind of “good” light required for the specific photographic moment. So often, its less than ideal quality involves frantic thinking and adjusting to compensate for light which is either not quite suitable to produce the desired result or which challenges a mechanical instrument to replicate its delicacy. In this case the clear, bright afternoon light encouraged me to attempt hand-held capture of one of natures speedsters.
The first benefit was that it enabled the setting of a small aperture to create enough depth, while maintaining the fast speed required by the subject. Had the insect been moving, I would have switched to shutter priority and chosen a much faster speed, but the fact that it was at rest was perfect.
Finally, the camera’s very high sensor specification, which produces 35-50+ megabytes of raw data per image allowed a very tight crop of the original image. This was attractive in terms of the overall plant life, but did not provide an emphasis on the acrobatics and beauty of the bee. I chose a severe, free-form crop which is nearly square, in order to focus on the single blossom visited by the bee.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: 24-70mm f2.8G Zoom
Focal Length: 70 mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/1000s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: -0,7 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 800
We humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, but all of life is a wonderment. How beautiful, harmonious and perfect it seems. May we assume the obligation to steward it, in recognition of the gift that it is.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015