Chasing more bees

I was lucky enough to be able to chase some bees again but this time at my younger daughter’s last soccer practice. The last time that I tried this, I knew it would be hard since the subject moves around a lot and the depth-of-field is tiny.

According to the PhotoPills app, the total depth of field of 140mm at:

Aperture Distance: 3ft Distance: 4ft
f/5.6 0.31” (8mm) 0.59” (15mm)
f/2.8 0.15” (4mm) 0.31” (8mm)

You can also use a site like DOFMaster to get this data.

I show 3-4ft because my 50-140mm minimum distance is 3ft and 3-4ft is about perfect to approach bees in my opinion. 😉

But I was amazed still amazed at how hard it was to get a good shot.

The last time, I had nice golden hour light, but this time, it was heavy overcast so my ISO had to be fairly high to use a fast shutter speed, but that doesn’t have to dampen my fun!

Speaking of fun, my wife still laughs at me when I look at something like this:

20170518 190959 DSCF2680 X-T1 bees ISO1600 1000th f2.8_DCE.jpg

and see a golden photo opportunity.

First off, I like to shoot bees with the camera low to the ground, because instead of this (photo taken high to the ground):

I can get this:

This, of course, is a matter of taste.

Normally, I go for broke and go with the widest aperture (f/2.8 in this case) and shoot a lot in hopes of getting the tiny depth of field on my moving target. Keep in mind that:

  • The few mm of focus is shallower than the subject (so only part of the subject is in focus)
  • and the subjects (tiny bee and flower) are both moving.

But this time, I tried several at f/5.6 which gave me a tiny bit more leeway.

So how did I do?

Out of about 100 photos, I got significantly more in-focus photos of the bee at f/5.6 (IF, of course, I also kept the shutter speed up), but it can be argued that I also got more noise thanks to the higher ISO needed.

You might also argue that I lost some creamy bokeh at f/5.6, but can you tell which photo below is shot at f/5.6 and which is at f/2.8?

This is, of course a trick.

Many of my f/5.6 shots of the bees have less bokeh than the f/2.8, but aperture wasn’t the deciding factor of how it turned out.

  • I got more out of focus background by having the background farther away.
  • (It also looks like I got lower to the ground in the f/5.6 photo above (which added more background that was farther away))


  • Because the subjects are bees, choosing where to shoot (and not wait very long) is not a reliable option.
  • And, technically, I could have gotten more of the background out of focus in the f/5.6 if I was at f/2.8 at the time.
  • But, you get what you get (and you don’t throw a fit).

Good luck!


Just like before, I shot a lot at max frame rate and continuous focus with the focus point smallish. This made some of the photos out of focus (because the subject is tiny and continuous focus is really for large objects like people that fill a lot of the frame). But which would you prefer?

  • Single focus and nearly every frame in a burst out of focus
  • Or some frames in a burst out of focus?

If you have ever been burned by continuous focus like me (photos in a burst mostly in focus except for that great shot), then you want to blame continuous focus, but this is not logical. Single focus is equally likely to get that shot out of focus, but it could have also made the other shots out of focus, too. There are many other factors that can increase auto focus accuracy including but not limited to:

  • Equipment with better auto focus
  • Subjects with better contrast (for auto focus systems to detect)
  • Better lighting (for better contrast)
  • Subjects filling the frame more (so more focus points can be used)

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