Saturday, December 31, 2005

Photographing the hummingbirds

Through frosty nights, rain, and wind the hummingbirds are still here and still feeding; the Annas are year-round residents.

Last night was stormy so Melinda took the feeder down and left it safely on top of the air conditioner. This morning the hummingbirds noticed the empty hook, found the feeder, and carried on feeding regardless. So, I thought to myself, if they’l feed there: maybe they’ll feed in front of a camera?

And so, after a few blurred and indistinct attempts, evolved the following setup:

Hummingbird feeder on table on balcony. The table and the balcony railings are covered with white paper; the table is viewed over the seat of a folding chair.

The chair provides somewhere to rest the camera; without it, camera shake is unavoidable, particularly as it can be a long wait for a hummingbird to approach. The paper sellotaped to the balcony railings provides a light background; hummingbirds are mostly dark and blend in against dark backgrounds. The same goes for the paper on the table, which also hides the distracting details of the table-top.

Other things you learn you learn when trying to photograph hummingbirds: flash is a must; shutter lag is a bugger; patience pays; but luck is the biggest factor.

Hummingbird approaching the feeder from the left, wings stretched out ahead of it.

Hummingbird sipping nectar on the wing; its wings are stretched out behind it.

Hummingbird drinking from the feeder; wings in mid-stroke, feet tucked up underneath.

Perching hummingbird.

Flying hummingbird from behind: wings stretched wide. The tongue is visible flicking out of the beak.

Hummingbird approaching from the right; its body casts a shadow behind it.