Terrorist Bees

Terrorist Bees

Above is a small collection of bees doing their thing. 

Bees are pretty tough to shoot and you need courage to get near them.  Beer helps.  Even if you manage to control your instinct to scream and run, they are almost impossible to get into focus let alone consider an artful composition.  Bees know they can do whatever the heck they want … and they do.

I hate bees, they give me the willies.  They think they are cool with their sinister buzzes and their too-cool-to-pay-attention-to-you attitudes.  Bees know they’re cool.

Manfrotto Tripod & Handheld

Most of the time, I use a tripod even for bees.  I like to set up and wait.  I follow the following steps:

  1. Scout around for a good flower or bush where bees are buzzing around
  2. Keep in mind the angle of the sun
  3. Check out the background and figure a good camera angle
  4. Plunk my tripod down, adjust and wait

Don’t chase the bee, let the bugger come to you.  Consider your composition, the background, the light and positioning yourself in a comfortable position because you are going to be there for a while.  Now wait.  They will come.

The big trick to getting a great bee shot is getting this banded terrorist in sharp focus.  For this, you must turn off all of that magic wizardry in your camera and set center focus point only.  Then, put that focus point smack on the bee’s head.  For bees, I usually set my camera to use shutter button focus (this is how your camera is setup from the factory).  This way, I can put that center point on the bee’s head and shoot.  If you want to be real arty and compose a special photo like I did the portrait-oriented one above, then you must turn off shutter focus, use the rear focus button to focus, then recompose and shoot and not have to worry about my camera changing focus.  But now you have to wait for the bee to fly into focus and shoot shoot shoot.  Click here for my standard camera settings.

Sometimes, for no special reason, I will handhold my camera and shoot away.  I only do this if I can get a decently fast shutter speed of at least 1/500 or better because I shake and sway.  You really want to get your shutter up around 1/1000 for freezing bee bodies and minimizing the effect of shaky hands.  Even with image stabilization in these lenses, I still wreck photos by moving around.  Handholding allows you to get to where the bees are.  Tripods let you compose and consider what is important but may take time for a bee to come around and fly into focus.

Check out how I used my wonderful Manfrotto 190 CXPRO4 tripod.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about this tripod.  Just look at the photos below and see how I configured this thing to get down low.

I am not sure about that Manfrotto pistol grip as it sticks, is hard to squeeze, and can slip.  I have since purchased a Manfrotto 498rc2 ball head but I am no enamored with that either.  Not that this ball head is not good, it is actually a wonderful product, but I am so used to pistol grips that I am a bit spoiled with their convenience.  I plan a more in-depth comparison later.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Canon 24-105 L f/4.0 IS
  • Canon 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS II
  • Canon EF 12 II and 25 II extension tubes
  • Manfrotto 190 CXPRO4 tripod
  • Manfrotto 222 pistola head
  • Beers for courage



Location Types: Garden. Galleries: Bees and Bugs and Critters. Tags: 5D Mk II, 70-200mm 2.8, and Manfrotto Tripod & Head.

3 Responses to “Terrorist Bees”

  1. Mark Pritchard January 11, 2014 6:28 pm #

    Bruce: Awesome shots (disproving an assertion in a book I read that said you need to love the subject to create a great photo). You didn’t mention flash — all that light was sunlight? I’ve never tried, but would flash help freeze/focus? Anyway, I particularly liked the shots of the lit up flowers and dark bokeh (e.g., your photo IMG_6621TTP1.jpg). That’s just waiting for the right natural lighting condition?

    • The Intrepid Amateur January 11, 2014 9:04 pm #

      Thanx Mark, no flash on any of these. This summer I am going to give flash some try…. I find the results to be harsh especially when so close up but I don’t really know what I am doing. Lots for me to learn about up close, macro flash work and as you note, it can help freeze a fidgety subject.

      That 6621TTP1 photo has quite a bit of post processing on it. I was playing with LightRoom 5s new radial filter. Check out more like this at: travelthroughpictures.com/photo-items/flowers-lightroom-5-radial-filter/


  2. Dori January 13, 2014 12:48 pm #

    awesome pics! once again.

Leave a Reply