beekeeper with smoker

Beekeeper Dave Harrod with smoker.

I first met Dave Harrod at The Miquon School where his daughter Nina and my son Wynn were classmates. Neither one of us were beekeepers back then. We lost touch after the kids graduated from Miquon. It was a pleasant surprise to meet up with him several years later at one of The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild meetings.

Wanting to get back to my Beekeepers series I messaged Dave asking if I could photograph him working at his apiary. He replied yes and said to meet him 10:00 am Saturday at The Saul School. 

The Saul School is a magnet school that specializes in agricultural sciences and is located along Henry Avenue in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. The school gives Dave a place to keep his bees and in return his bees pollinate Saul’s crops, flowers and fruit trees. 

Saul School Apiary

Dave Harrod working his apiary at W.B. Saul School.

“Better Suit UP”

It was a hot and humid morning so I hoped to get away with not wearing my bee suit, it is possible at times. As I approached the hives Dave called out that I had better suit up. He said he was really disputing the hives and that they were in a bad mood. I heeded his advice.

Aside from the suit being hot it’s not easy peering through a viewfinder while wearing a veil. Nor is it easy changing camera settings wearing thick gloves. On the other hand it’s hard to take photographs while writhing in pain from multiple bee stings!

Beekeeper taking a break

Dave taking a break in a grove of trees for shade and to escape angry attack bees.

In an attempt to re-queen hives in the Guild’s apiary Dave had inserted Queen excluders into some of his hives. A queen excluder is a screen that restricts the queen’s travel to the boxes at the bottom of the hive. This causes the bees in the upper boxes to create a new queen that can later be moved to a queen-less hive.  

While Dave’s day job is in finance he earned an MFA in Photography from University at Buffalo. At times our conversation veered away from beekeeping to cameras we have owned, darkroom techniques and the merits of film vs. digital. He offered to let be borrow his Kodak Master View 8×10 camera. I thinks its time to take him up on his offer!    

Dave is the current president of Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild.




I was pleasantly surprised to find out that three of my photographs have been selected for inclusion in the upcoming Focus Philadelphia book and that my photo of  Wynn in his beekeeper outfit won third prize! That’s a bronze right? Though I have had images included in previous Focus exhibitions this is the first year I’ve won a place on the podium. When it comes to contests I remember the line from Glengarry Glen Ross, ” First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is,” you’re fired!”

As you may have read in my previous post Bee Box Inspection my wife and son have recently taken up beekeeping, which led me to begin The Philadelphia Beekeepers Project. All of the photographs in the series were shot outdoors and depict beekeepers tending to their apiaries but for this portrait of Wynn I wanted to move indoors to control the lighting and use a backdrop to elimanate any competing elements.
 My objective was to capture Wynn’s new persona, that of a competent and capable steward of bees and to illustrate how an outfit can transform the subject that is wearing it.
 What I like about the image is the juxtaposition between his stoic expression and the geeky outfit. I say geeky with all due respect, beekeepers even refer to themselves as “Beeks,” a contraction of beekeeper and geek. It is their cross to bear and they bear it proudly.  I too wear one of these goofy suits when I’m photographing near an open hive.
There are basically three type of hats commercially available from beekeeping supply houses, the pith helmet, the wide brimmed floppy hat or a dome hood. I’m considering starting a side business offering novelty beekeeper hats. How about a bowler or tophat , maybe even a stovepipe, you get the idea. Any angel investors out there? If so just leave your info in the comment section and I’ll get back to you pronto.
Congratulations to Matt Stanley, first prize and Gene Simnov, second place and to everyone else who made it into the book. You can see more images at Focus Philadelphia.Thanks to this years judges Jamie Leary, Nathaniel Stein, and David Winigrad and to the ASMPhilly Focus committee.