Years ago, I read “On Walden Pond” by Henry David Thoreau. I vaguely remember it as being an interesting book at the beginning, but it started to lose my interest as the pages wore on. Perhaps I was too young to really appreciate the wisdom contained in those pages! Today with the Wuhan Virus or Novel Corona Virus or COVID-19, whatever you choose to name it, I am starting to gain new insights into simplicity! Sheltering-in-place and social distancing have been forcing me to take life a little slower, to appreciate what I have and where I am at this stage of life. It is even affecting my photography hobby.
Recently, I blogged about photographing everyday scenes around your environment or trying some new photography techniques with whatever may be at hand. A couple of days ago, I was sitting on my deck and enjoying the sunshine and peacefulness of my surroundings. A big bumble bee flew over the deck railing and came right in front of me and seemed to be staring into my face! Just as suddenly it flew away. The thought occurred that perhaps it would return, and I might be able to photograph it.
I went back into the house, opened my camera bag and pulled out my camera. Returning to the deck, my chair and my jazz music, I patiently awaited the return of my subject. Finally, it returned or perhaps it was a different bee. Afterall, they all look the same. Since most of you reading this blog are hobbyist photographers you know how difficult this shot would be and how many wasted shots it takes to get close to a decent photo of a bee in flight. It was a challenge. But I did have one good shot.
“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Looking at this photo and the thinking about nature somehow reminded me about “On Walden Pond”. The simplicity of a single bee in flight was a comforting thought in these difficult times and a signal that this difficulty will soon pass as surely as the bee quickly flying away. Perhaps one of the good things coming from this pandemic will be our reaching for more simplicity in our formerly busy and hectic lives. It might also lead us to appreciate more fully the people in our lives and what we have!
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The wings of a Bee
I recently went on a family vacation with my grandchildren, my daughter, son-in-law and my wife. We rented a home in North Carolina that sat on 75 acres and included river frontage on the Dan River. The home and setting were beautiful and I decided to take advantage of some of the numerous photographic opportunities there. So my first order of business was to determine what might be hidden among the 75 acres of undeveloped land!
My oldest granddaughter and I are both interested in photography, so she went with me as we scouted locations for a photo shoot. As you can imagine we found several scenes that were idyllic and well suited to photography. We stumbled upon an old home site that only had two weathered stone chimneys remaining standing. It created a fantastic photo opportunity and my granddaughter decided she would concentrate on that. She must’ve taken 100 different photos of that site and most of them turned out quite nicely.
I decided to take advantage of the numerous butterflies that were flying about in a field of flowers near the home. Early the next morning I walked to the field and set up my camera and tripod. I then frantically proceeded to turn and pivot the camera to try and capture a butterfly as it landed on a flower. This proved to be an extremely poor idea! Trying to capture a butterfly in flight is not an easy task to do, especially for a novice photographer such as myself. It must’ve been very comical to see me jerking my camera around trying to catch an elusive butterfly on a very small flower. I’m lucky that I didn’t knock the camera down or fall over the tripod with my clumsy self.
The next morning I decided on a new plan of attack. I got up and took one of my younger granddaughters with me and asked her to pick a flower that she thought butterflies would land on. The flower she picked out I set my sights on it, and proceeded to focus on that specific flower and then wait for something to land on it. This proved to be a much more fruitful strategy. It just required patience on my part. Thankfully I captured quite a few photos of both butterflies and bees on both that flower and an adjacent one. I guess the moral of the story is to think things through before you start shooting somewhat aimlessly, especially with moving objects such as butterflies and bees!
As I was reviewing the photos in Adobe Lightroom I noticed a couple of consistent errors on my part. Although I focused on the flower, I didn’t take fully into account just how narrow the depth of field would be for that type of a shot. As a consequence, some of the flower in the foreground was very clear and sharp but as you can see the rear of the flower was out of focus. Fortunately both the butterfly and the bee were in sharp focus. I was particularly pleased with the photo of the bee because you can clearly see the detail in its wings! Another problem I noticed was with composition. I planned to have a good bokeh in the background so that the flower, the butterfly or bee would stand out in sharp focus against the foliage in the background. Unfortunately, I think I had too much of the background and that created a sense of clutter in my photographs. Take a look and tell me what you think.
I also decided to experiment a little bit with Adobe Lightroom by creating a vignette for the photo of the butterfly. I think this helped remove some clutter and also focus more attention on the butterfly. I’m interested in your opinion of this and any other comments you might have on my photography especially anything that can help me improve! Until next time, keep shooting!