I spent a short amount of time in the garden today trying to photograph bees.  I have found that looking through a macro lens makes one study insects much more closely and reveals a fantastic level of detail.  So much so that I can be distracted from pressing the shutter button.

Bombus lapidarius on a cornflower
Bombus lapidarius on a cornflower

I was particularly interested in a bee with an orange behind, which, I am assuming was a red tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius) and wanted to get a shot of it on a cornflower due to the contrasting colours.  I took some shots and then it flew off.  I then noticed it on some yellow flowers, time for another shot.

Bombus lapidarius on yellow flower
Bombus lapidarius on yellow flower

It was whilst I was sitting watching the bee and waiting for it to emerge from the midst of the flowers that I noticed another bee on the cornflower.  Whilst observing both of these bees, it became apparent that one preferred the orange and yellow flowers, whilst the other was only interested in the cornflowers.  Is it the case that individual bees prefer certain colours or types of flowers, or had, for example, cornflower bee already visited all of the yellow flowers and so was avoiding them?  Should I be growing as many different types and colours of flowers as I can?

I’ve got a new lens.

Just a quick post because I am excited by my new present, a telephoto lens.  I bought the lens primarily because I wanted to take some shots for this blog, and so I finally bit the bullet and spent some money.  As I finished early for Christmas today, I thought I would try it out, although the light is apalling and there were no birds in the garden (whenever I get a camera out they all do a bunk).

Imagine my surprise when, camera in hand, a jay flew into the garden (I had the camera, not the jay).  I feel doubly lucky because I have never seen a jay in the garden before.  The pictures aren’t great (a bit blurred), but, I was hand holding the camera and for some reason, I hadn’t turned the image stabiliser on!


I then had the opportunity to photograph a greenfinch (it looks a bit stripy so I think it may be one of this year’s).  The results are shown below, OK, not perfect, but as you can see, it was quite dark, and I had to zoom in quite a bit. (This time the image stabiliser was turned on.)

Greenfinch    Greenfinch close up

There is a long way to go, but I am quite pleased with my new lens (although it is a little noisy – no chance of sneaking up on any unsuspecting birds with this lens), I am just hoping for some better light over the Christmas period.

A warm day at Ryton

I am lucky enough to live close to Ryton Organic Gardens and this weekend I decided to brave the heat to spend some time at what is one of my favourite gardens. (I had been lamenting the continuous wind and rain in the past few months so could not really pass up a day of full sun with not even a whisper of a breeze.) My main aim was to indulge my favourite pastime, botanical photography, but, in the past it has provided inspiration from a produce point of view.

Although it is a big place they have divided it up into a number of smaller areas including a cook’s garden, a garden planted to encourage bees and one for birds as well as allotment areas and experimental areas. Their soft fruit garden was the reason behind my purchase of an evergreen oregon thornless blackberry which we are currently training to hide the bins.

Whilst I did take a few pictures that I was reasonably pleased with (see my Flickr page) I also got a few ideas for the front garden which I am in the process of planting up. The main constituents of the front are herbs (which we planted some time ago) and some grasses which we did not want in the back garden anymore. These will be augmented by lots of bulbs, annuals and perennials, the main criteria being low cost and photogenic appearance.

I was very much taken by a white flower bed that they had planted. The centre was a huge mass of white cosmos (a favourite of mine) with two different plants at each corner of the rectangular patch. In one corner I was particularly taken by some stunning white Nigella which was in front of a fluffy headed grass. 

In the diagonally opposite corner there was another plant that I was thinking of buying, Echinacea ‘White Swan’. In truth I was a little underwhelmed, expecting something much whiter where this seemed cream coloured at best, possibly heading towards a lemony yellow.

So it is a thumbs up to the Nigella, a maybe to the Echinacea.

What do you think?

Autumn Colour (in praise of green)

I went out yesterday with the intention of utilising the sunny weather and the autumn colour to take some nice, if formulaic, photographs. Although the autumn display does not seem to be as bright as last year, I assume because of the wet Summer, there did seem to be a lot of yellow around.

Although I was thwarted by the fact that a large army of grey clouds turned up to hide the blue sky, I still managed to get some nice photos.

Autumn ColourHowever, it did occur to me that it takes more than some yellow leaves and sunshine to make a spectacular autumn scene. Without the contrast of some evergreens or trees that shed their leaves later in the year I am sure even the brightest field maple would appear less attractive. I took the photograph below to illustrate this point. If you cover the green shrub next to the maple it starts to look a little less interesting.