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The Kid Should See This

Photographing the Real Life of Bees, behind-the-scenes with Anand Varma

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We’ve watched lots of bee videos, we see bees in our garden, we read about bees in childhood stories. With all of that, it can be easy to think that we know all about honey bees. How can we think of bees in a way that we’ve never considered? This was the challenge that National Geographic gave to photographer Anand Varma. He explains:

“We tend to dismiss things that are small. If you can enter a world at their scale, can that change your relationship to bees? How do I do that with a camera?

Here I have a glass window into this hive. That’s something that very few people get to see. Maybe I can use this special access I have to show bees in a new way. So I was just trying stuff: Different lighting approaches, film noir aesthetic, graphic novel, Japanese animation, fiber optic lighting…

photographing the real life of bees
Those experiments that didn’t work led to one that did: Highly-magnified focus-stacking with a backlit honeycomb. The brilliant results: This photo and The first 21 days of a bee’s life, a time lapse in 64 seconds, a video that immediately went viral. Be sure to watch it next.

Also by Varma: Hummingbirds fly, shake, and drink in slow motion.

Related reading: Colony collapse disorder and For a Biologist-Turned-Photographer, a Beehive Becomes a Living Lab.

Related watching: How to harvest honey, Help your local honey bees: Plant a bee-friendly garden, and This is Not a Bee.

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