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Since moving here four years ago we’ve had our share of wildlife visiting our backyard and home, and yesterday was no exception. This time, it was thousands of bees, converging first over our backyard, and then settling down in one of our cedar trees. Within a 15-minute timespan the thousands of bees had morphed from a huge cloud-like swarm into a foot-long hive around a branch:

Once they all got settled onto the hive, the loud buzzing stopped, though there were still plenty of comings and goings by individual bees to and from the hive. We later found out these “coming-and-going” bees are known as scouts, and serve a sort of “realtor” function in the bee world in that they go out searching for a new home.

Though it was fascinating to see, the thought of having a hive of thousands of bees in our backyard wasn’t really appealing, so we met a local beekeeper selling honey at an Earth Day Fair, who offered to come remove the bees on Sunday to try to set up his own permanent hive box with them. Apparently, bees only hive like this (all surrounding the queen to protect her) as a temporary measure until they find a more suitable place to start a new colony in a hollow tree or other permanent shelter (like your attic, if there’s access). Alas, about an hour after we returned home from talking to the beekeeper we suddenly heard the buzzing again, and saw the bees hovering over the marsh and toward their new forever home. It was fun while it lasted, but we sure were happy to see them move on.





Tennis greats play mixed-doubles match in Charleston

My love affair with tennis began when I was still a kid growing up in Holland, watching televised matches of my then-favorite player, Björn Borg, working his magic on the clay of Paris and the grass of Wimbledon. Today’s game of tennis has come a long way from those times of wooden rackets and serve-and-volley playing styles, so it was a real treat to spend an evening this weekend watching some of the greatest tennis players ever put on an exhibition match here in Charleston.

Emcee Murphy Jensen (of the famous Jensen brothers doubles team) started things off by announcing the players, and recognizing Charleston as voted the Best Tennis Town in America. Two flag-bearers got the crowd going by holding an impromptu race around the stadium with their flags.

The first match of the evening consisted of a singles match between John McEnroe and Todd Martin. They both showed they have plenty of great tennis still left in the tank:

McEnroe (rightfully) questioned the next line call…

…and while waiting for the dispute to be resolved, Todd Martin had some fun of his own by offering to take a photo of some fans in the crowd…

After a few more points…

…McEnroe emerged the victor:


Next up were the mixed doubles, pairing Chris Evert with John McEnroe, and Martina Navratilova with Todd Martin. For this match, each player was fitted with a microphone so the crowd could hear all the players’ banter loud and clear.

Apparently the competitive drive of the women revealed itself even before the matchplay, when it was announced they had used a coin flip to determine which of them would be allowed to walk out onto the court first. Luck was with Chris Evert:

I love the emotion on the face of the woman at right watching Martina walk onto the court…

Game on…

Chris Evert was impressed…

Plenty of strategizing was going on between McEnroe and Evert…

…while Martina was patiently waiting…

McEnroe’s strategy while Chris Evert served…

“You CANNOT be SERIOUS!!!” (And yes, that’s really what he said)

Chris Evert decided McEnroe needed another partner and gave her racket to the ball-tender. Moments before, McEnroe had asked her “hey, wait a minute…how old are you ball people here?!?!” (As this lady showed with grace, age is only a number…)

Martina served up a 62 mph screamer…

…which was returned (but not inside the lines.) Still, who wouldn’t want to be able to say they had the chance to return Martina Navratilova’s serve?!? The crowd loved it…

As a photographer, I love capturing the players looking directly into my lens. Back in the late 1980s I photographed an evening exhibition match between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova in San Diego. Being a starving student back then, I had allotted myself 2 rolls of 24 exposure film for the match. I used up all my film during matchplay, and was using my camera just to get a closer look of the award ceremony when to my surprise, Martina Navratilova looked directly at me and posed for me with her flowers. Of course, I did click the shutter a few times just to cover up my idiocy of not having any more frames left in my camera…

Todd Martin as John McEnroe:

John McEnroe returning the favor:

Along with all the banter and fun and games, there were some incredible rallies with all players at net exchanging lightning-quick volleys. I just watched in amazement, knowing I wouldn’t be able to capture it on camera due to lighting conditions. But, it was after one of these rallies that McEnroe had a bit of a meltdown over a call, throwing his racket…

…then falling to the ground in anguish…

…and yes, you know it’s coming…

…they should have known better than to put courtside planter boxes at a match involving John McEnroe…

For those not familiar, McEnroe at one point in his career took out his frustration in a match by demolishing the plants in a courtside planter box with his racket. I cannot remember when or where or against who he was playing, but I sure remember those plants flying everywhere. (In the case during this match, it’s evident McEnroe is not only a great tennis player, but also, a great actor.)

The planter was eventually replaced without damage, and the match was won by Martina Navratilova and Todd Martin in a tiebreak. Not that anyone really cared who won—we were all just happy to have been witness to an awesome exhibition of old-school tennis by these tennis greats.

We can’t wait until next year’s Family Circle Tennis Cup, and we sure hope another exhibition match is in the works!

Pieter - April 12, 2011 - 10:31 am

Amazing sharp and detailed photos under these light conditions. I bow to Els in deep respect.

Els - April 12, 2011 - 1:20 pm

Thanks for your nice comment Pieter! :)

MN - April 13, 2011 - 12:41 am

Great pictures. What camera and lens did you use?

admin - April 13, 2011 - 9:47 am

Hi MN, thanks! For these shots I used a Canon 5D Mark II camera with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. All were taken at 1/500 at f2.8, ISO 1600.

MN - April 14, 2011 - 12:23 am

Unrelated question, were you sitting in Section 104/103? I think I saw someone with the camera you just described :)

admin - April 14, 2011 - 9:49 am

Yes indeedy…section 104 :) Were you sitting near us?

MN - April 14, 2011 - 11:52 pm

:) yeah, my friend and I were in section 104, about 2 rows behind to your left….
I was envious of your camera :)

admin - April 15, 2011 - 2:32 pm

You had a camera too, right? :)

MN - April 15, 2011 - 11:02 pm

Yes, I did. I was trying to take pictures and video at the same time – not a bright thing to do :)

admin - April 19, 2011 - 11:25 am

Ah, the pitfalls of multi-tasking 😉 If you go again next year and happen to see me, please say hi :)

MN - April 26, 2011 - 11:53 pm

No kidding… neither video nor pictures came out nice.
If Martina plays, I will definitely be there :)

Game, Set, Rock! at Family Circle Cup, Charleston SC

I have lots of images still to be edited from the awesome exhibition matches (John McEnroe, Todd Martin, Martina Navratilova, and Chris Evert) last night at the Family Circle Cup, but thought I’d already put up one of my favorites of the night—John McEnroe having another “courtside planter box incident”. More to come!