Travel & Outdoors | 4 September 2015Macro Photography of Bees Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Bees exist in a fascinating universe all their own. Pull out a microscope, and you’ll see that these tiny creatures are also stunningly beautiful and marvelously detailed. We went behind the scenes of the fascinating new book Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World and learned how the authors achieved such crisp, detailed images of such delicate insects. Below is an explanation of the photography process from the authors, Sam Droege and Lawrence Packer. Images from Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World The photography in Bees was taken mostly with off-the-shelf camera equipment that anyone can purchase; in fact many advanced photographers will already have the same or similar camera, flash, and lenses already on hand. Whether using a camera lens or a microscope, however, what confronts all photographers who wish to increase magnification is the depth of field. As the magnification of the lens increases, the proportion of the thing being photographed that remains in focus decreases. At 5x (the magnification at which many of the pictures in this book were taken), only a fraction of a millimeter of any particular bee is in focus, and makes for a most uninteresting picture. However, with software now available from several manufacturers (we use Zerene Stacker in these photos), multiple shots taken at slightly different, but overlapping distances can subsequently be combined into one completely in-focus picture. Magic! Some specific links documenting the details of our camera set up are given at the end of this section, but the primary photographic equipment we use is a modification of the setup that Tony Gutierrez at the US Army’s Public Health Lab showed us. It consists of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera body; Canon’s 65mm MPE 1-5x manual lens; Canon’s twin macro flash; and a sled that the camera sits on called a Stackshot. The Stackshot is controlled by a little microprocessor that can be programmed to move the camera very tiny but precise distances and fire the camera’s shutter. The diffuse (but not too diffuse) lighting is controlled by bouncing the flash heads into an inverted Styrofoam beer cooler. The rear of the beer cooler is removed and that opening faces a sheet of black velvet hanging about 3 feet away on the wall, helping keep the background as dark as possible (what also helps is an ISO setting of 100). After taking of a series of overlapping pictures, the resulting stack is sent to the program Zerene Stacker and a new single, in-focus image is re-created from portions of all the individual pictures. The resulting picture is then sharpened in Photoshop, and artifacts from the stacking process are removed. In most instances, we also remove the pin holding the bee as well as the inevitable dust that accumulates on museum specimens, some of which were collected more than 100 years ago. All the bee specimens in these photographs had already been collected for purposes other than having their picture taken. Overall, the bees within our collections make relatively poor photographic subjects. During the collection process, bees often end up covered in dust, debris, regurgitated nectar, pollen, and scales from other insects collected at the same time. Thus it is relatively rare that a good-looking bee is available that is clean, has nice-looking hair, and is not somehow damaged. To increase the numbers of available good-looking specimens we have become bee hairdressers. Under the microscope, we remove stray hairs, fibers, and scales, particularly from the eyes using tiny paint brushes that we have cut down to only a few bristles, sometimes only one. We use the tips of wetted pins that to collect dust out of the hairs until we are satisfied that at least the big pieces of dust are removed. Prior to photographing, specimens are put into a small Tupperware container overnight with some moist paper towels to rehydrate them. In the morning, flexibility returns, and the bee can be repositioned on the pin. In addition to being able to move the legs and antennae around, rehydrating the bee often allows the eyes to darken and obscure the mosaic patterns that develop after the specimen dries. In the worst cases, where dirt, goo, and pollen obscure or detract from a valuable or rare specimen, we will drop them (after rehydrating) into a centrifuge tube of hot soapy water and shake vigorously for a couple of minutes . Afterwards we rinse the specimen off under the tap and drop them into another tube of acetone to facilitate the removal of any residual water. After that we very carefully hold them just in front of a jet of compressed air to fluff the hair (care must be taken not to use too high a pressure of compressed air or the wings will shred). The best photographic specimens are new ones, just captured and within minutes from the field. Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World Author: Sam Droege Author: Laurence Packer While we eat, work, and sleep, bees are busy around the world. More than 20,000 species are in constant motion! They pollinate plants of all types and keep our natural world intact. In Bees, you’ll find a new way to appreciate these tiny wonders. Sam Droege and Laurence Packer present more than 100 of the most eye-catching bees from around the world as you’ve never seen them: up-close and with stunning detail. You’ll stare into alien-like faces. You’ll get lost in mesmerizing colors and patterns, patches and stripes of arresting yellow or blue. Whether you linger on your first close look at the Western Domesticated Honey Bee or excitedly flip straight to the rare Dinagapostemon sicheli, there’s no doubt you’ll be blown away by the beauty of bees. Buy from an Online Retailer In North America: In The UK: Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.