Not A Cloud In The Sky

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After a few pretty murky days a cloudless crystal sky, warmth and a breezy clarity in the air. A lot of the garden plants are starting to feel the pace but some, as above, are still doing their best to attract pollinators.

There was a new face in the insect cast today as I registered the first visit to the garden of a gloriously vibrant brimstone (no doubt from the second emergence). That takes the species count to 14.

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I’ve often watched the bees crawling in and out of the hibiscus flowers, getting progressively weighed down by a head to toe covering of pollen. While they’re digging about in the flower they make a fairly simple target for the camera but I was keen to catch one in flight. I tried a number of strategies to obtain the correct focus for the moment of gravity-defying, logic-confounding take-off. Using my fastest shutter speed to freeze movement left me with a super-narrow depth of field. I had to take a guess as to whether the bee would move towards me or away when it launched. I then used either the nearest or the furthest petal on the flower head as a reference and focussed a fraction further away from the centre. Then it was a matter of waiting for the bee to perform. Several times it vanished so far into the flower that after a while I decided it must have gone. Needless to say, if I removed my eye from the viewfinder or my finger from the shutter, a pollen-encrusted head would appear, look around and buzz off before I could get reset. Multiple shots were the way ahead, I decided. The moment the insect next appeared, I fired off about 20 shots at 5fps. It didn’t fly. It actually walked to the next flower. I was being trolled.

Luckily I’m persistent and the bees were peckish. As is so often the case, the best images happened almost as a by-product of my efforts rather than a direct result. My favourite isn’t actually that sharp, but in its softness has a slightly unreal quality that emphasises the bee’s apparent unsuitability for a life of flight.

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I’ll include a couple of others for your perusal as well:

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With nature it is, of course, always the ones you least suspect and I think it’s worth taking time to appreciate some of the less glamorous creatures you might come across. While I was framing a shot on the topmost hibiscus bloom (a tired-looking flower but with a clear blue sky background) a greenbottle touched down for a split second. Click. Gorgeous. My favourite shot of the day:

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