The Sting Operation

Judy noticed a stream of bees going in and out of a crevice on our log home porch over the course of a week. No big deal, we thought, we do have wasps, bees, bats, spiders, and many other critters that we share our home with. Yet, after hearing a story recently about a honey bee infestation that collapsed someone’s kitchen ceiling, raining down honey and bees on its occupants, she decided to do a little investigation.

Greg and Ross, the Honey B Guys

Greg and Ross, the Honey B Guys

Now for other bee infestations, or wasp nests on the house, or even the dreaded carpenter bees that drill dime-sized holes in our log siding, we have resorted to anything from wasp spray to bad-mitten rackets to control the critters. But we live in one of the major fruit belts in the US, and honey bee help feed us and keep the fruit farmers in business. More and more reports these days point to an alarming reduction of honey bees due to parasites, fungus, or any number of other threats to honey bees. We wanted to relocate these bees rather than destroy them.

Honey B Guys

Honey B Guys

A phone call and a Google search led her to a local bee expert. He stopped by and broke the news that we have a good sized honey bee hive somewhere within the walls of our home (Thanks Mike!). He gave us the contact of the “Honey B Guys,” a contractor who also does honey bee swarm and bee hive removals. Why a contractor? Because part of our house would need to be deconstructed.

investigation

investigation

Ross and Greg use various tools to locate the bees, including a stethoscope and heat sensing devices, but it came down to removing logs and boards in this case to find the hive.

Finding the hive

Finding the hive

Sure enough, a couple pieces of logs and exterior board led them to the hive, which was located in a spot between the house roof and the porch roof. It was a huge relief to know the bees had not gone deeper into the house, so removing a wall or breaking through the drywall was not needed. What a relief!

THe hive

The hive

~15,000 bees!

~15,000 bees!

They quickly set up shop. They actually vacuum the bees into a box. The bees will be taken to join one of their hives so they can help pollinate an orchard.

The Sting Operation

The Sting Operation

The process of vacuuming out the bees was slow and gentle, so as not to hurt the bees. The actual honeycomb was rather small. The large “bump” of bees there were actually all stacked on top of each other. Ross used a pheromone that a queen bee would release in order to attract the bees to come to the hive rather than disperse. He told us that a queen bee’s pheromone can attract honey bees to her hive from up to 5 mile away!

Suck up the bees

Suck up the bees

You will notice that Ross was using bare hands. Apparently this particular hive was very docile compared to many they have worked with!

Sucking up bees

Sucking up bees

The queen bee lays eggs in the hive 24/7. She can fertilize the eggs, and/or, use drones for this purpose. A hive can have up to 60,000 worker bees. Their job is to feed the brood, receive nectar, clean the hive, guard duty, and foraging.

piece of honey comb

piece of honey comb

Ross

Ross

piece of honey comb

piece of honey comb

Ross sprayed some almond extract in the area the hive had been. This is a smell that bees hate, and would make it very likely the bees would not want to return to this spot again.

Almond Extract

Almond Extract

After removing the bees, Greg and Ross reassembled the logs taken off, and brought the bees back to join another hive.

Kelise looking over the bees

Kelise looking over the bees

The “Bee Sting Operation” was now complete–and no one got stung! If you want to check out more of The Honey B Guys hive removals, find them here on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HoneyBGuys

The movement of Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year to photograph. Colors, shapes and lines, cooler temperatures, weekend trips up north–all contribute to the experience of capturing the visuals and emotions of Autumn. There is a certain rush to capture these images before the trees lose all their leaves. I really enjoy seeing the grand landscape images that my peers produce. I’m not much of a grand vista image maker, but instead I like to capture the smaller details of nature, especially leaves. I like to make an images that is different, perhaps unexpected.

Going through some of my favorite “captures” from this Autumn I noticed a sort of trend–movement. Many of my images have an impressionistic look about them made by either purposely blurring the subject or moving the camera. Some of my outings occurred during windy days–in which I let the wind have her way. My intent with these images was to allow the color to steal the show–rather than the form of subject itself.

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On the cutting edge

Chicory

Chicory

Each July and August I delight in seeing the scrappy rows of periwinkle-blue chicory flowers along the country roads between work and home. I am always struck by the fact that you see chicory within the first few feet of the side of the road, but almost nowhere else. It is a pretty harsh environment.

Think about it.

The soil there is more compacted than inland, so I imagine the roots would get less oxygen. There is more sand and the remnants of ice salt from the winter months. There are oil residues from car lubricants and fuels, as well as the chemicals that come from asphalt and the tar used to seal cracks in the pavement. Lots of gravel and grit pepper the sides of roadways.

Debris from vehicles (both pieces of the vehicle and items falling out of them) grind into the road and is blown or washed off to the side. This can include a large number of compounds from plastics, glass, rubber from tires, metal, aluminum from cans, paper and wood products, paint and solvents that were on the wood, along with any pollutants from the emissions of vehicles. Somewhere during the course of the summer months the grass along the edges of the road are cut down for better visibility for traffic.

Yet it is in this environment that chicory seems to thrive.

It is not that this type of road side environment is better for chicory; it is that this environment is intolerable for most other plants. Chicory could probably thrive quite well in better soil, but there are so many other plants that out-compete chicory in those places. Maybe this is why I admire chicory—other than for the beautiful blue color.  Amidst such adverse circumstances, it flourishes. It doesn’t just lie down and quit.

This past week I took my camera to work in order to photograph the chicory on my ride home. However, the flowers were totally gone by late afternoon. It turns out that chicory blooms only in morning sun and closes by late afternoon. It knows how to take a mini Sabbath to be able to get up the next day and do it all over again.

Watch your backgrounds

I took this image of a purple tulip at Meijer Gardens in April. I received a lot of feedback, so I thought I would point out what technique I used to create it.

First, I chose an interesting flower with few imperfections that was lighted well. That became the flower I focused on. Next, I chose a wide open aperature setting (5.0) to put the background out of focus so it would not compete with the sharpness of the central tulip. Next, I moved around such that most of the background had some of the colors of the other tulips, and took care so that very little of the background was not filled with the tulips. Finally, I worked to bring out the detail of the main subject in post process using NIKs Color Effects Pro software.

All in all, I think the image turned out quite well.

Tulip Negrita

Tulip Negrita

 

The cup, the crown, and the tree.

I tend to over-analyze Good Friday. All it takes is simple faith to accept the immensity of it all. Yet, it is puzzling to me why all the drama was necessary to begin with.

Cup, crown and a tree

Cup, crown and a tree

Two thousand years ago:  A beating and whipping. Hanging on a tree. A God that died. A killing to pay-in-full for sins the victim didn’t commit. Couldn’t God have forgiven all the sins of man-kind without the cross? I know that a sacrificial killing was customary in Bible times, but killing the Son of God? Really?

I know that sounds like blasphemy, but haven’t you ever wondered why the events of Good Friday and Easter had to happen?

And yet by faith, simple faith, I know deep down that not only was it necessary, but it was necessary that Jesus died for me personally. There is not a human way in which to compensate for a life time of sin. For me, for anyone. Only God can pay off a debt owed to God. 

Two thousand years later: A cup, a crown, and a tree. These items help me remember what a great price was paid on my behalf. They help me remember the events that led up to the cross, and the miracle of Resurrection shortly thereafter. I don’t need to understand it all now. That is where simple faith comes in.

One day in the future I will know fully how incredibly immense Good Friday and Easter really is. I will fully know how necessary it was. And when that “day of knowing” comes to be, I will be free of debt and ready to take my place in God’s eternal Easter.

The Wedding Photo

The Wedding Photo

The Wedding Photo

“Okay,” I shout, “everyone line up around the bride and groom!” The formal wedding portrait of the bride, groom, and family is always one of the hardest to pull off. By now the bride and groom know where to stand and what to do, but getting everyone else to cooperate is sometimes a nightmare.

Perhaps more than they realize, this moment will be looked back upon for generations to come. A moment in time captured at the click of the shutter. Everyone’s age locked into pixels for just a moment. But for now it is pure chaos.

“I need a family on the left and one on the right, and parents right by the bride and groom. I need the flower girl and ring bearer (twin brother and sister) in the very front. Engaged couple? To the right of the twins, please. No, move in closer please.” The mother of these little ones hides behind her father-in-law, self-conscious that she has not yet lost that extra weight from the twins. Coaxing her out to the front will prove to be a futile task.

Meanwhile, the mother of the bride is trying to direct traffic and ends up in front of the groom. She tries to bribe the twins to move to the correct spot, and is oblivious that she is the one that needs to move. I sigh, and ask the family on the left to move in closer to the bride and groom. They move as one unit, straight-jacketed as if they are duct-taped together. I notice their teen age son hiding behind his father, ignoring me completely and talking to his friends who will be part of this wedding photo if they move in any closer from the left! The last family is the hardest to pose. The ones with the most kids always are. I check my focus one last time and take the picture.

It is spring. A time for new growth. And though all the focus is on just two, the truth is that today is a day of growth for all of them. A new family is formed. And this new family grows out of the same soil that nourishes them all.

Visual poetry


Afternoon shadows

Afternoon shadows

I’ve never been real big on poetry. But I think I’m starting to get it, and visual learner that I am–I think I have been doing it all along. My favorite type of images to make are those that incorporate identifiable items, and putting them in a context that asks the viewer to take a second look. I like to infuse my images with visuals that invite an emotional response at some level. I am reading a book called “Anatomy of the Soul” by Curt Thompson. The book explores the integration of neuroscience and attachment with Christian Spirituality. He makes a case of how you can “rewire” your brain such that you can experience God in a more real way. Yes, it is left brain and right brain  stuff, and it is a fascinating read. I just read a section about how poetry can help integrate the brain. It made a lot of sense to me, and I can relate to it in terms of how I like to approach photography.

Poetry is another powerful literary tool. It has several distinct features:

  • By activating our sense of rhythm, poetry accesses our right-mode operations and systems.
  • Reading poetry has the effect of catching us off guard. Our imaginations are invigorated when out usual linear expectations of prose (that one word will follow obediently behind another on the way to a predictable end) don’t apply. This can stimulate buried emotional states and layers of memory.
  • Finally, poetry not only appeals to right-mode processing, but to left mode as well, given its use of language. This makes it a powerful imaginative tool.”                Anatomy of the Soul, p. 150
rainy day

rainy day

What intrigued me is the incorporation of the expected and the unexpected. The photos in this post all have recognizable elements to it, be it patterns, lines, shapes, colors…or just the subject matter itself. But my intent is to catch the viewer off guard in the way the items are juxtaposed, layered, or framed in an unexpected way.

 

 

The description above provides a good understanding of what poetry can do, and it quite perfectly describes what I like to do with my images. It is all about engaging the viewers imagination and evoking an emotion or response from both sides of the brain.

man and nature

man and nature

I guess we can call that “visual poetry.”

Winter scenes

Winter photography is often boiled down to just lines and shape. Much of the landscape is coated with white, and the gray skies can soak the color out of the surroundings. even so, this is a good time to sharpen some photographic composition skills. Often the brilliant color of the other three seasons can overwhelm the mind and result in less thought out images. I was able to capture some winter images I wanted to share here:

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Facebook and nature: an unlikely duo

I try to set some goals for my photography each year. It may be to make images of a certain type of subject such as still life objects or macro images. It may be to try out some new techniques such as fill-in flash or “dragging the shutter” to create a sense of motion in a photo. It could be to visit new locations to discover what possibilities it would hold for new and interesting subjects.

This year my goal was to visit new nature areas and local parks. It all started with seeing a newspaper article about two Grand Rapids, Michigan, area women who decided to share their love of wildflowers, walking, and local parks. Barb Beck and Judy Bergma created a Facebook page called Michigan Wildflowers. They published a small booklet showing a variety of spring wildflowers and which parks we were likely to find them in. The booklet and the Facebook page were the venue for a “Spring Wildflower Scavenger Hunt.” They encouraged readers to post photos of their findings on their Facebook page and tell us what park they were found it. In many cases readers called on Barb and Judy to help identify a wildflower they had photographed and posted.

In my estimation their venture was wildly successful. While on the prowl for wildflowers, I saw many families walking through the parks, booklets in hand, trying to find and identify the 30 spring flowers in the scavenger hunt booklet. Kids were excited to go on a treasure hunt, and parents were thrilled to see their kids interested in the outdoors. As a photographer, there was another huge benefit. I was able to get daily feedback on what flowers were blooming in a particular park on a given day or week. Many times I changed my weekend plans to visit a particular park based on what other flower hunters reported on the Facebook page.

There is a lot that can be said about how social networking can bring us together as fellow humans. In this example, social media was the impetus towards getting hundreds of people to venture out into nature–perhaps the antithesis of being behind a computer.

Following are some photos from various new parks I had not visited before this year–and a couple places I visit regularly. There are some from Spring, Summer and Fall.  Enjoy!

Dutchmans Breeches, Hudsonville Nature Center, Hudsonville.Pink lady slippers, Riley Trails, Holland.Trillium, Aman Park, Tallmadge charter Township.Bleeding hearts, Frederick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids.Yellow trout lily, Hudsonville Nature Center, Hudsonville.Hepatica, Aman Park, Tallmadge charter Township.Arrow plant, Ludington State Park, Ludington.Pitcher plant (carnivorous), Albany Creek Preserve, Cedarville.Unidentified(carnivorous), Albany Creek Preserve, Cedarville.Plaster Creek, Ken-O-Sha Park, Kentwood.Mushrooms, Pickerel Lake Park, Cannonsburg.Columbine, Calvin Ecosystem Preserve, Grand Rapids.Hepatica, Aman Park, Tallmadge charter Township.Indian pipe mushroom, South Island Nature Preserve, Long Lake, Traverse City.

My blog featured in SHUTTERBUG magazine October 2011

My photo blog was featured in the October 2011 issue of SHUTTERBUG Magazine. You can see it here at Shutterbug’s website.

SHUTTERBUG WEB PROFILES: by Joe Farace

SHUTTERBUG Magazine web profile October 2011 

The Blog-of-the-Month is Bill Vriesema’s Selective Focus. It’s a photoblog in the classic sense, featuring lots of big photographs along with some narrative. The site uses a WordPress template from Photocrati (www.photocrati.com) that is clean, easy to read, and places the emphasis exactly where it belongs—on the photographs. He even has a Galleries section featuring eight collections of images. As a longtime fan of lighthouse photographs, I jumped into Michigan Lighthouses first and was rewarded with a terrific collection of images displayed really BIG, so you can appreciate them. What’s great about these photographs, aside from Vriesema’s overall sense of color and design, is the drama of these images. There are lots of white caps and breaking waves; not at all like the placid lighthouse photographs I’ve seen—and loved—in the past.

Closer to home (my home anyway) is Arizona Scenes that offers up landscape as well as flora and fauna photos captured using that same punchy color Vriesema employs elsewhere. Changing gears, he moves to the quiet and solitude of his Woods and Water collection, featuring close-ups of nature as well as some woodland landscape images that feature the unmistakable Vriesema touch. There’s more here, so be sure to visit all the rest of his collections. In About, Vriesema says, “Photography gives me a way to share myself.” He does just that by offering “Categories” of posts, including lessons and my favorite, “Visual Metaphors” which contains a sensitive selection of images along with his thoughts on them that are well worth reading.