It was an overcast day and my wife was out in her Honey Bee house making candles for quite some time today. It’s something she truly enjoys and I like watching her work when she does. Today she made Christmas Trees candles and tree ornaments for gifts for our future daughter-in-law’s parents as well as for a friend.
My wife used to work as a professional beekeeper and we also had five of our own hives. For a few years we were able to gather our own honey from the hives but when the Collapsing Hive Syndrome swept through western Washington we lost all of them. The beekeeper my wife use to work for lost thousands to the disease.
While I didn’t go out with my wife very often when she was working due to work (I would take time off), the times I did go out were fascinating to me. One time when I went out to one of the bee yards, the bee workers had to check each hive for overcrowding, disease, and a myriad of other things. That day will forever live in my mind. The bee yard had dozens of pallets of bees, six hives to a pallet, and seven to eight “supers” (the deep bee boxes) on each hive. Each box weighed about 100 pounds and each box in each hive had to be checked that day. Within minutes of opening the first hives there were hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of bees, swarming everywhere. The more boxes were opened, the more bees swarmed out. I remember standing in this black and yellow swirling cloud of bees smelling the sweet scent of honey, hearing the continuous buzzing road and feeling hundreds and hundreds of bees hitting my bee suit every minute. It was the most incredible feeling and the longer I stood there the more I felt I was in a trance listening to an ancient rythym of the universe. As I stood in awe of this experience, the workers were still methodically going through each box until all the hives were checked. If you’re wondering why I wasn’t helping, it was fairly simple…I didn’t have the experience my wife and the other workers needed to ensure as they checked the boxes, all was OK.
Although we lost our hives, my wife still continues to make candles and other wax products. It’s something she enjoys. She does all the waxwork in the Bee House we built of out bottles, fence post rounds with windows and a door from an old house that we helped dismantle years ago.
Today I also felt somewhat melancholy…I don’t know why exactly, but I did. Some years ago a friend told me that I saw the world through a camera lens. In many ways this is true and in so many ways not necessarily a good thing. There were times, too many times, when I put the camera between me and life and as I look back I can see the impact from that inadequate philosophy. While I was sitting in the honey bottle house this even I looked in a mirror and decided to take a self portrait….as I began snapping the shutter, I realized that I was “defocusing” me and yet at the same time, making a statement between finite and transient and as I did so, it brought up that statement that I saw the world through a camera lens as well as using it as a shield against life.
As I look back I see this trend beginning back in Vietnam and I suspect it was a coping mechanism again the anger deep within over the fury of those times. I know that one of the aspects of this PTSD I live with is that I’ve always looked at life in frozen bits of time, the beauty and the agony of the world around me and that the type of photography I particularly prefer, nature, macro, quite moments, allowed, and all too often, still allows an avenue to retreat from a hectic, chaotic world.
All images taken with the Nikon Df, 55mm macro-Nikkor, and AutoIso.
The Honey Bee Bottle House (ISO 12,800, 1/25 @ f5.6
Candles and Cups (ISO 2000, 1/60 @ f8)
Bees (ISO 900, 1/60 @ f2.8
Self Portrait (ISO 3200, 1/60 @ f4)