This was my first attempt at capturing a live bee.
I used my Nikon D5300 with my Nikkor 55-300mm lens. In order to get a fairly large depth of field, I set the F-stop to F/20. The lens is also the sharpest when you operate it at this F-stop. Because I wanted to capture all the hairs on the bee with detail, this F-stop was perfect. Because I was standing quite a distance away and didn’t want to disturb the bees, I had to use a focal length of around 300mm. And because I did not have a tripod, I needed a fast shutter speed. I set it to 1/320 of a second.
Side note: Even with the in-lens vibration reduction, I didn’t want to leave the quality of the image up to chance. Chances are, I could have probably gotten away with around 1/250 and still be fine. However, this was a one-chance shot, and I didn’t want to lose it.
Because I was shooting at such a small aperture and such a high shutter speed, I had to compensate for the loss of light by pushing the ISO up to 400. I was somewhat lucky that the day was sunny, otherwise I might have had to go up to ISO 1200 to get a decent exposure.
My initial intent was to capture the bee with the pollen stuck to its leg. But as luck would have it, another bee decided to join its friend just as I was taking the shot. I think the shot looks really great.
Strangely enough, my biggest concern was ensure that I’d get the exposure right. As I mentioned earlier, I was willing to turn the ISO up if need be, but after thinking about it a little bit more, I’d have also been willing to take the photo slightly under-exposed and then just adjust the exposure in post-processing.
Speaking of which, there was very little post-processing involved with this photo. The colors you see here and pretty accurate. I had to slightly tune the exposure to reduce it a little bit and touch the saturation up a tiny bit (2 units) to get the yellow of the flower to pop out.
Overall, I’m quite happy with it and it required relatively cheap camera gear.