Bee In Flight, f/9.0, ISO 1600, 1/8000
Macro,  Nature,  Photo Gear

Photographing Bees with Olympus Pro Capture

Olympus Pro Capture is an amazing technology.  Pro Capture saves images in memory when you half press the shutter.  When an action happens and you press the shutter button fully, it will record those images in memory to your SD card so that you don’t miss the action shot.

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I use Pro Capture Low all the time to photograph bird take offs.  But for bees and other flying insects, I use Pro Capture High.  Pro Capture Low will get up to 18 frames per second (fps) while Pro Capture High uses the electronic shutter to achieve a frame rate of up to 60 fps.

While Pro Capture High is limited to Single AF, I find that I need the extra frames per second to capture these fast moving, erratic flying insects.

Bee In Flight, f/8.0, ISO 1600, 1/10000
Bee In Flight, f/8.0, ISO 1600, 1/10000

Equipment

I use the Olympus OM-D E-M1X paired with the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro Lens for photographing bees and other insects in flight.  The Olympus 100-400mm f/5.0 – 6.3 would also be a great lens for photographing insects in flight and would provide additional focal length.

You can also add addition focal length by pairing the 40-150mm f/2.8 Lens with the Olympus 1.4x Teleconverter and still get really sharp images.

Olympus Pro Capture Mode is available on the following cameras:

  • OM-D E-M1X
  • OM-D E-M1 Mark III
  • OM-D E-M1 Mark II
  • OM-D E-M5 Mark III
  • Tough TG-6
Yellowjacket in Flight, f/8.0, ISO 1600, 1/10000
Yellowjacket in Flight, f/8.0, ISO 1600, 1/10000

Settings

Pro Capture.  As I discussed above, I use Pro Capture High mode to photograph insects in flight.  The one drawback with Pro Capture High and the electronic shutter is that you may get Rolling Shutter Distortion of the wings.

Shutter Speed.  Shutter Speed is one the most important settings when photographing small, fast, erratic flying subjects.  At a minimum, a shutter speed of 1/2500 is necessary to get sharp photos.  Even better if you can get shutter speeds of 1/5000 or faster.

To achieve these fast shutter speeds you will need to shoot at a higher ISO.  Shooting in bright light, I’ve been able to get fast shutter speeds at ISOs of 1250 or 1600.

Aperture.  You will want to shoot at smaller apertures (f/8 – f/10).  Pro Capture High only uses Single AF which is locked on the first frame. A greater depth of field will help to get the bee in focus if it flies out of the plane of focus.

Number of Focus Points.  I use a single focus point that I mainly keep in the center of the image and try to position over the bee’s eye.

Pro Capture High Settings Located in the Cogs - C1 Menu
Pro Capture High Settings Located in the Cogs – C1 Menu

Pro Capture High Settings

  • Max fps: 60 fps
  • Pre-shutter frames: 14
  • Frame Count Limiter: 25

I have included some of the key settings in the text for the images in this blog.

Bee f/10, ISO 1250, 1/2500
Bee f/10, ISO 1250, 1/2500

Technique

The technique for photographing insects in flight is quite simple.  It just requires patience and a lot of exposures to get sharp photos of the insects in flight.

I shoot handheld with image stabilization set to S-IS Auto.  The image stabilization in the OM-D cameras is terrific and allows me to react quicker to moving subject than if I were using a tripod.

Choose a location with plenty of flowers and good light.  When a bee (or other insect), lands on a flower, half press the shutter to get the bee in focus.  As the bee moves around the flower, you may need to half press the shutter again to keep the bee in focus.  When the bee flies off, fully press the shutter to record the pre and post shutter press actions.

It’s a good idea to leave room around the edges of the frame for the bee to fly into.  You can crop in during post processing to get a closer composition.

Written by Martin Belan

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