This article shares my experiences earlier today, photographing bees one-handed using an E-M1X and M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens. Finding their use too restrictive, I’ve always hated using tripods, even with macro photography. So today I decided to do something a little different from the norm.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Often when doing macro photography handheld, interesting subjects may be a bit too far away for us to support a camera with both hands. Sometimes we ignore these photographic opportunites and concentrate on others that are easier to reach.
Today I decided to do something that I hadn’t done before… practice shooting handheld macro photography by exclusively holding my camera with only one hand during the entire photo session.
This included adjusting the position of my single auto-focus point, changing aperture and shutter speed, and exposure compensation if required. I shot in Manual mode and used an auto-ISO setting. I must admit that it felt quite strange to limit my physical contact with my camera to only one hand for a couple of hours.
Photographing bees one handed ended up being a liberating experience. It enabled me to watch individual bees more intently and follow their flight around various blossoms.
When a subject bee would momentarily land on a blossom I would move my camera in as close as I could by stretching out my right arm and composing from the rear screen.
I didn’t need to adjust my aperture or shutter speed very much during the practice session. I tended to leave my single auto-focus point in centre frame, although I did adjust it with my thumb on a regular basis. In these instances the AF joystick on my E-M1X came in very handy for both landscape and portrait orientation images.
One of the most important factors when photographing bees one-handed was the speed at which my camera acquired focus. It was quite a breezy morning and the bees would only spend a second or two on each blossom before moving on to the next. So I had to get my camera in position very rapidly, acquire focus quickly and grab my image.
A few areas in my flower gardens are a bit more sheltered, allowing me to use slower shutter speeds and lower ISO values.
In many parts of my yard I was photographing in bright sunshine which made things a bit tricky composing from the rear screen of my E-M1X, as I could not change its angle with only one hand on my camera body.
This exercise of photographing bees one-handed really drove home the importance of having a camera body with a solid, comfortable grip and easy-to-use controls. It didn’t take too long before I could confidently and quickly make the adjustments needed for a photograph one-handed.
I think doing this type of practice session is very beneficial as it forces a photographer to use their gear in an uncommon way. This helps to build some skills that may come in handy in the future.
Since this was just a practice photo session, I wasn’t anticipating getting a lot of keeper images. I was pleasantly surprised with the photographs that resulted.
Once I became accustomed to judging the physical distance needed to capture a handheld macro bee image, I was able to move in tighter. Photographing bees one-handed allowed me to lean into my garden and capture a number of nice, tight images like the one below.
Mounting an M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens on an E-M1X body does look quite bizarre… almost comical. But, it is an incredibly easy set-up to handle when shooting macro images of bees one handed. I also used this approach to capture macro images of flowers and other insects one-handed during my practice session.
If you enjoy doing macro photography handheld I would certainly recommend trying this type of practice session. Photographing bees one-handed felt challenging at first… but it was a rewarding exercise as it enabled me to capture images that I would not have otherwise been able to get… given my physical distance away from the subject bees.
Pushing our skill sets and trying new ways to use our cameras helps expand our physical capabilities. I plan on doing this type of practice session on a regular basis.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Image were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Photographs were cropped to taste and resized for web use.
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