The Center Of Their Attention
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This morning, Ned Harris and I walked around Sabino Canyon for about three hours. It was overcast, chilly and blustery. We received some much-needed rain overnight and the clouds and wind lingered. Not much was going on, but after awhile we came across some paper wasp nests.
I’ve commented about paper wasps before and have featured their images more than once. I love to photograph these beautiful insects. Away from their nests they are shy, even timid, around humans and are difficult to photograph for that reason. I’ve had numerous frustrating experiences in which the wasp subject will constantly move away from me and my camera as I attempt to photograph her. Occasionally, I get lucky and that’s always when the wasp is absorbed in her work. This wasp, for example, which I photographed last week, was harvesting cactus fibers to be used in nest-building, and she was consequently pretty cooperative.
It is a very different story around a paper wasp nest. Then, the shy and timid wasps can become tigerish. Paper wasps will defend their nests ferociously against all comers. Get too close and they will launch an attack. The two or three times that I’ve been stung by paper wasps — a memorably painful experience — have occurred when I came too close to a nest.
In order to get this morning’s photo I stood on a concrete ledge, with the front element of my lens about two feet from the nest. I didn’t sense that the wasps were particularly upset by my presence and I concentrated on the usual issues while I was photographing the nest: focus, lighting, and composition. It was only later, when I processed the picture that I realized that all six of the wasps in this image were staring very intently at me.
As I said at the beginning of this post, this morning was fairly chilly. Wasps, being cold-blooded, are less active in cool weather than they are when the temperature warms. That may have saved me from a painful lesson. I’ll keep it in mind. Don’t stick your camera too close to a wasp nest.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite. The first image was taken at ISO 100, M setting, f14 @ 1/160. The second image was taken at ISO 200, f10 @ 1/160.