Introduction to Hummingbird Photography
A friend from our local camera club invited me over to photograph hummingbirds in his backyard. He is an avid bird photographer and had quite the setup. Located in dense woods, it was a great location to attract these tiny birds. He had a quasi permanent set up to shoot from, being located under a portion of his home protected from any rain.
I always thought that you would need to use high shutter speeds to freeze the wings but that is not the case. The shutter speed was only set at 1/250th of a second. The key is using speed lights to freeze the movement. In this case four speed lights. ISO was set at 400 and I used an aperture of f/20. So how did we get the bokeh in the background? My friend had an enlarged photo of a blurred background hung from a light stand about seven feet behind the focus point. When you looked through the viewfinder, all you could see was the blurry background. Pretty slick.
He had all sorts of bird feeders set up. We were seeing woodpeckers only five feet from us along with bluebirds and many other types. Of course, there were several hummingbird feeders set up too. Once attracted to the feeder location, we swapped out the feeder for a flower squirted with sugar water. The hummingbirds just kept coming to the same location to continue feeding.
As stated, we used four speed lights. The flashes were not expensive in the least. Around $80 each I think. One was for the background and three for lighting the birds from each side and the bottom. Their power was set relatively low, only 1/16th power. I borrowed his Nikon 200-400mm lens to get in fairly close. The photo below was cropped to get in even tighter to show more detail. Then it was time to sit back in comfy lawn chairs and keep hitting the shutter every time the birds came around. Since we using low power on the flashes, the recycle time was very very short so you could press the shutter over and over without waiting for the flash. The birds didn't seem to mind the bursts of light at all. You can't time when to press the shutter so you hit it repeatedly and hope for the best. For my first attempt at photographing hummingbirds, I'm happy to have gotten a few keepers. The lens caught some incredible details in the feathers. Amazing.
Give it a try. Pretty fun.
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