Thoughts & Ideas

Beauty All Around

All too often we go through our lives without really stopping to appreciate those things that are around us – even though they may be small things or large things. They might be things we take for granted – like trees or flowers, or even things we find annoying or a bit frightening (like spiders, bees, or other creepy-crawlies). And yet, if we would pause but for a moment, we might just find out that there are truly beautiful things all around us – just waiting to be discovered.

If you are a photographer, chances are you’ve specialized in certain types of photography – like weddings, or sports, or portraits. And if you haven’t – or are discovering your niche – that’s fine too. Regardless of where you are in your photography, I challenge you to take some time and just look around you – you might be very surprised at what appears before your eyes.

Below are some shots taken on a photowalk at a small park in southern Illinois. I never got beyond the entrance – there were simply so many little flowers, bugs, beetles, bees, and dragonflies that were beautiful subjects that I didn’t need to go any further!

Bee on Flower: This Bumblebee was getting all the nectar he could possibly get by crawling around on these and other close flowers. Apparently  he'd had too much after awhile, since he began literally falling off these things! (1/250 sec @ f/8; 50mm ISO 400)

I’ve officially been bitten by the love of bumblebees. Not that I’m out to pick one up, mind you, but they are just so difficult to photograph well. The above image is one of my best bumblebees to date, and given the interesting flower he’s on, it makes the image all the better. I shot this with a 50mm lens at f/8 to ensure that I would get both the bee and flower in good focus.

Pretty Multitude: These little flowers were all over, just sunning themselves, or inviting one of several bumblebees over to play. (1/500 sec @ f/8; 189mm ISO 400)

The above image is fairly simple – just some yellow flowers cloistered together. But look at all the detail in each flower – it simply boggles the mind!

Dragonfly on Flower: Apparently he thought it was pretty and decided to land for a short time - which is all it was, because I only got one shot off. (1/160 sec @ f/9; 200mm ISO 400)

Given that there were dragonflies around, well – I just had to try and get some pictures of them. I’m not sure, but they may be harder to get than a bumblebee. Some where quite content to sit on a stem for awhile, but others would land and fly away, barely giving me enough time to catch a shot. The above was one of the latter – he landed on the flower, I took a picture, and he was gone. I will say this: having a nice long lens helps to capture these guys if they are staying still – you’re less likely to spook them when you are four feet away versus being six inches away! (By this shot, I was using my 70-200mm f/4L lens.)

(Side note: from this angle, even f/9 is insufficient to keep the entire dragonfly in focus; only his body and far wings are focused; the wings closer to us are blurry. But had I lingered to stop down the aperture, he’d have disappeared, and the shot would never have occurred.)

Solitary Beetle on Flower: I'm not sure what this beetle is doing alone (because a few stems over there was quite a crowd of them), but maybe he just wanted some alone time? (1/320 sec @ f/7.1; 200mm ISO 400)

The colors in this beetle fascinate me. There are white spots, a bronze back, and a shimmering green head, which, as far as I’m concerned, makes this guy absolutely gorgeous. (And so is the flower, in case it feels left out!)

Flower II: (1/500 sec @ f/5.6; 200mm ISO 400)

Simplicity works to your favor too – here the flower is the only thing in focus – everything has been thrown out by using a fairly wide aperture (f/5.6) at a long focal length (200mm), but had the background been closer, it would not have been as out-of-focus. It took some creative framing to get the angle on this guy just right.

Flower III: (1/200 sec @ f/8; 200mm ISO 400)

It was this flower’s color that attracted me at once – the yellows, pinks and magentas are absolutely stunning. A smaller aperture (f/8) ensured that a good portion of the flower was in relative focus; f/4 would have resulted in a much blurrier flower. As it is, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the focal area doesn’t go much beyond the stamens and a bit of the petals. Even so, I like it.

Bee Exiting Flower: I'd wanted to get this shot all day, but the bees simply wouldn't cooperate. Finally, by some miracle, he was exiting at just the right time, and I was able to record the moment. (1/1250 sec @ f/8; 200mm ISO 400)

I’d spotted bumblebees doing this earlier in the photowalk – and then I wanted to capture one actually doing this – exiting a flower after collecting some pollen. I waited and waited and waited (well – I took pictures and took more pictures, and yet more pictures), and finally caught this guy at just the right moment crawling out of the flower. There’s something cute and fuzzy about him, no? (He might disagree… having a stinger and all!)

Last Dragonfly of the Day: The reflections from the setting sun were what attracted my attention on this dragonfly. (1/320 sec @ f/8; 200mm ISO 400)

More often than not, the dragonflies would land on sticks instead of flowers – but they still produced interesting shots. I was back at f/8 to ensure that most of the dragonfly would be in focus, but what really drew me to this particular shot was the way the setting sun was reflecting off his wings – the colors in there are gorgeous.

Bending in the Wind: I'm not sure what these are, but aren't they beautiful? And when the light hit them just perfectly, I had to take several shots. (1/640 sec @ f/8; 200mm ISO 400)

These wispy plants just go to show that even the most ordinary looking thing can be gorgeous when the right light is around. Having got down at just the right angle, the sunlight hitting these plants was absolutely wonderful. Look closely – there’s an astounding amount of colors there.

Beauty doesn’t have to be found in nature, either – just look around your home – there are bound to be fantastic opportunities for creative shots there as well. If you have pets, then opportunities abound, but even the ordinary can be turned extraordinary with a creative angle and creative lighting.

You can see all the processed images taken at this park here, or you can click on any of the images above for a larger view.

Until next time,

Keep Writing with Light!

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