what would you do about hummingbirds?
a long lens so you dont scare them? or a macro so you can fill the frame with them?
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.
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.
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.
Last edited by David A. Goldfarb; 08-17-2007 at 12:25 PM. Click to view previous post history.
And lots of patience!
Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera
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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?
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?
Any shutter speed on a normal camera is too long, if you really want to stop the wings, hence the low power flash. You want more like 1/20000 sec.
Here are some suggestions from Moose Peterson--
And here's a page with detailed instructions--
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.
Last edited by keithwms; 08-17-2007 at 01:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
Originally Posted by keithwms
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!
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.
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?