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The Pollinator Project: Hannah Mather Wins Alpha Female+ Grant

Our latest Alpha Female+ grant has been awarded for a project to raise awareness for pollinators in general and bees in particular. See more about Hannah Mather and her grant-winning project below.

Photo by Alpha Female+ Grant Winner Hannah Mather

Photo by Alpha Female+ Grant Winner Hannah Mather

Photo by Alpha Female+ Grant Winner Hannah Mather

Photo by Alpha Female+ Grant Winner Hannah Mather

Photo by Alpha Female+ Grant Winner Hannah Mather

Photo by Alpha Female+ Grant Winner Hannah Mather

Photo by Alpha Female+ Grant Winner Hannah Mather

Hannah Mather, a biologist turned beekeeper turned pollinator advocate, is our latest Alpha Female+ grant winner. She’s a polymath who embraced macro photography as a way to tie her avocations and together. “I love using eye-catching imagery of animals that are often feared to tell their intricate life stories and show beauty that you must slow down to see,” she says. Mather applied for a grant multiple times through the Alpha Female+ rolling application process and her perseverance paid off.

See how this biologist turned beekeeper and photographer will bring her pollinator project to life with a Sony Alpha Female+ Grant

The Pollinator Project's Inspiration

Over the next several weeks, Mather will be creating a photo and video project that will show the unique life and behavior of several pollinator species. Using a combination of full-frame and APS-C sensor cameras with various macro and telephoto zoom lenses, Mather will be shooting stills, video and high-speed slow motion to give us a glimpse into the overlooked parts of nature that are all around us and help more people to slow down and to see that there is nature worth protecting right in our own backyards.

“The inspiration for this project began with honeybees and learning their complex social structures,” Mather says. “I like to call honeybees the “gateway bee” because once you see inside of a hive, you’re forever hooked. As amazing as honeybees are though, they’re only one of over 20,000 species of bees worldwide, 4000 of which are in North America.” Many of these species as well as a range of other pollinators are in decline due to stressors like habitat loss and widespread pesticide usage. “They’re understudied, underfunded, and not talked about nearly enough considering the enormous environmental impact they bring,” she says.

Mather’s Process And Camera & Lens Technique 

For Mather, her photographic process begins without a camera. “I start by locating blooming flowers. “Weeds” tend to be the pollinator favorites and once I find a spot that seems likely to have visitors, I’ll settle on down and wait and watch. Eventually I’ll notice patterns, certain flowers that bees repeatedly land on. Those are the ones I home in on!” 

When she is ready to bring out her camera and macro lens, Mather uses a favotite technique of many expert macro photographers. “I shoot my macro-photography with all manual settings,” she explains. “I guess you could say I’m a control freak in that way, but I’ve found it’s much easier to lock the focus on a certain distance, and use my hands and body to fine-tune. I usually aim to focus on their eyes, because I think that brings the most connection to the viewer.” 

Mather has been using the Sony Alpha 6400 extensively and she’ll be adding an Alpha 7 III to her bag from winning the grant. She relies on a pair of macro lenses, choosing one or the other depending on how sticky the situation is, literally. “I use the Sony 90mm f/2.8 G Macro as my go-to lens, and I’m always impressed at the images I can capture and how close I am able to get with that lens. When I’m in situations that might get a bit sticky with honey and beeswax though, I’ll grab my Sony 30mm macro lens which is an incredible budget lens. I do need to get very close to my subjects, but as long as I don’t bump them they don’t seem to mind.” 

Project Goals: Don't Fear The Pollinators, Embrace Them

The ultimate goal of the project is to open more people’s eyes to the intricate web of life that surrounds us and how pollinators play such an essential role. “My hope for people to take away from this project is curiosity and respect for things we have been conditioned to fear for so long. If nothing else, I hope someone who sees this will pause a bit longer by the next unkempt patch of grass they see, and notice the wildflowers and the life it sustains. I want the world to see the beauty in the tiniest of interactions. The first step is noticing, the next step is protecting.”

Stay tuned to Alpha Universe as we follow along with Mather and the project. And see how you can apply for an Alpha Female+ grant for your passion project. See all of the details on the Alpha Female+ page HERE. And you can see all the past grant winners and their projects HERE


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