Year End Countdown # 10 — Sisters

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On August 1 of this year I took a long walk in Sabino Canyon.  I’d had a medical procedure a few weeks earlier that had temporarily limited my capacity for extensive walks, so this was my first real hike in weeks. I picked a horrible day for it — by 8:00 a.m. the temperature was already pushing or exceeding 90 degrees and the humidity was really elevated due to our Monsoon rains.  So, I was miserable after walking for a half hour or so.

I came to one of Sabino Canyon’s several restrooms.  The restrooms at the canyon are small windowless brick structures without heating or air conditioning.  I decided to take a peek inside.  In summer months creatures ranging from frogs to rattlesnakes often take advantage of the restrooms’ shadiness and these structures, consequently, are a good place to look for possible fauna to photograph.  I entered the restroom and immediately saw a paper wasp nest hanging from the ceiling.  There were two wasps tending the nest and I decided they’d make for some good pictures.

Paper wasps are usually quite timid when they are away from the nest.  I find photographing them to be difficult when they’re out foraging, because they invariably fly away when approached.  It’s a different story when they’re guarding their nests.  Then, the timidity can turn to ferocity.  Approach a nest too closely and the inhabitants will vigorously defend their home.  Blundering into a paper wasp nest is an excellent way to receive multiple stings.

The two wasps were almost certainly sisters, working together to nurture the nest’s young and to build their colony.  I set up my camera and flash attachment on a monopod about four feet from the wasps.  The heat in the restroom was overwhelming and I kept getting blinded by my own sweat.  I finally trained the camera on the wasps, looked through my viewfinder, and found that both wasps had ceased tending the nest and were staring back at me intently.


I suspect that I began to hyperventilate at the thought of being attacked.  I quickly snapped a few pictures and was relieved to see that the wasps weren’t moving.  I then carefully backed out of the restroom, pleased with my work but even more pleased that I was leaving undamaged.

I’m a huge fan of wasps.  I think that they are among the most graceful of all of the creatures that I photograph.  I like this image for the subject and the composition.  It’s very difficult to get a sharply focused closeup of something so small as an insect in sweltering heat with one’s adrenaline really running, so I regard this image as a personal triumph.

Image made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L Macro Lens, assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and stabilized by monopod, M setting, ISO 160, f13 @ 1/160.

One response to “Year End Countdown # 10 — Sisters”

  1. tkiiatmindspringcom says :

    This is one of our favorites too.

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