Here is something we can learn from jpcastonguay about the techniques and story behind this awarded photo.


1. jpcastonguay,where did you take this photo?

This picture was taken outside my parents home near Lancaster Ontario in their garden of sebum plants, which in mid-september is packed with honey bees.

2. What time of day?

Taken in mid-afternoon.

3. Anything worth sharing about lighting?

The lighting was ideal for outdoor photography, the clouds were thin causing the sunlight to be slightly dampened, which prevented glare and aggressive highlights occuring on smooth surfaces.

4. What equipment did you use?

The shot was taken without a tripod or flash, using a Nikon D7100 digital camera with a 105 mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

5. What inspired you to take this photo?

My parents live near a river, which attacks a slew of birds, insects and wildlife. I'm often walking their yard looking for new life to capture whenever I visit them. Given my dad's passion for birds and flowers, it also presents a great opportunity to pick his brain to learn and discover what I captured that day.

6. Did you do any post-processing? if yes, tell us about it!

Yes there was post-processing performed on this picture, which involved using a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Lightroom was first used to fine-tune the white balance, adjust the highlights and shadows, and to slightly boost the clarity. A brush was also used to eliminate some of the deeper darks around the bee's eyes and create contrast between it's dark head.

I then upload the RAW file to Adobe Photoshop when I first created a duplicate layer and applied a high-pass filter set a 3.0 combined with setting the layer mode to soft light. This added slightly more sharpness to some of the blunted edges. I then created a gradient map adjustment layer with a custom B&W gradient and adjusted the opacity until I got the desired balance of colours and contrast.

7. What equipment do you normally have in your bag?

I personally like lugging around quite a bit of weight. Now only does it become part of my workout, but it also allows me to have what I want for pretty much all situations and type of photography I think of doing.

For my digital photography I'll carry my Nikon D7100 camera with my 18-70 mm f/3.5-4.5 lens, 105 mm f/2.8, and 70-300 mm f/4.0-5.6 Nikkor Lenses. In accessories, I carry a Hoya ND10 and IR Filter lenses, a remote trigger, Manfrotto tripod a spare battery and SD Card, and a small lens cloth.

I also carry an antique Mamiya RB67 medium format camera with a 90mm lens and some spare film for my sporadic film shooting desires for mostly landscapes. That's where most of my calories are burned.

8. Any advice for others trying to capture something similar?

First thing with insect photography is patience, especially with honey bees since they are constantly in motion.

The best is to get into a comfortable indian seated position near some flowers and wait for a passer by-ers. I would also suggest setting your camera to AF-S setting and when you get a focus on a bee, then lock the focus by pressing your AF-L button (Nikon users), and while looking through your viewfinder find the right focus by closing in or out on your subject before taking your shot. I prefer this to the AF-C setting because I feel this causes too much focus cycling, which sometimes delays when you can take your shot and you are never sure to get the focus you think you had.

A faster shutter speed for insects is ideal and for optimum sharpness and low grain, a mid-range f-setting of 7 to 10 should also be used combined with an ISO setting no more than 800.


Discover jpcastonguay's photographic style and techniques.

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