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A Seeing Eye – A nocturnal focus stack 2012

Male campanula bees (Melitta haemorrhoidalis) using a peach-leaved bellflower as a roosting place to sleep in at night

Male campanula bees (Melitta haemorrhoidalis) using a peach-leaved bellflower as a roosting place to sleep in at night

This image was not pre-planned, because I had never seen the behaviour before I walked around my garden one night with a head torch to check out nocturnal moths on flowers. During the day, I had been photographing female campanula bees visiting large bellflowers for nectar. The image shows the flowers provide a roosting place for male campanula bees at night.

Flash is essential to photograph any insect at night that does not emit it’s on light. In addition, I realised with a deep bell, no amount of stopping down the lens would get it completely in focus from the upper lobes to the bees in the base. Therefore, the only option was to take a nocturnal focus stack. The camera was attached to a RRS macro focusing rail  mounted on the tripod. Another tripod supported the flash, which had to be in a fixed position.

For a successful focus stack, it is essential for the subject(s) to be static. Fortunately, not a single antenna twitched in response to the initial flash and both bees remained motionless for all 36 frames needed to complete the stack. The final image was produced by blending all the images using Zerene Stacker software.

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