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Thread: Hummingbirds

  1. #1

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    Hummingbirds

    Ghostly Wing
    HummingbirdsGear Down
    Hummingbirds

    I've been working off and on for the last week or so to get hummingbirds with the action frozen, using flash. I finally got some decent shots today. The setup used 4 strobes, two Vivitar 285s firing directly (hence the harsh light from the left), and a 580EX and a 430EX bounced off an umbrella. I have to fire some of the flashes directly, because I need to keep the flash output low (all are set manual, 1/16 power) for the short burst.

    You can see the wing in the first one: that's probably because the ambient light was only about 1 1/2 to 2 stops below the flash output, so when the wing was at the end of its motion, it showed up. Sort of a neat effect.

    These are either female or immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I did try to cut down the noise Neat Image, but I wanted to keep the sharpness, so perhaps I should have gone farther.

    C&C most welcome.

    Cheers,
    Rick

  2. #2
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: Hummingbirds

    Hi Rick,

    We do not get Hummingbirds down her in Australia but I am off to Galapagos and Costa Rica next year. I understand there is a Hummingbird garden in Costs Rica which I am going to spend some time at. I do enjoy bird photography and got some great shot of Australian birds and also from my trip to Africa 2 years ago. I do like trying to capture them in flight.

    I will not have the set up you are talking about. I will be carrying Nikon D300s and SB800 speed light. Any tips would be more than welcome.

  3. #3

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    Re: Hummingbirds

    Hi, Peter;

    The camera/flash setup should work fine for good pics of the bird in flight, with the wings blurred. Steve S does beautiful hummingbird pics, for example this thread. It's much the way they look in real life. I took some similar to this, but nothing I thought worth posting, partly because we haven't gotten any mature males at the feeder (that wonderful red throat). So I used the multi-flash setup to freeze the wings for something different.

    My wife has taken some shots of these birds with her G11, and discovered that: 1) they're actually a little easier to get close to than other birds, maybe because they're so fast; and 2) auto focus doesn't work at all. I imagine the birds at a hummingbird garden will be quite used to people, so getting close should be pretty easy. On the auto focus, your D300 may do better than her G11 (a bridge camera). I haven't tried auto-focus with my 500D, but in a similar situation (larger bird, but farther away), auto-focus with the 500D didn't work.

    Cheers,
    Rick

  4. #4
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: Hummingbirds

    Thanks Rick, I wouldn't have thought about the auto-focus issue. I suppose I would have had to work it out in the field but it is good to be forewarned. I like to try and plan my shots, if I can.

  5. #5

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    Re: Hummingbirds

    It's probably something you can experiment with a bit. A sparrow or something at 5m probably fills about as much of the frame as a hummingbird at 3m. My wife had no trouble being as close as 3m, as long as she sat still for a little while. So if you can auto-focus on a perching bird like a sparrow or wren at 5m, you can probably auto-focus on a hummingbird.

    I'm hoping Steve chimes in: I don't know whether he uses auto or manual. I use manual with the 500D, since I'm set up with a remote release focused on a feeder. You can probably set up your focus point similarly, since they'll be around certain bushes, I assume.

    Cheers,
    Rick

  6. #6

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    Re: Hummingbirds

    Hi rick, i see you've been bitten by the hummingbird bug............

    They are a blast to shoot , but very difficult to get a great shot.( it usually take me quite a few exposures to get a good one i like.)

    As you can see from your flash exposures, they don't look too natural. Flash always gives that greenish yellow and the eyes are usually screwed up from it. I pretty much gave up on flash.

    Shooting off a feeder makes it tough because i hate having the feeder in the shot. You have to time your shot and catch them far enough away to crop the feeder out. I've found if you cut the little landing rings off the feeder, they will feed with an in and out motion and allow you to get more shots as they move away from the feeder( inbetween drinks.)


    As far as shooting setup , i shoot in AV mode, spot metering(i meter off the head and adjust the exposure comp to get the exposure i want.), I use a monopod for support, set my focus search to off in the menu ( this will limit the focus to a very short range and allow you to focus quicker----you have to get the focus close manually before the auto focus will take over, My lens is a 300 f/4L + 1.4TC shooting from about 12 feet from the feeder( it takes a while for them to get use to you, but they will come close after awhile, my background is a row of pine trees about 20 yards behind the feeder to give a nice blur ( i like the green background and the distance gives a better blur ), I set up for a nice cross light to give a catchlight in the eye, It takes a ton of light , the brighter the better---i have found that hard sunlight works the best especially when they turn their back to you, you'll get an explosion of color off the back., my f stop is between f/9 and f/13 depending on how much light i have(you need the depth of field because of the close shooting distance) The problem i have is slow shutter speeds even in bright afternoon sun.(the color of the background has a direct effect on the shutterspeeds---if you skylight the bird your shutter speeds will come up alot). I usually shoot in bursts to try and catch a well focused image, alot of them will be trash but if you catch one just right it will be a real keeper.

    I think next time, i'll try some reflectors and maybe some spot lights and see what happens.

    Good luck, hope this helps

  7. #7

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    Re: Hummingbirds

    Thanks, Steve, that's very helpful.

    That yellow tinge might come from the sideways incidence of light from the flashes: perhaps I'll try raising the flashes higher, see if that improves the color fidelity.

    I agree that the shots without the feeder are more impressive, but shots with the feeder can be interesting, too. I leave the perch rings on. As some of the hummingbird feeding sites say, why not give the birds a chance to rest? And I only take pictures occasionally, whereas (I hope) they use the feeder a lot. It would be nice to find a feeder with removable perches, but I've never seen one.

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    Re: Hummingbirds

    Thanks to both of you I am following with interest.

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