Saturday, July 24, 2010
some more hummingbirds and photo tips too...
Photographing hummingbirds can be so frustrating and so much fun. I am lucky that hummingbirds spend a lot of time around our home. I don’t have any hummingbird feeders but we have planted plants that we know they enjoy. In our yard, they are especially attracted to the pink and red salvia.
Bonnie asked specific questions that I will answer here. I use a 100-400mm lens at 400. For most of my hummingbird shots, I have used a Canon EOS-1 Mark III. The tree that the nest is in is a palo verde tree. The nest was about 3-4 feet off the ground. It was very well protected. There are vines behind it and a larger tree that hangs over the palo verde. It was spring and my husband was going to trim the tree when he saw the nest. We would have never spotted it otherwise. I took a few pictures and then let them be. In the photo of the nest, it is the two babies that you are seeing. I don’t know if they were male or female. To give you some perspective of size, here is a picture (and not a very good one at that) that has my husband’s hand. If you look closely, you can see the two little beaks pointing up.
I have found hummingbirds to be much less skittish than other birds. They may initially fly away from me when I first come out but they are usually back quickly. I sit in a chair and try to keep still. The key is patience. They get familiar with me as I sit out there. Once in a while, they are even too close to me for me to be able to focus. I keep my camera ready to go in my hands. Some days, I get nothing. Other days, I get a lot. Thank goodness for digital because otherwise I would be wasting a lot of film.
This photo was taken on a cold day and you can see how the bird is all puffed out to keep warm.
For most of my photography, I shoot manually but with hummingbirds, I often use aperture priority. If you are not a photographer with a lot of experience, I would definitely recommend the sports mode option on your camera. It will give you a center focus spot and the camera will track the movement of the bird as you move your camera around. It will allow you to take photos quickly. Your camera may have a continuous focusing mode, a burst mode, etc. Read your manual to figure out what may work best for you.
I am lucky to have a camera that can take up to 10 shots per second. It gives me lots of options but, I admit, there are times that I am shooting so fast that I am getting nothing but the flower because the hummingbird has already moved on. Hummingbirds are fast! They not only move quickly but they beat their wings very quickly too. I have found that even shooting at 1/2000 of a second, I may not stop the movement of the wings. Because of that, shooting on sunny days will work much better than on cloudy days. Try to position yourself with your back to the sun. It will make the light on the bird stronger and you might be able to get a catchlight too. Catchlights are those tiny little reflections of light that show up in photographs that make the eyes stand out more. (They are good to have in photographing people too.) You can see catchlights in my photographs here. Click on any photos to see it bigger. Contrary to popular belief, hummingbirds do rest. I have captured many photos of them resting on a branch. With patience, you may find them posing for you.
I hope this helps. There are nature photographers who have very elaborate flash systems to capture hummingbirds. I like using available light. Please let me know if you have any other questions. As you can see, I love photographing hummingbirds.