At one point, it felt like I was witnessing a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey as they all worked together slowly to not stress the bees, and looking like astronauts repairing vital machinery in space. HAHA. The white suits do make beekeepers look like astronauts though, and look so good too against the dark trees and grass. Let’s talk about Portra 400. After hundreds of rolls, I’ve got to admit that in my opinion, is a tad overrated. During the bright light of the day it struggles so hard, and seems to be so contrasty these days. I’m not doing anything different during exposure or development, and I’m finding that I have to de-saturate Portra 400 upto -25 in Lightroom and drop contrast too. It’s like the film is now more like Ektar in some way and way over saturated. Maybe when I shift to Portra 160 for the brighter parts of the day, (still waiting more than 7 weeks from Walkens who have limited 5 rolls per customer now) it might clean up the images? Don’t get me wrong, when it all comes together with Portra the results are absolutely amazing, but it does require so much post processing. Way more than digital if I was honest. But at the end of the day, what other colour film do we have to choose from now with the demise of Fujifilm400? Maybe I’m trying to get the Fujifilm400 aesthetic? Compare these images below with that of the last hive shoot– and you will see the difference in saturation and contrast.
Talking of mood, working with Kevin who is full of care and compassion for the bees and people he spends time with is a privilege. He’s such a great guy and with an illness slowly decreasing his ability to do what he loves, it’s such a privilege to be part of his story these days. I can’t wait to gift him a book and a framed print as a huge thank you. He is so chilled out and at peace with these beautiful creatures it’s fascinating. Honestly, most people that I’ve worked with on this project have been so nice, grounded and present- it’s really uplifting for ones spirit. I really appreciate their time. I opted to go suit-less yesterday again, as to date it has worked well for me, but I noticed something interesting yesterday as they opened up ‘hive 5’. The behaviour of the bees changed from slowly ‘chilling’ outside the hive in a ball like shape to the bees flying faster and from what seemed side to side metres from the hive. They also seemed to swarm around the upper body of the beekeepers.
I took notice of this change of behaviour and stepped back well away from the hives, and I guess in this moment I started to display fear. I then noticed what seemed to be bees flying into me- but put it down to the strong-wish winds on location. I moved further away and was happy to wait until the hive was closed and the final group photo. I then felt a bee buzzing close to my face and Instinctively I panicked and started to try and swipe it away. It got pissed off real quick and then stung me just above my left eye. It’s the first bee sting I’ve had and boy did it hurt! The crew helped remove the sting ‘barb’ and put some cream on it. Thankfully after 30 minutes I had not swollen up or faced breathing difficulties, so I’m not allergic to bee stings, but 24 hours later its pretty puffy, hot and not looking to good. The student told me that during the course they learnt that bees will go for the eyes when they attack due to them glistening. The best thing to do is not panic, but hunch over looking at the ground, or roll in the grass apparently. The flying into me was actually a warning the bees display, and it’s a gentle ‘head but’ to warn you off. Apparently, bees are also attracted more to dark colours and yesterday I was in black with a black face mask. After some reflection on just how much the bee sting hurt, and their fascination with our eyes, I’ll be wearing at least a face vail on location with hives moving forward, as some colonies are just simply aggressive in nature and I can only imagine the results of a swarm attacking. Actually, I can. It would be life threatening! Lesson learnt I guess.
What next? Hopefully the recent news of COVID spreading back to Christchurch does not cause to many problems moving forward over the next 4 weeks. I’ve got more hive locations in mind and next week some spotted around the stunning Southern Alps. Fingers crossed! I feel that after this coming week and the range of hive images I’ve already got, it’s time to call it a day for this project at ARA. That means I have about 3 weeks to put it all together and tidy up loose ends, that ultimatley means I’m not going to be rushing. The tasks ahead include, conceptualising the book design for hand in, the accompanying prints, and the curation for exhibiting (dependent on COVID). I’m also going to have to sort out model release of the images, and what words will compliment the images, if any. I also foresee as I move into the final weeks, and past the academic hand in of this project in a few weeks, and independently working on this project and a book for 2022, I’ll be using less colour film overall. When I say less, I mean applying a conscious effort to shoot less colour and be super selective to what scenes command colour, simply due to the rising costs of Kodak Portra film (apparently 20% more in 2022!). I could for example spread a single roll over 4 portraits, with 4 frames each and utilise black and white more as its far more cost effective. Totally achievable. In other news, I’ve also applied for a scholarship to move into Masters of Creative Practice at ARA in 2022, and I may well continue onwards with another body of work surrounding bees. Fingers crossed.
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