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Macro Photography of Honeybees at The Filoli Garden in Woodside

Yesterday I mentioned about my kick ass weekend and the great time I had at Filoli Gardens in Woodside, CA. Since I had two rental lenses with me, I brought them both with the determination to find a way to use them both. For a while there, I was sitting with the Canon 24-105mm f/4.0 L lens on my camera and having a grand old-time. As we walked from one garden to another, I was happily snapping away without the need for the other rental. Then, as we were making our way to the rose garden, we stumbled on a pollinating plant that had all sorts of honeybees going nuts. You could say that they were busy bees… ha. (I hear the crickets in the back, don’t worry)

I remembered that when I was renting the lenses, I noticed the 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on the shelf and asked what I could use that for. I was told that it was good for “bugs and pennies”. Well, I was sure that I’d come across some type of bug at the gardens, so I went with it. Back we go to my passing the flowering plant, and here I am replaying in slow motion in my head upon seeing the honeybees “bugs and pennies”. It was rather dramatic, like you would see in a comedy show or blooper reel where it’s much lower and drawn out. bbbbbbuuuuuuuggggggsssssssss aaaaaanannnnnnndddddd ppppppeeeeennnnnnnnnniiiiiieeeeesssss. Something like that…

So, out came the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens to see what that was about. I have a buddy that owns one and offered to let me borrow it, but I didn’t think ahead to let him know that I was headed to Filoli. No worries, cause after this adventure, I think I want to dedicate a little more time to macro photography and will be borrowing his lens real soon. The funny part is that my concept of macro photography was totally wrong.

Before getting serious about my equipment, I had worked up to getting a Canon S5 IS, which is a discontinued ultrazoom model with non-replaceable lenses. It was great owning it and I snapped off many great pictures. Eventually, I noticed where it would hold me back and that’s when I made the leap to the DSLR. I think the newest ultra zoom model kicks ass, and might even get one for vacation travel where I wouldn’t want to bring my whole arsenal with me. Yeah, right… Well, with the S5 IS, the macro mode of the camera meant that I had to get real close to what I was photographing. That sometime meant up to a few centimeters away. The lens always focused, so all was good. I figured this Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens worked in the same fashion.

Luckily, I didn’t get close enough to the bees to piss them off while I was trying to figure things out. I quickly realized that it had nothing to do with the proximity of the lens to the object, but rather I was limited by how close I could get. I was about a foot and a half away from the bees while photographing them, and the following images are the result of it. Other than the images where the rose is present, which were cropped to test how that would look, the images are uncropped and taken from about a foot and half away.

Although I think I came home with a few good macro images of busy bees, it left me wanting more. Why couldn’t I get closer? Would I be limited to only photographing things that I have to stay that far away from? Well, I did a little research today to find out that there are a few options to get myself closer to the action I’m craving. First off is a “life-size converter”. This piece of glass goes in between the lens and the camera body and acts as a teleconverter to an extent. While using a life-size converter, I am told that I can photograph a penny and have it fill up an entire full frame image. While this is great, I might want to get closer.

So, what is a boy to do? It appears this boy has to get himself some extension tubes. What do they do? Not quite sure just yet, but the concept is fairly simple. With a standard lens and camera body setup, the manufacturer of the lens has calculated where the light would enter through the lens and create a focused image on the sensor recording the image. You are limited with what can be in focus depending on the distance the focusing mechanism inside the lens can move in and out. Essentially, as you move the focus ring around and around, the “focused” image is moving either towards or away from the plan which is your camera sensor. Once that focused image reaches the same plane as your sensor, you have what appears to be in the viewfinder as a perfectly focused image.

Using this same concept, you can imaging how the extension tubes work. The tube is just a spacer without any glass element to it which separates and extends the distance between the lens and the camera body. This gives you a longer throw in the focusing capability of the lens. Extension tubes are also made to work with any lens, not just macro lenses. Of course, there are extension tubes that allow you to retain full auto focusing capabilities, but others do not. But for macro photography, I wouldn’t see why you would want to let the camera do the focusing for you. Other than this, which I have just read and learned today, I know nothing more. Hopefully, I will have more to report on the subject very soon.

So, I leave you with a few images of busy bees that didn’t feel threatened by my presence and were going about their stuff. I give the honeybees two thumbs up and the BADASS OF THE WEEK award for everything they do. After all, Einstein said long ago that the day that honeybees are wiped from the face of this Earth, mankind would have only four years left to live…

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