It's cherry blossom season in Okinawa and yesterday I had the chance to shoot some photos of the trees at Meiyo University in Nago. It was a dreary, wet, cloudy day, but sometimes the flat light helps subtle colours come out more, so why not give it a shot? My plan was to get some narrow-focus shots of blossoms with water droplets on them. This was easy under the conditions and I nailed the handful of shots I was looking for in a few minutes and I was about to call it a day and get back in the car so I could go to Churaumi Aquarium with my wife.
However, as I was putting my gear away, I noticed a bee on one of the nearby blossoms. One lens change and 367 exposures later, I'd managed to nail about 30 or so usable shots of bees and blossoms. Of those 30 shots, I'd say about 10 were pretty hot and five were just stunning.
In the first, my second favourite of the series, we see a bee in profile as it extracts the nectar. The image is close and clear enough that we can see the bee's 'corbicula,' or the pollen basket on its hind legs. Shooting on a 50-250 zoom lens, I had to step back to get the blossom in focus, because, the lens fully extended, the subject was closer than the minimum distance at which the lens could focus. Focusing this close meant that even on f/5, which was wide open for the lens at this zoom setting, the depth of field was narrower than the body of the bee! At first, I missed a lot of shots because the autofocus didn't know what I wanted to be sharp. I switched to manual and managed to nail a few (including this one) but later switched back to auto and stepped back another foot or so.
The next is my favourite of the series, because it was the only one in which I caught the bee in flight and in perfect focus. All the pictures in the series were taken at the 250mm setting, f/5 at 400 ISO.
A few technical notes in closing. This is one situation in which a copped-sensor camera is better than a full frame. A full-frame camera would have a narrower depth of field for a shot with the same angle of view (i.e. framed the same way), making it harder to nail the focus (already very hard). It would have been great if I'd had a higher-end camera with better low-light performance, faster focusing and the ability to shoot more frames per second in burst mode. I was shooting in one shot mode because I my Canon Rebel 100D won't focus fast enough on this lens to make use of its 4fps. If I were a pro who regularly went on assignment for National Geographic, it might be worth investing in a 1Dx, but since I probably won't get paid a dime for these shots, I'm thrilled with what my entry-level DSLR delivered (incidentally, the 100D's 18 megapixels is a match for the 1Dx in terms of resolution).
Thanks for reading
My simple blog about the art and science of photography.