How I Shot This

Photographer Gregory Miller braves buzzing honeybees and goes right for the sweet stuff.

How-I-Shot-This

How-I-Shot-This

Gregory Miller's path to professional photographer began with a class during high school, took a detour for a degree in English from the University of Georgia, and included stops along the way as a studio manager and professional photo retoucher in New York City. After a revelation in a California airport, then a two-year course in photography at Atlanta's Portfolio Center, Miller, now 33, finally got the career he wanted, working on personal projects between advertising and editorial assignments. (Visit www.gregorymillerphotography.com.)

Q. Why bees?
A. I had been reading about Colony Collapse Disorder [a phenomenon that began wiping out honeybees last year] and I wanted to learn more about it. These are Russian bees, which haven't been affected by the disorder. They're hardier -- but they're also a little more aggressive.

Q. How did you find the beekeepers?
A. I e-mailed the American Beekeeping Federation down in southern Georgia. The first person they recommended wasn't interested in my project, but one couple, Carl and Virginia Webb, were really excited about it. So I put together a project proposal that talked about who I was and how I wanted to learn about the honeybee industry through photography. I told them about my process -- that I'd come and make some scouting pictures and then set a couple days to go out and shoot. They were great. They gave me 24 jars of honey when I left!

Q. What's going on in the picture?
A. Carl has a hive tool -- it looks kind of like a putty knife -- in his right hand. It's used to pry the frames up because they're so stuck with honey and wax. He's checking a frame to see if he needs to take them all out and process them in the honey house.

Q. What equipment did you use?
A. A Hasselblad H1 with a Phase One P25 digital back. It has 22 megapixels. I was using my Hasselblad 210mm f/4 HC lens. It's a really long lens, so the depth of field is shallow. I was shooting to a card, and I had an assistant who periodically downloaded my pictures to a laptop.

Q. What makes this picture the best of the set?
A. The background in this one is constant, without distracting elements. Also, the frame that he's pulling out is lit so it doesn't blend with the background. I love the hovering bees, but those bee wings move so quickly! I never did shoot fast enough to freeze them.

This shot lacks the drama of the hovering insects. And besides, what's a hive picture without honey? We get some nice bees in this version, but the spotty background is just too distracting.
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