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.