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Hummingbird photography

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Old Sunday 27th May 2018, 19:52   #1
49bentley
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Hummingbird photography

Hello,
I am going to Costa Rica next year again and want to get better shots of hummingbirds. I will be at places that have hummingbird feeders and some places where there are just plenty of flowers. Therefore I will not be able to set up 3-4 flashes with stands and shoot with 1/16 power (basically studio conditions) to totally freeze these little guys. Instead I will have my Canon 7D mkii, 100-400mm ii, and a Canon 600 exii-rt speedlite.
I was thinking I could shoot at 1/2000 or 1/3200 with flash in high speed sync to stop (or reduce wing blur).
Any ideas on this or any other method to get better hummingbird pictures would be appreciated.
Thanks
Chris

Last edited by 49bentley : Sunday 27th May 2018 at 23:19. Reason: typo should be 7d not 5d
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Old Monday 28th May 2018, 00:12   #2
Lisa W
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If you are in good lighting you could probably go at 1/1600 at ISO 400. That is what I used when I got this one. Set up on the flower or just off the feeder and then wait, which is very hard for me.
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Old Monday 28th May 2018, 00:39   #3
fugl
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Originally Posted by 49bentley View Post
Hello,
I am going to Costa Rica next year again and want to get better shots of hummingbirds. I will be at places that have hummingbird feeders and some places where there are just plenty of flowers. Therefore I will not be able to set up 3-4 flashes with stands and shoot with 1/16 power (basically studio conditions) to totally freeze these little guys. Instead I will have my Canon 7D mkii, 100-400mm ii, and a Canon 600 exii-rt speedlite.
I was thinking I could shoot at 1/2000 or 1/3200 with flash in high speed sync to stop (or reduce wing blur).
Any ideas on this or any other method to get better hummingbird pictures would be appreciated.
Actually, a little wing blur can be a plus as it can confer life and motion to a photo. Without it, hummer photos can look posed and lifeless especially when combined with fill flash. Just my 2¢, of course. . ..
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Old Monday 28th May 2018, 10:34   #4
49bentley
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Thanks Lisa and Fugl. By the way Lisa, great shot.
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Old Monday 28th May 2018, 13:59   #5
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Thanks Lisa and Fugl. By the way Lisa, great shot.
Thanks, I have never used a flash set up, or fill-in flash when photographing those little devils. But I also don’t mind a little wing blur.
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Old Tuesday 29th May 2018, 20:56   #6
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Another problem with flash photos is that the directed light sometimes changes how colors are reproduced by the camera. Green colors often become more golden. This is not necessarily wrong, but different from what I see through a pair of binoculars in most circumstances.

Whether you allow a feeder to be part of your photo or not is up to you.

Niels
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Old Tuesday 29th May 2018, 21:19   #7
49bentley
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Thanks Niels for your input.
Chris
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Old Wednesday 30th May 2018, 10:33   #8
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Like the others I wouldn't worry about wing blur necessarily - it can add to the impression of speed of movement.

In my experience what works well with hummingbirds depends on a number of factors that can vary a lot from location to location.

- What is the light like? Are the feeders shaded by trees or are they in the open? If the former you'll struggle between getting the exposure time down while not letting the iso rise too far. Flight pictures become tougher. A faster lens is better. Perched birds are much easier than flight shots when the light is bad. Do look around - hummingbirds, in particular the smaller species, are good at secreting themselves away on temporary perches while they wait to have another go at the feeder. Fill flash may hepl - in my experience birds are quite tolerant of this.

- How tolerant of human beings are the birds? I've been to places where they pass within centimetres of humans, and others where they won't even come in if there's somebody staying too close to the feeder. If the former than think about what you can make out of being able to get close - unusual feather detail, for example. I've had some luck with taking portraits of only the heads when the birds were on feeders in a way that there were no man-made structures in the shot. If you have to keep further away then try for approach shots. Some species will not perch long on the feeder, but they'll hover in front of this - again this gives a chance for flight pictures without the feeder in view (my strong preference is to avoid that - everything else is a record shot as far as I'm concerned).

- Flight shots without the `four flash setup' are tough because hummingbirds move so fast and unpredictably. Getting them into the viewfinder is hard, and the camera needs to be aimed at the subject to focus. Feeders help with predictability, so spend some time watching. Are there species which hover? Are there feeders where there's a particular approach line? Also, if you're in a very busy place you'll sometimes find birds squaring off against each other, which usually means some hovering, so it gives chances for flight shots.

- How busy are the feeders? How many are there? Are you spoilt for choice because there are always at least a dozen birds somewhere in view, or do you have to bid your time? I've experienced both. The latter is always a problem because it feels as if one is always in the wrong spot...

Do take a bit of time to study the set-up - I'm bad about just wanting to not miss a shot and that means I sometimes don't spend enough time planning. Later I realize there were opportunities I just didn't notice while I was present.

I think hummingbird photography is great fun, so I hope you'll have a good time.

Andrea
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Old Wednesday 30th May 2018, 11:22   #9
49bentley
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Thanks Andrea for the helpful advise.
Chris
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Old Thursday 7th June 2018, 22:21   #10
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Hi. Do you have an itinerary already planned for your trip to Costa Rica? I can help you to find some rare hummers and endemics in places that are perfect for taking pictures. I have beed guiding birders and photographers in Costa Rica for more than 20 years.
Best regards,
Alfredo Scott
www.watchingbirdscostarica.com
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Old Friday 8th June 2018, 14:11   #11
49bentley
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Hi Alfredo, we're going to be renting a car and traveling throughout CR for a month. Have not worked out the exact locations yet, but will be trying out some different locations from last year's trip. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Chris
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