ImageSpotlight: Green Metallic Bee

I remember the first time I laid eyes on this beautifully colored bee. I was competing in the 2004 Valley Land Fund-Small Tract nature photography contest and scanning any blooms I could find for some macro work. As I was photographing a spider in a cactus bloom, this sparkling green bee buzzed in an out. Not sure of what I had seen, I spent a little part of each morning hoping to encounter these colorful insects but those efforts were in vain the rest of that season.

Wanting to know more about them, I started researching their habits and as one might expect, I discovered that the adults fed on flower nectar. However, unlike other bees, the metallic bee is solitary. Since they prefer a warm climate, the late spring and summer months would be an ideal time to look for these bees, particularly where you find blooms in the brush.

Now that I knew where and when to look, photographing them was still going to be a challenge. Metallic bees are quite small (from 1/8 to 1/2 of an inch long) and require good macro technique. My first photographic attempts were a blur and I mean that literally. I knew I’d have to abandon the handheld technique as they were simply too small and and active.

To capture the image shown here, I used a dedicated macro lens mounted on a tripod. I also added an external flash to gain a faster shutter speed, as well as to add a little sparkle to the metallic characteristics of the bee. On one particular day at the ranch, the purple sage was in full bloom so I setup my equipment and hoped that a cooperative subject would come my way. It didn’t take long before this bee showed up, landing on the purple petals and crawling inside. Knowing it would exit head first, I quickly setup, prefocused on the center of the flower, and waited for it to rear its head prior to flying off. When it emerged from the inside of the flower, I pressed the shutter. Voila! I had the shot I wanted.

Green Metallic Bee | Canon 1D MkII | 180/L macro lens | 550ex flash at -2 | f13 | ISO 400

As it turns out, this is the only green metallic bee image I have in my portfolio. I need to add more so I’ll be out there when the weather warms again, hoping to capture more images of these fascinating bees. I’ve heard it said that to become a better photographer, you should become a better naturalist. I guess this experience is what they mean by that. Learning just a little about my subject increased my chances of getting this shot.

Until next time, may all your shots be sharp. — KEVIN

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