what would you do about hummingbirds?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by bob100684, Aug 17, 2007.

  1. bob100684

    bob100684 Member

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    a long lens so you dont scare them? or a macro so you can fill the frame with them?
     
  2. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Medium-long. Pre-focus and pre-compose so you can click the shutter with a remote cable when they get in your field of view. Also, some kind of strobe off-camera on a TTL cord.
     
  3. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, er, ah, TFC, I've failed pretty badly with hummers doing what I think you suggested. Here's what I think got me:

    Too low flash sync speed combined with too large an aperture. I was shooting ISO 100 film at f/11 at 1/250. Ambient was perhaps a stop below sunny sixteen (f/16 @ 1/100), much too bright for all of my exposure to come from the flash.

    Too long flash duration. At full power, my 643CS takes 1/200 to give its all. The flash was off camera, running TTL, and perhaps 12" from the subject. The bird wasn't framed really tightly, so the camera's metering system saw a lot of dark background. TTL-autoflash isn't a cure-all.

    Hummingbird feeders are real handy. Next time I'll use a smaller aperture and run the flash on manual, after using a flash meter to help set the power level before I try to blast birds.

    Bobsixdigits, I've never met a small bird that was tolerant of close approach. This means that even a ~100 mm macro lens is too short. My failures were with a 200/4 MicroNikkor AIS, and its too short. I might have done better if I'd had a TC ... I have a Questar 700 that would do the job except that at T/11 its too fast.

    And I had a problem that I can't see how to cure. The birds often moved in response to the noise the camera made while starting to take the exposure (raise mirror, stop lens down) before the camera took the picture.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Hummingbirds are something of a subspecialty among bird photographers.

    I don't particularly do hummers, but common setups usually involve a feeder, camera with remote trigger prefocused or autofocus, a lens like a 200mm macro, and two or three low power flash units set up like you would for a portrait shoot for very high flash speed to stop the wings.

    If you wanted to do it without a studio-style remote setup, then an arrangement like one would use for flying insects would probably work best--200mm macro and two small flash units on a Lepp bracket.
     
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  5. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    And lots of patience!:smile:
     
  6. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Thanks for reminding me!

    I don't expect them to be very good - but I took a couple of shots of a hummer at one of our feeders a couple weeks back. Did it hand-held w/o flash so not expecting much. But I finally finished off the roll a couple of weeks ago (It's been a slow shooting summer for me). I just got the slides back and was trying to remember what was on that roll!

    I won't get a chance to scan them until Monday night but if any are worth looking at, I'll post to My Gallery.

    Now let's see, what else was on that roll? :confused:

    EDIT: I think I read somewhere that hummers beat their wings at around 200/minute - so I figure you have to shoot at least 1/250 to "stop" the wings?
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  8. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I am hardly an expert, I only pursued hummers once! But I found hummers to be pretty trivial if you have enough light. They are one of the most human-friendly birds of all. In 35mm, you can use a medium to long tele and be 6 or 8 feet away and they could care less. The key is patience- just watch where they are and set up and sit and wait. I noticed that they will often return to the same spot many times, with intervals of ~10 minutes. My folks keep hummer feeders and when we replenish them, they almost knock us over. They are not bashful at all and will even charge you near a feeder.

    When I shot some in AZ in the spring, I used fuji nph rated at 320, and a 300mm/4 lens on my Nikon F100, as I recall. If I had it to do over I would have used a faster lens or faster film, and I would have used a tripod- I got a tiny bit too much motion blur. I think I was a bit too excited about seeing them in such large numbers and most of the blur came from me! Also I wanted some wing blur, I think that is what is so interesting about them. Anyway, the little buggers literally flew within inches of my lens and inspected it, looked at me, explored some cactus flowers, and just buzzed around as if I weren't there. If I hadn't been rushed by my companions, I'm sure I would have gotten some better shots than I did, I had to do everything handheld.

    One small tip, I think they are very sensitive to red. You can take that as a plus or a minus. I wore a red shirt, thinking that it might actually attract them. I had no issues with them, they practically landed on me. Then one of the "pro" bird watchers said that I was scaring them away with my red shirt. On the contrary, I think they are very inquisitive and if you wear red they will come from larger distances to check things out.

    I actually found the hummers far more approachable than the finches and other desert birds that we saw.

    If you want to do a really professional job then a flash (or better yet, a group of flashes) and flash focuser is probably the best way to go. Especially with a focuser, you can probably do more with flash to freeze action than you can with shutter speed. I have done fireflies that way, it's easy. I really don't think you need a blind for hummers though, they are like fighter jets, they rarely concern themselves with big lumbering animals. I have watched and they care more about bees and wasps and other small birds than people.
     
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  9. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    You're spot on about red as an attractant. In fact we put a few drops of red food dye in the sugar water in our feeders in Copake which themselves have feeding outlets shaped like oversized red flowers.

    And you're correct about how hummers are truly fearless fliers. They are also extremely turf conscious.

    In the northeast US the only hummer is the ruby-throated (only the male has the color) and once one has claimed a feeder - it will defend that feeder as its own. If another male tries to feed there you get to witness some amazing aerial acrobatics like two jet fighter aircraft in a dogfight.

    Oh, of course, the male in charge will give the females access to the feeder - you know, wine 'em, dine 'em and bed 'em! :wink:

    We don't use feeders at our AZ house because our part-time visits there are too short and we wouldn't want to encourage dependency when we cannot keep a feeder filled. But they regularly visit the backyard - espescially since we re-landscapted the yard with native cacti and succulents.
     
  10. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, George, two female Ruby Throats visit our stand of Cardinal Flowers.

    They're every bit as territorial as the males. Sometimes, when I look out the window one of them is happily working on the plants, and then out of nowhere the other one zooms in and chases the second one away.

    keithwms, are your hummer shots critically sharp?
     
  11. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    One of the things I love is the way they chatter indignantly as the "turf owner" chases off the interloper. There's a lot of bird cursing going on during these "turf battles".

    We have a big old white birch tree about 40 feet from the feeders. The "resident" hummer will often "park" up there "on guard" and come swooping in when the interloper arrives at the feeder.

    Another interesting thing is that the feeder outlets have perches - and at times the hummer will actually alight onto the perch, stop beating her/his wings and feed - something that you wouldn't see when they feed at a real flower.

    I guess it's another testament to how fearless they sometimes can be....
     
  12. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Dan, I'd say they are not magazine-quality critically sharp- they could/should have been taken a stop or two faster. But I think I did fairly well for my first outing, and I found the birds very suprisingly approachable, actually much easier than others I've tried. Next time I'll nail them for sure.

    Anyway here are two shots.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Indeed they are quite vocal, once you recognize that sound you can find them easily. In many parts if the US, right now is the best time to find them, I think they have new offspring and will begin heading south in a month or so.

    There was a nat geo article on them recently that had some gorgeous detail shots, presumably taken with very good flash setups. One of the really surprising things to me in that article is that there is an andean hummer that is really big, and a Cuban one that is the size of a thumb.
     
  14. Trask

    Trask Subscriber

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    My parents live in Sierra Nevada foothills and have a fairly permanent resident h'bird population -- about ten of the little fellows zooming all over the place, especially as dusk approaches. We can go out on the deck and put our fingers near the feeder, and they'll land on them and look around. I guess the fact that my parents feed them daily and, at over 80, can't move fast enough to threaten them make them very tolerant of our being around. So I think the best trick is to find hummingbirds like these -- or go visit my parents!
     
  15. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    keithws, please don't take this as critical.

    When I started shooting freshwater fish in aquariums (mine, mainly) with flash I quickly solved the problem of getting the exposure right. Once over that hurdle, I was as delighted as could be with the results.

    But, y'know, after several months of serious practice and self-criticism aimed at making my fish shots better, also of careful comparison of my best yet with published pictures, I got to feeling a little ashamed of my first efforts. And of my second efforts. ... Since then I've sold fish pix to the slicks. But my early work really won't stand the light of day, except as teaching examples of what one goes through.

    My last couple of year's hummer shots won't stand the light of day, if I want to shoot 'em again I'm going to have to improve my technique a lot. Last year's were better, but I have a ways to go. As I thought I indicated in my first post in this thread.

    Getting the shot at all is a very important first step. But that's all it is. Work at it, think about what you're doing and what you're producing, and you'll do better.
     
  16. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Dan being critical is fine, I look at them critically as well. I didn't post 'em for critique for good reason :wink:

    The original question was what lens to use and my point is that these birds are amazingly approachable.

    In my first post I mentioned how much further one can go for professional results... tripod, flashes and flash focuser... faster lens and faster film... but if someone wants to see what a bumbling landscape guy can do with a handheld 300/4 without a flash, there ya go, blur and all :smile:
     
  17. wheelygirl

    wheelygirl Member

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    Keith, thank you so very much for the beautiful first-time shoots of Nature's "flying jewels"! You have given me, personally, a huge sense of hope: gee, maybe I can photograph those 'pretties'. Of course, only when it gets much cooler in central Arizona!!
     
  18. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    We have feeders about 2 feet from our front window and it is crazy with hummers at this time of year. It is like a beehive and they are forever chattering and chasing one another away. They even go after me from time to time when I get too close. I set-up my camera in the window and they get pretty used to us shooting them. It has become sport for my 3 year old and he has made some wonderful shots. Never too soon to get them started!
     
  19. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Bill, how about some medium or large format hummer shots? :wink:

    Actually, maybe that's not so crazy, with the fast flash synch you can get with leaf shutters...
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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  21. Confusion Circle

    Confusion Circle Member

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    There is someone on the FM forums who uses a 500mm f4 with extension tubes. Incredible shots.
     
  22. bob100684

    bob100684 Member

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    eeep expensive
     
  23. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Visit your local taxidermist. Shoot wide open and do the blur in PS.
     
  24. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    one of my student recently captured an excellent image of a hummmingbird with her 4x5 view camera.

    She had set the camera near the feeder for several days while she sat nearby. On the fateful day she sat and waited with a 25 foot air release, the camera shutter set for its fastest speed, 1/200 th second, aperture set appropriately, and when her prey hovered to feed, squeezed the bulb. The birds body is absolutely sharp and the wings show the movement necessary to distinguish this live bird from a stuffed one. A truly well done image.

    A second image made while the bird perched momentarily on the feeder is not nearly as interesting.