One Flower and a Bee

I found one honeybee for every 100 bumblers
I found one honeybee for every 100 bumblers

One of the recurrent pleasures of nature-focused photography is that it gives you excuses to do things a grown man would not ordinarily do.

Had one of the several Parkway motorists who passed me on my knees in a field of roadside flowers not seen my camera held up to my eye, they’d have thought me daft. Ah, he has a camera then, so while he might be an eccentric tree-hugger, maybe he’s hasn’t wandered away from the Home after all.

And I like the way the focusing on one place at a time in slow motion allows the ground under your feet and at arm’s reach to tell its own story at a pace that you can hear. The tourists passing by did not–could not–see, hear, smell or sense what I did, set in place in an acre of black eyed Susans and spotted Knapweed.

The camera isolates time so wonderfully to the Here and to the Now. For the duration of the time I had in mind to first FIND honeybees, and then having found them, to successfully catch a sharp image of one in flight, all the bad, sad news from earlier in the day ceased to be real to me. One flower and a bee sequestered me from reality. And happily.

I failed in my mission, and was glad there were no judges to grade my efforts, none but me. I found the honeybee and the universe contracted to the limits of my viewfinder. And on my knees in the vivid weeds of summer, a single knapweed flower taught more I’m certain than the wind-blowing galaxies of fushia spots blurred beyond the windows of a passing SUV.

A windblown Parkway July afternoon
A windblown Parkway July afternoon
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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’m sorry to learn that spotted knapweed grows in Floyd County. Yet another invasive to attend to. I don’t know if it is spotted knapweed, but there is a species of knapweed out West that has ruined thousands of square miles of formerly productive rangeland. It is a very serious problem.

  2. It’s a beautiful shot.

    During my trip to the Galapagos, I had an ongoing debate with some professional photogs on the boat about the ethics of digital manipulation of shots. Have you ever written on that subject? I’d be interested in your thoughts on such questions as: If you’re offering photos for public consumption (either for a fee or gratis), do you have an obligation to explain the extent of the digital manipulation? Does it matter whether it’s gratis or not for purposes of the ethical question? Regardless, is there ever a “too much” line that shouldn’t be crossed, defined somehow along the lines of “well, there really wasn’t a sunset behind the whale?”

    Stuff like that. Any thoughts?

  3. Hi Trey, yes I’ve opined on that often, but doubt I can find it across 7 years of blogging. I’ll either find same or address it soon at Fragments, it is something about which I do have strong feelings. For starters, let me say that only maybe 3-4 times here have I created heavily photoshopped chimeras–one in which I put Martha Stewart’s head on my wife’s body (and she in green rubber boots outside our barn). I’ll follow up on this topic.