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One photographers painful lesson in an almond orchard
A row of blooming almond trees in an orchard in rural south Manteca spreads a long green carpet in this visual treat. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Never wear your hair loose. I learned that lesson the painful way while trying to capture photographs of bees gathering pollen from the sweet-smelling almond blossoms in full bloom.

I found that out one day as I walked around blooming almond trees on the side of a road in rural southwest Manteca, camera in hand, waiting for the perfect moment when a bee – or a bunch of them – decided to gather pollen from a perfectly opened blossom. The busy buzzing bees were all around me as I tried to focus my lens for tight close-ups of the tiny apian creatures on the delicate blossoms. Normally, I just ignored them. I’ve been doing this for years and never had any problem of any of them going after me.

Well, I guess, there’s always a first time. For on this day, beneath the sun-dappled canopies of almond trees in their peak blooming season, the bees somehow decided to search for food in my hair which fell loosely past my shoulders, sans pony tail. Suddenly, I noticed the familiar buzz too close to my ears coming from one side of my face. With one hand, I automatically tried to brush off what I thought was a passing bee. That’s when I noticed the small lumpy object between my fingers tangled with some strands of hair. As the buzzing sound got louder, I felt a painful sting on the side of my face. In a flash, it suddenly dawned on me that I was battling not just one but several buzzing bees. Well, they could have been big bees and not just their smaller biting cousins for all I cared at that moment.

So, lesson number one for me that day when it came to capturing the photogenic almond blossoms – and honey bees, of course – is not to attract their attention by wearing your hair loose, especially during a warm sunny day when it’s the height of their pollen-gathering and they are most active.

That said, did I learn another lesson – that of avoiding a photo safari in a blooming almond orchard when warm temperatures, dappled sunshine, and swarming bees are most active all conspire to create a possibility of being bitten by either an excited or angry bee? Never. But it was more of shoot-and-run after that.

By and large, I learned to avoid taking photos of the delicate white blossoms when the sun is glaring down at the orchards. I don’t particularly like the very high-contrast look of the blossoms against the dark tree trunks and branches. Of course, if I wanted to create some special effects, I don’t balk from the offered opportunity. I need only try and manipulate my settings – shutter speed, focal point and ISO – to get the desirable photographic results.

 The best times for me to head out to the almond orchards during the blooming season is early in the morning. If you’re lucky, you may catch some of the snow-white blossoms sprinkled with delicate dewdrops. The downside of that – you may not be able to find any bees hanging around any of the flowers because they don’t like cold weather. The same thing is true when it’s sprinkling or the day is downright rainy, as it sometimes happen under the dictates of Mother Nature. Tiny raindrops on the onion-skin white petals make for some interesting photographs, too. So when the weather is dreary, I learned not to store my camera and stay away from the blooming almond orchards.

You never know what memorable moments await you – especially when the bees are all out among the blossoms doing what they do best.

209 staff reporter