bumble bee

Buzzing for Milkweed by Todd Henson

Buzzing for Milkweed, a bumble bee flying beside milkweed flowers.

I love random walks through parks, camera in tow, looking for anything that catches my eye. I don’t go with any specific goal other than enjoying nature, but I’m completely open to anything that catches my eye. Sometimes that may be a nesting osprey with its young, a raccoon bedding down for a nap, a group of young red fox playing, or a bumble bee gathering pollen from a patch of milkweed.

We walked a trail along the edge of the bay, with water to the left and swampy land to the right. Occasionally we’d see and follow a monarch or zebra swallowtail butterfly, which eventually led us to a small patch of milkweed. There I found bumble bees gathering pollen from the flowers.

A bumble bee gathering pollen on milkweed.

Bumble bees are great subjects. They just don’t care about the presence of people. Some insects will fly off when you get too close. This is often the case for me with butterflies. But bumble bees just go about their business completely ignoring my presence.

I used my macro lens and I slowly moved in close to the milkweed and the bumble bee, trying to follow it the best I could. Often it’s best to pick a spot the bee seems to like, prefocus, and just wait for the bee to enter that spot. But sometimes I’ll also try following the bee. It’s not always successful, but it’s fun. On this day I was very pleased to capture the photos I did, my favorite of which shows the bumble bee in flight as it was approaching the flower, buzzing for milkweed.

Both of these photographs are available for purchase through my online store, run by Fine Art America / Pixels.

Fine Art Photography Prints by Todd Henson

Fine Art Photography Prints by Todd Henson

Bee Sheltered in Rose of Sharon by Todd Henson

A bee sheltered in a Rose of Sharon flower.

This was such a fun photograph to create. There was a light drizzle, but not enough that I had to cover my camera. The light was very soft, but it was also somewhat dark from the camera’s perspective. I was out photographing flowers with my new Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens, trying different compositions and different aperture settings, just trying to get a feel for the lens.

When I made my way to the Rose of Sharon I found a bumble bee sheltered inside one of the flowers. It wasn’t at all upset by my presence, even as I pushed the front of the lens right into the flower, almost filling the entrance. This blocked most of the light that might have entered the flower and lit the bee, but as you can see the light did still reach the interior by shining through the petals.

I created a number of images of this bee, sometimes experimenting with composition, but sometimes just trying to get a shot with the bee in focus. The Lensbaby Velvet 56 is a fully manual lens and I don’t often focus manually, so I was essentially relearning how to do this. Thankfully, I did a reasonably good job capturing the bee in focus for this photograph, though parts of it are still out of focus. It might have been a good idea if I’d stopped down the aperture just a bit to capture a little more depth of field. You can see from the sides of the petals how shallow the depth of field is.

Because it was so dark I had boosted my ISO to 1250. The shutter speed for this image was 1/40 second and I was hand holding the camera. This lens doesn’t have VR so I did the best I could to hold it steady. It’s not a heavy or large lens so this wasn’t too difficult.

I don’t know the exact aperture I used as the Lensbaby Velvet 56 does not have electrical contacts so it can’t communicate the aperture to the camera. It was not wide open as that would have created a very soft focus effect. There’s a good chance this was closer to f/8, possibly even smaller. I was physically very close to the bee, likely approaching the minimum focusing distance of 5 inches, which contributed to the shallow depth of field. I really wanted to fill the frame with the bee and the enclosing petals of the Rose of Sharon.

Sheltered in a Rose of Sharon is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.

See my first impression of the Lensbaby Velvet 56 for more examples of photographs created with this lens.

The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

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National Park Service Centennial by Todd Henson

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) turned 100 on Thursday, August 25, 2016. The National Parks, and other lands managed by the NPS, truly are some of the jewels of the United States. The NPS works to preserve some of the most beautiful locations in the country, while still keeping them open and accessible to the public. I have benefited greatly from this system of parks and monuments, and I hope they continue to be preserved far into the future.

I have not visited nearly as many of the parks or monuments as I would like, but included in this post are photographs from a number of the locations I have had the privilege of visiting, sometimes multiple times. The National Park Foundation can help you find a park near you.

National Park lands are known for their iconic scenic views, beautiful mountain ranges, flowing streams and waterfalls, and fields of flowers. But they are also home to wildlife of all sorts: mammals, reptiles, birds, spiders, etc. And the Park lands also include many monuments and memorials showcasing fantastic statues and amazing architecture. If you haven't been to a National Park, Monument, or Memorial lately, get out there! Go visit one today. And take along your camera, create a few images. It's worth the trip.


Locations Around the National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial at night

Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool at dawn

Washington Monument & Cherry Blossoms Reflected in the Tidal Basin

National World War II Memorial Water Fountains

Storm over the Washington Monument and Tidal Basin in Black & White

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial in Infrared

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial and Washington Monument in Black & White

Closeup of Jefferson Memorial in Black & White


Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C.

Lotus Flower and Bumble Bee against green background

White Water Lily in dark pond

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Bridge in Infrared

Dragonfly on unopened Lotus Flower


Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park in Black & White

Pika in Rocky Mountain National Park

Uinta Chipmunk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Clark's Nutcracker in Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow-bellied Marmot in Rocky Mountain National Park

Facing the Storm in Rocky Mountain National Park (Black & White)


Acadia National Park, Maine

Long exposure of a rocky shoreline in Acadia National Park, Maine (warmer tones)

Long exposure of a rocky shoreline in Acadia National Park, Maine (cooler tones)

Panorama of inlet and rocky beach in Acadia National Park, Maine


Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland

Falls Along Canal in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Great Blue Heron Above Falls in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Double-crested Cormorant in Potomac River at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park


Great Falls Park, Virginia

Prelude to Rafting at Great Falls Park in Virginia

Kayakers in Potomac River at Great Falls Park

To the Falls, Great Falls Park

Facing The Fingers on the Potomac River at Great Falls Park


Turkey Run Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia

Blue Phlox at Turkey Run Park

Yellow Trout Lily at Turkey Run Park


Prince William Forest Park, Virginia

Stream in Prince William Forest Park

Quaker Ladies Flowers in Prince William Forest Park

Daisy Fleabane Flower in Prince William Forest Park

Arrowhead Orbweaver Spider in Prince William Forest Park


Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Skyline Drive Sunset in Shenandoah National Park

Flowers along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park


The resource list below contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.


Resources from my library

National Parks: Our American Landscape
Earth Aware Editions

Ian Shive, recipient of the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography, is well known for photographing America's National Parks. His work is showcased in a book titled, The National Parks: Our American Landscape. I own a paperback edition of this book, and it contains some fantastic imagery, along with a number of essays by different writers. The book is in landscape format, approximately 8" x 10.5" and is 228 pages in length.

Ian's photos in this book present a far better sampling of our National Parks than I've done above. He has visited and photographed a great many of the parks over the years, capturing all aspects of them, from the iconic to the smaller, more subtle details. I believe Ian is a true master of his craft.

Photographing America's National Parks  with Ian Shive.  Image credit: CreativeLive

Photographing America's National Parks with Ian Shive. Image credit: CreativeLive

In addition to the book mentioned above, Ian Shive has taught a 3-day class at CreativeLive titled, Photographing America's National Parks. This class includes over 15 1/2 hours of video, along with several PDF documents with extra info, such as the keynote slides and some amazing examples of Ian's work. I own this class and really enjoyed watching it. This was the first CreativeLive class to take the studio out to a National Park, allowing Ian to demonstrate, in the field, how he goes about creating his images. Most of the topics he discusses are relevant to any form of outdoor nature photography, whether in a local park, National Park, or just in your own backyard. In fact, he advocates starting in your backyard. Most of us have something near us worth photographing, and having it close by gives us the opportunity to easily return over and over again at different times of the day and during different seasons. We can really learn the place. And this helps later when we travel to other locations because we've already spent the time locally learning our lessons, getting to know our gear, learning about light and composition, knowing what's possible.

The class includes many videos on location. The locations include several parks along the Olympic Peninsula, such as Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. In some videos Ian takes us through a photo shoot, describing what he sees and what he's thinking as he works the scene. In others he takes us on a scouting trip, looking for scenes that might prove promising at a different time in different light.

Back in the studio he talks about how to select and edit your images and takes us through his process. As with many of the CreativeLive photography classes, this one includes critique sessions where they discuss student photographs. These are great learning sessions. Later he talks about the business side of nature photography, describing different markets for selling your work, including a stock agency he founded, Tandem Stills + Motion.

Photographing America's National Parks is available seperately or as part of the Travel Photography Toolkit, which also includes: Post-Processing for Outdoor and Travel Photographers with Ben Willmore and Travel Photography: The Complete Guide with Ben Wilmore. I purchased the first two and received a free copy of Travel Photography: The Complete Guide.