Shooting Leaf Cutter Bees in Action

22/07/2012 - 15:46

I put up a few thoughts on shooting bees in an earlier thread and several people suggested they may like to see a bit more on the subject.

In this short article I am sharing some thoughts following the dicsovery of some Leaf Cutter Bees in my garden and my first attempts to photograph them in action.

I know others have also had a go at this so maybe they would like to contribute some thoughts here too?

I first noticed that we may have these in the garden when I spotted that leaves of my Rosa Banksiae were being eaten leaving small circular cut-outs

cut-leaf.jpg

I watched these over several days and spotted a small bee approaching them but nothing more. Then, one day I caught one in action (without my camera of course Grin )

today I wandered out and there were a couple of them making regular visits so I put the olympus 12-50 kit lens on the OMD EM5, set to macro mode. I aimed to keep the shutter speed up around 1/1000th sec so despite the sun I set it to ISO400 with f6.7. Initial attempts were made using single shot, single AF but I missed a few key points so then changed to high speed shooting (9fps on the EM5).
I found this necessary as the bees cut through the leaf very quickly, using AF, hand-held, by the time I had focused the bee was off!

Watching the bees arriving and selecting the leaf (anything up to 7 leaves were visited before it settled on the one it wanted) gave me time to roughly pre-focus so that the moment it started cutting I was able to get final focus and start shooting.

The bee cuts in a circular motion, straddling the edge of the leaf

leaf-cutter-bee-1.jpg

As it cuts it rolls the leaf up between its legs

leaf-cutter-rolling.jpg

Until it has nearly finished and the leaf is curled under it

leaf-cutter-rolled.jpg

The next step happens very quickly and I haven't yet cracked the technique to get the shot properly, at 9 fps on the EM5 you lose the focus following (it only focuses on the first frame) so although the bee is in frame it is unsharp

leaf-cutter-bee-departing.jpg

So, its the same basic technique I use for all my macro work, intial observation, learn a little of the pattern of behaviour, then try to sort out a technique that will capture the behaviour you want.

I hope this was of some interest, if you know how to get that last step - Please let me know how you do it! 

Comments

Add a Comment

Name:

Email (not displayed):

Message:


Enter the letters/numbers you see in the above image: