Fast Little Hummers

It’s been a little while since I’ve spent some time with the tweeties. I’ve had a couple of wonderful adventures but the wildlife were non existent in Paris and elusive and sparse in Maine.

It is true that as an artist, and yes…as a photographer I can begin to call myself as a digital artist, that one should always try new things. But sometimes it’s good to return to the foundation that speaks most to you.

Spending time outdoors in search of a Feathered Friend is inherent in my soul. There is something about being in nature, stepping quietly and looking into every little nook and cranny in the tree tops for one of God’s creatures that soothes me. In fact, it has been said that bird photography can have a meditative effect.

Well, that is until you try to photograph a hummingbird. Fast little buggers they are chittering away while they zip right past your head. Yep…try to get that into a picture. You know I had to try, and you know I eventually did.

First, let’s go for the ones on the feeders. Much easier targets.

Yeah ! Success on those. Now let’s try for the ones when they sit for just a moment on a tree near the feeder.

Victory is mine ! But hold on, we can’t be happy with just that. It’s time to kick it up a notch. Now to capture them in flight. The challenge has now begun. Tracking, light, focus, it’s nearly impossible to get the tri-fecta. But try we must.

I tried all sorts of combinations to photograph the hummingbirds. I began with the best equipment I had available to me. The Canon 1DX which offers 10 frames per second and fast focusing paired with the Canon 500mm ii f/4 prime lens.

I then added the 1.4x III extender to expand my reach to 720mm. But I found the focus to slow down a bit and the images a little soft. These are desensitized hummingbirds, so I can get closer than what one usually could do when they find hummingbirds. So off the extender went, and moved the camera closer to the feeder.

OOH…how close can I get? Let’s add an extension tube. It was actually quite brilliant and I didn’t seem to lose the autofocus speed notably. But now my focal range was so much tighter that by the time I got my eye on the hummingbird, he was gone. Just not enough room for give with these little ones. Take off said extension tube, I’d rather crop the image and get the bird.

To Flash or not to Flash? That is the question. Personally, I like to keep things simple. There are those out there that are super gear heads and have an infinite amount of patience. They set up a four-light studio set with backdrops and potted flowers that replace where the feeder was and wait.

Girls just want to have fun though, and not having such an elaborate lighting set up is actually quite liberating. I did try using my Canon 580ex II flash on a flash bracket and it worked well enough.

It’s fine but due to the flash sync using the ETTL (Exposure through the lens) what the flash did was allow me to drop my ISO to 200, but only a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second. Also you can only take a shot at a time, and no continuous shooting as the light only lasts a moment. So off the flash goes.

So here I am…a girl on a nice sunny day with the sun at my back, watching the hummers at the feeders in the green garden. Sheer bliss!

16 replies »

  1. Emily, may I ask what settings you use to capture these fast little creatures. My images are never sharp. Thank you.

  2. Fantastic pictures, Emily, and what a coincidence that just yesterday I saw more wonderful pictures of hummingbirds on Cindy Knoke’s blog.

  3. Simply marvellous! I agree, it is and art form to be able to capture such great fleeting moments and to be able to process the images to such high standards. I take my hat off to you, Emily.

  4. I love the little foot raised on the very first photo, so much personality in a tiny body! All your photos are wonderful. I love walking with your thoughts as you shoot.

  5. Loved the hummingbirds and your trip to France and your trip to Acadia! Thanks for sharing. I also like you B&W world on Instagram.



  6. Congratulations! Wonderful pictures! We’ve had regular hummingbird visitors to our honeysuckle, salvia and zinnias. They’re great fun when they chase each other, but I’ve never been able to photograph them.

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