To Bee or Not to Bee

posted in: Karolina.art, Photography | 0

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”

Marc Riboud

The reason I dived into macro is because whilst my soul is bursting with an endless need to be creative and capture the world around us, I don’t have a car and therefore can’t get very far. I often had to find an inspiration literally under my nose. And wow, are the native (wild) bees an impressive subject – and they are so, so important.

Music helps me think – maybe you’ll like to listen to this playlist while you read this blog post, too.

Where do I start with this post… Perhaps an update on my fractured leg? To those of you kind enough to be interested – considering I turned 45, it’s healing very well. I am able to walk again at last, and counting my every blessing!… It’s been a long two months where I realised how little help I have in my somewhat isolated life in rural Devon, but all the more I am proud of how we managed to get through this tough and challenging time. I am looking forward to the better days ahead and I’ve already caught up with some of the jobs around the house and the gardens I help run.

Life is complex, and full of surprises – not always good ones, however, tackling difficult days makes the good ones all the nicer to experience. Breaking my ankle was a good lesson of never underestimating how one’s situation can change, literally in a blink of an eye. Walking and photographing is my life. It is in my DNA and keeps my soul happy and my mind relaxed. It’s a little something I can do around my many other commitments. Through macro photography nature taught me so much – about the relationships, connection, all encapsulated like in a small Petry dish of life itself. Entomology made me realise that all the nature around us, all life is intertwined with these tiny living beings we almost always overlook, because they are no bigger than a grape, or a seed, or even just a spec of dirt. Who would think caring about the insects is a thing – as they are so tiny and to many, even “annoying”? Well, I do, and I got to meet some pretty amazing people who are, too. I’ve been speaking to the BBC Radio station about the Daddy-Long-Legs last year, oh that was funny (maybe I will upload that conversation here). I’ve met John Walters, who like me is an artist, photographer/videographer and an entomology enthusiast – and he is working alongside Sir David Attenborough himself. I feel extremely inspired by these incredible, yet humble and kind, people. I truly look up to them.

It’s been particularly on my wish list of the past two summers to find and photograph a male Osmia Caerulescens (Blue Mason bee), he (stunner) is definitely living in our area and possibly even at our allotment (I had some very hopeful glimpses of a “copper bee”), and the Anthophora Bimaculata – Green eyed flower bee, found in south coast of Cornwall and most southern areas of Devon. However, due to my sudden injury I missed the window of opportunity of 2024. Hey ho – as long as there is life, there is always the next year, right? Meanwhile, our Red Mason Bees are doing great and we have enough tubes for the next year’s season and meanwhile, I still have thousands (this is no exaggeration) of images to process, aiming to upload my online archive (2020 – 2024).

I am glad that over the past three years I “ticked” some of the bee species off the plates of Steven Falk’s “Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland” (the very best book on UK bees I highly recommend). If you ever wondered… training an eye to recognise the way they fly and behave is quite a challenge, but it is also SO much fun. It fills one with a thrill. Bees live in a different time space, I believe this – while we blink, they manage to do five things and buzz off!

Start with honeybees and bumblebees, get closer and watch. As with any animal, when treated with respect, they are not a danger to us at all. Reading the body language, listening to the way they buzz, it’s all a clue to their mood. Bumblebee lift their middle legs as a warning “back off” (see if you spot this behaviour in the gallery at the bottom here). This honeybee girl (below) rested peacefully on my hand on a rainy, colder summer day and I happened to have my Canon on me, so our moment of friendship was immortalised in a rather lovely photo.

At the time, I was hired to paint a huge portrait of Apis Mellifera’s heart-shaped head, for educational display of evolution of a honeybee in its cell which is on a permanent exhibit at the local Quince Honeyfarm. Every encounter with a really friendly bee was enormously valuable to me, – it was so much better than sticking a dead specimen under the microscope, although I have done that a lot, too…

I’ve picked so many bugs and bees and even wasps and spiders, and placed them from a trapped location to freedom and safety. I’d like to think that these little acts of love and care matter. If you think that the bees are scary – I too used to be scared of anything that buzzes, too! With education and knowledge, that fear melts away and you can explore and adore these little “friends”. It is lovely to see the interest in the solitary bees growing, lately. To save the bees doesn’t mean to buy a jar of honey (honeybees as species are not on decline, in fact wild bees suffer because of the honeybee dominance worldwide)! Saving bees means we think about our environment, saw pollinator friendly plants and provide a space for them to live and nest in. By doing what’s right, you get to enjoy them visiting your space and observe what they’ve been doing for centuries – the unique relationship between a flower and a pollinator is truly magical. All the transformations, life cycles that overlap at the precisely right moment in time to enable a new generation of vegetation, and of the insects.

Not what I imagined…

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Life is like the dice that, falling, still show a different face. So life, though it remains the same, is always presenting different aspects.

– Alexis Sanchez

It’s been a while since I put an effort into adding something new to my blog section. It’s not that I had nothing to write about – in fact, our lives had been very busy, and for all the good reasons! And not just that – when you’re busy working on projects, your head fills with more and more exciting creative ideas, my mind was just about to explode. So much to do, so little time! I’ve even suggested organising a new summer art exhibition.

It took me over a month to complete our lovely bee hotel with upcycled materials donated to the community garden by some truly awesome people – palettes, cable reels and rolls of plastic to make the roof truly watertight, and once we sanded and painted it (with help from local children which made it zillion times cuter!), as soon as the weather warmed up and held above 10 degrees, we placed our bee cocoons out, in the also home made wooden “release box”.

Then, just one week later, on 28th March – the snow fell – a SHOCK! I was so worried about our baby bees – at the same time, these guys survive in the wild with no help from us, humans, at all! I kept reminding myself that.

Indeed, a few weeks later our precious little pollinators hatched, some even in our hands! It was truly magical to watch them being born, looking perfect with their boy moustaches, ready for the job, flying off to work within just seconds of being born. What incredible creatures! Girls appeared a few weeks later, being bigger, more red and fluffy. Eager to see them fill the tubes we prepared for them, it happened some time in May.

Not long after this and me walking to check on the bees, after three years of wait, we received more exciting news. A new spot had opened up, and we have reached the top of the council allotments waiting list. Hurray! But oh dear – this is going to be a lot of work for me, especially as I am now a full time carer of my home schooled child with a disability (phew, sounds scary, but we keep plodding on). Gardening plays a big part in our daily routine and usually helps both of us and our mental wellbeing.

Walking to not one but two gardens, this was lovely but sometimes hard work, as I had to carry heavy stuff from one side of the town to the other. There were many spring jobs to do and I started to fall behind. Our newly taken on allotment was full of unsuitable domestic waste and piles of garden waste that contained invasive Australian flatworm and its eggs. On the other hand, vegetable patches were overgrown with flowers – mostly foxgloves, and we instantly fell in love with the little wildlife pond full of life.
I’ve done crazy amounts of digging and cleaning, stopping only to admire a bee or two flying past. Half fallen apart garden shed could somewhat be propped up, we tidied that up and popped tarpaulin at the raw base so our tools don’t sit on a damp soil.

To help me carry some extra heavy stuff (on top of bottles of drinking water in my backpack), once, just once(!), I chose to borrow a wheelbarrow and use it to get my bag of top soil I left at the community garden, and take the heavy load with two more heavy pots to the allotment on the other side of our town. An easy enough twenty minute trip, right? Just one trip with a wheelbarrow to make my life a little easier…
And then, going down a tilted slope, I lost my balance and… I’ve broken my ankle. I rather not describe the pain I felt.

Ouch!

Please allow me to feel a little sorry for myself, thank you. I am always eager to help and support others. This current situation is (temporarily) awful and at times, truly tough to endure.

I am… stuck, unable to continue with any of the zillions of jobs we had planned. While other gardeners start to enjoy results of their hard work, I feel like we barely started and the hardest thing to accept, for me, is that I cannot rush the healing and if I want to recover from this injury properly, I have to just rest.

Meanwhile I have redirected my creative attention to the “archive” pages that aim to feature the best of my photography through the past eight years – so far I’ve got through the 2017, 2018 and most of 2019. Bearing in mind that I take around 40.000 images per year on average – this is a tedious but enjoyable job. Please – don’t be alarmed! I only upload those I consider worth returning to, those I think people may find interesting… or sometimes, those I am extra proud of regardless of them not being a popular public choice. I am weird that way…

Browse away and (hopefully) enjoy!

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I am a bee guardian!

posted in: Karolina.art | 2

It’s official. They arrived from a very kind person in midlands last week. We are super busy building a bee house and chasing all sorts of plants to give them an amazing life, so we can release them at our Community Garden in a few week’s time.

Working on the nesting habitat for these little darlings is currently my top priority. We need to help the bees any way we can – especially the solitary ones, which continue to be on decline.

Above: collage of the solitary bees observed at the South Molton Community Garden last year (2023). Cocoons we have are of the red masons – Osmia Bicornis, busy collecting mud in between the rocks of our herb spiral (second from bottom right).

How to place an order

Let’s say you’d like to commission me.
Excellent choice!
(Well… Of course I’d say that!)

You will need to get in touch and talk about your ideas in more detail with me.
To make the further process super simple, I put together this handy list of questions.
This is not a must – it is here to help you be prepared for our discussion, if you like.

PAINTING

1. What is it you’d like the portrait of? Is it human, pet, an animal? How many subjects? Anything else – preferred background, a name, writing?

2. When do you need this done for? Pastels are much quicker than oils, because they don’t require any drying time. However, if not protected correctly, they can smudge!

3. What size are you after? Bigger works take longer to produce, minimum of two – three weeks and usually, there is a waiting list (sorry!)

4. What is your chosen art medium? I am most skilled in oil paints, pastels, or charcoal. I can use digital inks or pencils. I don’t work in watercolour, because they scare me.

5. Do you wish for the finished work to be framed, on a board, paper, or stretched canvas that doesn’t need framing?

6. Are you keen to be involved in the process, for example to see the initial sketch, or would you prefer a complete surprise once the work is complete? Please note, the deposit payments are non refundable.

7. Will you collect the finished work, or am I to post it? Please note, p&p would be added on top of the price of the work.

8. Would you give us your kind permission to share the finished work online?

PHOTOGRAPHY

1. What is it you’d like a photograph of? Is it a set, several themes? How many hours shall I reserve?

2. How soon do you need this done?

3. Do you request prints? I can provide A4 fast, bigger formats would take at least a week.

4. Do you prefer black and white or coloured photographs, or both?

5. Is there a specific format you need, e.g. landscape, or portrait? Any other editing requests (no tilting, extra objects removal etc.)

6. Will you collect the finished work, or am I to post it? Please note, p&p would be added on top of the price of the work. This does not apply to digital files, unless you require a USB stick.

7. Would you give us your kind permission to share the finished work online?

Restored old vintage photograph of mother holding a baby, sitting on a simple wooden chair with a plant in the background

RESTORATION

1. What do you need restored? Photographs, films, slides?

2. How soon do you need this done?

3. Do you request prints? I can provide A4 fast, bigger formats would take at least a week.

4. Do you prefer black and white or coloured photographs, or both?

5. Is there a specific format you need, e.g. landscape, or portrait?

6. Will you collect the finished work, or am I to post it?
Please note, p&p would be added on top of the price of the work.

7. Would you give us your kind permission to share the finished work online?

These are the questions I ask every single one of my clients. There has never been any issues, I will happily explain everything to you in as much detail as you like. I always do my best.

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Exploring the Microcosm

posted in: Photography, Technology | 0

This article was written by Artificial Intelligence.

The Vital Trio of Entomology, Macro Photography, and Citizen Science

In the intricate tapestry of life on Earth, insects play a crucial role, often unseen by the naked eye. Entomology, the scientific study of insects, provides us with invaluable insights into the complex and interconnected ecosystems that support our planet. When combined with the artistry of macro photography and the collective power of citizen science, this trio becomes a potent force in unravelling the mysteries of the microcosm.

Entomology

Entomology serves as a gateway to understanding the remarkable diversity and ecological significance of insects. With over a million identified species, insects comprise the largest and most diverse group of organisms on Earth. Studying their behaviour, anatomy, and ecological interactions helps scientists comprehend the delicate balance that sustains life on our planet. From pollination and decomposition to acting as indicators of environmental health, insects play indispensable roles in maintaining the balance of ecosystems.

Macro Lens: A Window into the Miniature World

Macro photography allows us to explore the enchanting world of insects up close. Through specialized lenses and techniques, photographers capture intricate details that are often overlooked. These captivating images not only showcase the aesthetic beauty of insects but also provide scientists with valuable visual data for research.
Macro photography bridges the gap between scientific observation and public appreciation, fostering a deeper connection between people and the natural world.

The Synergy of the Trio

The collaboration between entomology, macro photography, and citizen science creates a symbiotic relationship that benefits both science and society. Scientists gain access to a vast pool of data, accelerating research efforts and expanding our understanding of insect populations and behaviors. Simultaneously, the public becomes more engaged with the natural world, developing a sense of environmental stewardship.

The Power of Citizen Science

Citizen science involves the active participation of the public in scientific research, and in the realm of entomology, it can be a game-changer. Enthusiastic individuals armed with cameras become citizen scientists, contributing valuable data to research projects. Platforms like iRecord, iNaturalist and BugGuide empower citizens to document and share their observations of insects. This democratization of science not only accelerates data collection but also raises public awareness about the importance of insect conservation.

Conclusion

Entomology, macro photography, and citizen science converge to unveil the hidden wonders of the miniature ecosystems that surround us. This trio enables us to appreciate the intricate beauty of insects, understand their ecological roles, and actively contribute to scientific knowledge. As we delve deeper into the microcosm, we not only enrich our understanding of the natural world but also strengthen our commitment to preserving the delicate balance that sustains life on Earth.

The World Press Freedom Day

“The problem with today’s world is that everyone believes they have the right to express their opinion AND have others listen to it.

The correct statement of individual rights is that everyone has the right to an opinion, but crucially, that opinion can be roundly ignored and even made fun of, particularly if it is demonstrably nonsense!”

Brian Cox

The third of May commemorates the freedom of the press, raises awareness about how important it is, and reminds governments of their duty to uphold the human right to freedom of expression. Many journalists and media professionals risk their lives and their freedom during their careers in pursuit of their stories, as some countries still put their journalists in jail to stop them from releasing certain information to the public. World Press Freedom Day aims to put an end to that and to honour those who have lost their lives because of their profession.

The freedom of the press and freedom of expression were established as fundamental human rights in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948. The freedom of the press has since been a concern of many journalists and governments, and in 1976 a group of independent journalists founded the World Press Freedom Committee (in USA).

You can celebrate this day by supporting your local newspapers, learning more about the issues of press freedom, and being an advocate for the freedom of expression.
Chulmleigh Old Fair, 2019

Karolina is honoured to be affiliated with Molton Monthly magazine, local medium focusing on positive community news, engaging excellent photographers and journalists on bases of equal opportunities and fairness, whilst demonstrating long term love and enthusiasm for all the good, positive things happening in our charming countryside area we all love!

I am the third generation reporter in the family. Media work has always been an area of great interest to me. Over the years, along with other curious minds, I observed the impact of the uncensored social media on a human behaviour; an epidemic of mental illnesses; despotism and a widespread cognitive dissonance. I am especially concerned by the rise of racism and all kinds of extremism, continued suppression of an independent, critical journalism facing tsunamis of Dunning-Kruger effect.
Sometimes, on local scales, reporters get pushed out of the circles they make uncomfortable; on higher levels, especially in less developed countries, too advanced, fearless and open minded reporters get murdered. Recently, and shockingly, a young talented journalist and his fiancé were murdered at their home in Slovakia (my homeland). This has shaken and shocked many, and was followed by street protests and a change of government.
Yet, today, debates died out and people have forgotten almost all about it now.

Things have changed since the day I first I set my foot in the news office in 1998. Today, the mainstream media get attacked daily, people trust a stranger on the Internet more than a trained and responsibly monitored reporter. I cannot understand why – except the fact that the social media thrives on negativity and the public’s mind is poisoned by far too much of all the chaos these platforms spread around, which is then followed by plenty of tribal behaviour that is considered the norm and the norm is considered an oddity – we tend to surround ourselves with those who make us comfortable by agreeing with us. In this turmoil world, this is reassuring. However, in many cases, ignorance leads to harmful behaviours towards the world.

Listen to this speech by Maria Ressa, remarkably brave journalist:

If I make one point here, let it be this:

Never stop asking the right questions. Why are certain groups of people saying certain things in a certain way? Who benefits from that “story”? What is a hard indisputable fact , and what is an opinion and a bias?
And where do we all stand in this?

New Year, new beginnings…

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With this New Year, as an artist and a photographer observing human behaviours, I got only one wish for all of us: to take better care of our complex, beautiful blue planet.

I could just as well caption this image “be bubbly like me” or “don’t ever be afraid to be creative!” – you are free to see whatever you like, and I just hope you’ll see it as a (read in Bob Ross voice please:) HAPPY LITTLE MONTAGE of the aspects of a creative life: Camera (those are physical filters in my hands), nature (especially the sea life) and protection of our planet.

One more note, if I may: I feel so very grateful to all the people who support me along this way. Good people leave an unforgettable mark, make you think, make you question things, and your own self, but in a good way. Choose your company and continue to be curious, seek solutions, try to improve things, stay humble. That alone, and no money or wealth, is what makes a life worth living!

Happy little montage.

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Quince Honey Farm

Published for the Easter 2024, this elaborate short clip exists thanks to several months of careful observation, learning, photographing, hectic filming (insects and educators are all very fast!) and then endless hours of editing, amending, exporting, uploading until voila! It’s out there at last!
I wish this could be longer (and slower) and more documentary-like (especially those brief but precious views of the other not-bee-insects), but it is a clip I am very proud of. It captures the wonderful aspects of this unique tourist attraction in North Devon.
A bit more info about this collaboration can be found in the LINKS section.
Local hay balls called “stooks” are every summer’s hit here in South Molton, North Devon! They seem to pop up, very fast, every July. People often photograph them – I did too, many times.
In 2021, I’ve pushed myself a little further and filmed how these traditional shapes are made. Enjoy!

Short clips: Poetry

Introduction to the poetry films (2022).
The Greenman Speaks
The Savoy
Pots

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Deep Fake era of an AI: who can spot the difference?

Which image is real?

Take a really good look at these two images.

Fake image of a snowy hills, created by artificial intelligence, AI
Frozen tree bending over completely covered in snow, with a pink sunset sky behind it, winter at a high mountains
Here are some tips that work for me… Real photographs often aren’t perfect, neat and flawless, almost as if they were made of plastic. There may be noise. There may be a mess. Artificial images contain fairly obvious mathematical repetition (such as the shadows in the image on the left), the weird patterns that make no sense (such as the snow texture at the bottom of the image) or an unnatural shape (oval sun? Oh please….). These will give you a hint that a view may be computer generated. Colours may also be too strong, although the image on the right is fairly colourful. It’s just too, too perfect, and real life – well – isn’t.

I see far too many people believe in the influx of artificial computer generated images online as “real”. So I feel it is important to talk about this more. Unless you don’t mind being fooled and have a warped perception of reality (oblivion is a bliss), we need to learn how to distinguish between the two. We have to start teaching this more. That is our challenge for the years ahead!

Did you like this short read? You may also enjoy reading this ARTICLE.

Did you see this story about AI winning a professional photographic competition, made as a STUNT? Ehmmm…. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Yes, technology is impressive and gets incredibly convincing results.
When do we start to draw a line to protect our genuine, imperfect, vulnerable and unique humanity? Do you feel like things are getting out of hand?

Want to test yourself?
Here is one more LINK for you.

Welcome to my first blog ever!

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Eeeek, how do I do this? Truth be told, I always loved to write, just not in English… I come from Czechoslovakia, eastern area now known as Slovakia. Coming to UK in 2005 wasn’t easy – a lot of people laughed at my foreign accent. That doesn’t boost one’s confidence! Despite of that, I am still here, almost twenty years later (wow), and not afraid to make – and learn from – mistakes.

I think writing a blog will be fun. I see it as a safe space away from social media were I get to share some background stories to some photographs I’ve taken (oh, there are so many), some bizarre experiences that may make you laugh, and I’ll also attempt to offer some advice on things I understand.

I am no “know-it-all” and I often laugh at the goofy and ever so slightly aging myself. That makes me an ideal person to approach – I don’t look down on anyone and I am always super thrilled to be asked to help others. So let’s get to work! Shiny new online platform, here we come!