Behind The Lens

This photo was taken at the Eden Project in Cornwall (UK). I only live round the corner from this amazing tourist attraction, and so I visit frequently looking for new inspiration in a place that is constantly changing. It's an excellent place to find wildlife and all sorts of plant-life, ranging from common natives to wildly exotic tropical species.
Despite all the advice littering the internet,, photography books, advice sites and forums about the "best" time of day to shoot, I took this in the middle of the afternoon on a lovely sunny, summer day. Yes, that's right, I ignored all the advice to shoot at first light, or dusk, or during the blue hour, and took this at about 1:30 in the afternoon in perhaps the harshest light of the day. As well as being a photographer, I'm also a mummy to my two-year-old daughter, and so very often I have to factor in entertaining a small child into my photography expeditions. She loves it, and it's a great way for her to learn about the world, but it means I am tied to her schedule and not necessarily that of the photographer's "best" light.
Photographing this bee in the middle of the afternoon meant that I would have to deal with some pretty harsh light. However, it also meant that there were really nice glimmers of light on the insect's wings, eyes and legs that I wanted to capture. A relatively fast exposure time (1/500 sec) meant that I could get the glimmer without blowing out the highlights of the flowers.
I took this shot just as I was getting serious about photography, in the summer of 2013. Back then I hadn't invested in any flashy or expensive equipment. All I had was a relatively cheap Canon PowerShot SX210 IS, which I bought new for a couple of hundred quid back in 2010. No fancy dSLR, no tripod, no filters. Just this simple little "point-and-click" compact camera. To be fair, it is a powerful little beast, and is still a great camera to have in my back pocket for when I don't want to be lumbered with my dSLR.
In the summer of 2013 I was really getting into photography, and was becoming a serious hobbyist. I spent my time reading everything I could about the science behind the art. I spent even more time really looking at other photographers' work, learning what I like and what I didn't. I spent any time I had left out and about armed with my compact camera, practising the techniques I had seen and read about. Capturing flowers and nectar-loving insects was a great way to learn new techniques and practice my photography skills. I do love this photograph. It is one of my favourites for two reasons. Firstly, I think bees are fascinating and a species that we all need to protect and care about. Secondly, this was one of the first times everything came together for me in one photograph. The lighting, the composition, the clarity and the story came together by design and not by accident!
The photograph you see here is exactly as it was shot in camera. I've not done any post-processing at all. It's not even been cropped.
In my camera bag
Generally I only take two lenses out with me: my Nikkor 55-200 f/4.5-6 for some zoom; and my Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 prime. I absolutely love both for different reasons, but I'd have to say the prime nudges ahead slightly as my favourite. The fixed focal length forces me to move around, to actively look for the best angles and prohibits any temptation for a lazy shot. The camera body I turn to most is my Nikon D5100. Not everyone's first choice but it's a great camera, easy to navigate and very robust. I always have my tripod with me--necessary for long exposure and to minimise any unintentional blur. I use Hoya HD UV filters to protect my lenses. Finally, and most importantly, I make sure I always carry spare (charged) batteries and an additional memory card. There's nothing worse that having to pack up early because you've ran out of juice!
As most photographers will tell you, patience is the key to capturing great shots. You may get lucky and just happen to snap that one excellent photo without even really thinking about it. However, for most of us, knowledge and patience are the main ingredients for great photography. Know your equipment inside-out; but also know what is is you want to photograph. If it's a place, visit it frequently at different times of the day or year if possible. If it's an animal, learn about it's habits. For example, you're unlikely to capture that killer shot of a badger in the middle of the day! On the day I headed off to the Eden Project to take this shot, I knew I wanted to practise photographing bees, so I made a bee-line (sorry I couldn't resist it!) for blue and purple native flowers because I know that's what they prefer. I think perhaps the most important advice I can offer--particularly evidenced by this image--is that you don't need to have the latest, greatest, professional standard equipment to capture a great shot. Any camera is better than no camera at all so long as you learn how to use it properly. Finally, just have fun with it. To begin with, try to focus less on the results and more on the technique and you'll soon see fabulous images on your LCD screen.

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