According to those that know it has been an amazing spring here in the Avon Valley. We’ve had rainfall that hasn’t been seen for decades and we’ve had a flush of wildflowers that hasn’t been equalled for fifty years. It has been frustrating as I’ve only managed to get out and photograph the orchids three times, but when I did get out it was beyond superlatives. Here are the highlights.
Clicking on an image will take you through to my online gallery.
Apologies to the late, great JJ Cale, who wrote the absolutely sublime song “After Midnight”, but I have been prowling around after dark with my camera and tripod. Every summer I do this because endless blue skies and fields of sun bleached wheat stubble do not make for very interesting photographs. Shooting at night can make the mundane look strangely beautiful and ethereal.
Most of the time the images are straight, i.e. I just set the camera up on my tripod and make an exposure, like the two images above. Sometimes I like to play a little with light painting and flash to make something a little more out there.
This image and the one below used flash with gels attached and fired by a set of el cheap “Poverty Wizards” I bought off of Ebay. I keep meaning to get a couple more old manual speedlites and some more wireless receivers to achieve more complicated lighting effects, but what usually happens is that summer ends and I stop going out at night and I quickly forget about it. Maybe this year.
What makes this fun is that it is experimental, you’re never completely sure how the image is going to turn out. Also with exposures knocking around 30 to 240 seconds it is a slow process and that makes it a more thoughtful exercise as it is not just a case of blazing away and hoping. I find because it can take up to twenty minutes making test exposures and then the final image I become thoughtful about composition. It is not unusual to have been out for a couple of hours and only make four or five images.
As always clicking on an image will take you through to my online gallery.
This year has been a very busy one for the bees. Despite what the calendars say is the official start of spring in reality here in the Avon Valley it arrived four weeks early this year with everything kicking off. I said in a previous post that most of the orchids were out early, well where there are flowers there are bees and the early start has kept them very busy. Not only have they been very busy feeding and pollinating flowers they have been busy swarming. I’ve never seen so many swarms. In one week I saw four flying around as I took the dog out on her morning walks. One particularly memorable formed in Avon Terrace, which is Yorks main drag, and made its way up the street causing chaos as people tried to avoid it before it settled on a TV aerial on the back of a caravan.
The swarm in the picture above was on a blind corner on the river walk trail and I nearly walked into it. As it was I got stung several times on the face. Despite the drama of the swarms I’ve had a lot of fun this spring just photographing the bees in my garden and here are some of the shots that I’ve taken.
As far as photographic technique goes it is fairly simple. I shot these using a Canon EOS550d or an EOS5d with a Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens. I mounted my flash on Custom Brackets Mini-RC with a Stofen Omni-Bounce as diffuser, and I connected the flash to the camera via a TTL cable and shot in aperture priority setting -1 stop exposure compensation so that the flash light is the main source as light (or key) and the ambient is the fill. The High Speed Sync function is also selected. I then select an aperture to give me sufficient depth of field – around f8 or f11. The ISO is set to give me a shutter speed of above 1/100th sec. I don’t worry about the speed of the bees when they move as the flash freezes the motion with its very short duration. Easy peasy. At this point I should point out that when doing this you should keep your mouth shut as you don’t want to be stung on the tongue and if the bees start getting upset you should back off a bit to allow them to settle. Also if you are allergic to bee stings might I suggest butterflies it may be safer.