Hummingbird Help

SCraig

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
6,474
Reaction score
2,450
Location
Nashville, TN
Website
sc-photo-tn.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Sunday I decided to go get some photographs of Hummingbirds. I knew the perfect place at a Nature Center that has about a dozen Hummingbird feeders set up. I went a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday morning but the place was packed, people everywhere and the birds somewhere else waiting for them to leave. I read on their web site that the Nature Center is closed on Sunday so I headed over there early Sunday morning and it was perfect, not a soul there but me and Hummingbirds everywhere.

I set my D7000 up on my tripod along with my 70-300 zoom and SB-700. My tripod was about 10' from the feeder I chose and I was another 10' feet away triggering it with a wireless remote. I shot in shutter priority at 1/500 second and ISO 800 and used my SB-700. I added +0.7 EV because I wanted the exposure as far to the right of the histogram as I could get it, and then compensated in post processing. The aperture was showing f/6.3 so the DOF was pretty narrow (about 4" each side of the focal point), but Hummingbirds are small and I knew EXACTLY to the fraction of an inch where they were going.

Here's an example of what I got:

2012-08-26-15.jpg


And I'm not real thrilled with the sharpness of the bird. Typical story, they looked good on the LCD, even zoomed way in, but not as sharp when I got them home.

The yellow bumps on the feeder are a plastic flower with a hole that leads into the fluid the birds feed on. I KNEW that this was exactly where the birds would fly to so that was my focal point. As can be seen the feeder is in sharp focus, as is the yellow flower. The bird is on the same plane as the feeder so I don't think the lack of sharpness of the bird is DOF-related but I'm not ruling it out.

One thing I know for a fact is that I had VR turned ON. I realized that on the way home and since the camera was on a tripod that might have contributed to the lack of sharpness. Again, since the feeder is so sharp I don't think so though.

I'm wondering whether or not using 1/500 with the flash could have caused part or all of the problem. I have Auto FP enabled on my camera so it will easily synch at that speed, but it is going to pulse. I don't know how fast it will pulse so I don't know if that could be part of the problem or not.

Additionally, it could just be as simple as 1/500 second not being fast enough. Those birds are AMAZINGLY fast. I shot a bunch of frames and "Watched the birdie" while I was shooting. If a bird was in the position shown in the photo above when I triggered the camera, by the time the light from the flash faded (which is not very long!) it would be on the other side of the feeder and I never saw them move. Just kind of a "Zap!" from one side to the other.

I'm going to try and go back Sunday and see if I can do better. The Nature Center has a large porch around it with a covered patio in the back and that's where I shot from. It was somewhat dim, which is primarily why I used a flash, but I don't want to shoot from the other direction because I'd rather have trees as a background than the building.

So what do you guys think? DOF? Plain old motion blur? Shutter speed just too slow? High speed flash synch? Something else? I'd appreciate any advice.
 

tirediron

Watch the Birdy!
Staff member
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2005
Messages
45,747
Reaction score
14,800
Location
Victoria, BC
Website
www.johnsphotography.ca
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
I've only ever found two ways to get sharp hummingbird shots. One is in bright sun and crank the shutterspeed up to 1/2000+ the other is by using multiple lights on as low a setting as possible (shortest flash duration), and maxing your sync speed. In either case, I set up the camera, lights (if used) and rig it all up with a remote release and leave it (sometimes you have to for hours). Once the birds are comfortable with it, stay as far away as you can and still see the scene and work the remote...
 

Railphotog

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
May 7, 2011
Messages
383
Reaction score
107
Location
Atlantic Canada
Website
sites.google.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Shooting hummers is mostly a matter of shooting a lot and picking the ones that are OK. Read an article by a photographer in "Birds & Blooms" magazine where he said that if he gets a few good shots out of a hundred he's satisfied. Been there, done that!
 
OP
SCraig

SCraig

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
6,474
Reaction score
2,450
Location
Nashville, TN
Website
sc-photo-tn.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Thanks guys. Actually I did shoot a bunch a pick the best ;) I think I shot about 200 frames and there were a lot like the one above. "Friends and Family Decent" but otherwise not really acceptable.

Tirediron I can do that. I can use two off-camera speedlights and I've managed to synch at 1/2000 before, but at a closer range. I don't know if it will synch that fast at that distance, I haven't tried it.

These birds are really not at all frightened of people as long as the people aren't everywhere. When I was there a couple of weeks ago there were probably a dozen people, some with kids running around and a couple with dogs chasing everything in sight. Needless to say the Hummingbirds stayed away. Sunday the Hummers were EVERYWHERE. There are probably a dozen feeders hanging on the building so the birds were spread out among them. Even so there was probably one landing on the feeder I was using about every 15 seconds or so. They weren't frightened of me either. I was standing right in front of another feeder, and I kept hearing them buzzing up and feeding from it. They make a tiny little "Cheep" sound and I could hear that as well as their wings buzzing right behind my head. It was really cool which is why I want to go back and get some good shots of them.

Thanks for the help guys. I'll try two strobes and max the shutter speed and see how that goes.
 

Don Kondra

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
1,637
Reaction score
904
Location
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Website
donkondra.weebly.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Some ramblings for you Scott :)

Shooting hummingbirds with flash/strobe is no different that shooting portraits, set up your lights and background appropriately at a location and hope for a model.

In my opinion the problem with flash is if it is not done properly the results are poor. The colors may be fine but the detail is flat.

I much prefer to shoot without.

The trick is to observe how they feed.

They will move in to sip and then move back for a second, hoover and then move back in.

This transition is when you can be prepared to shoot. The feeder is out of frame, if you are prepared you can nail them with auto focus and not rely on a remote and capturing them in the DOF. Prefocus on the feeder and be ready :)

Their wings also seem to be moving at a slower pace at transition and can be captured with relatively slow speeds. I prefer to see some motion rather than freezing the action.

This is at 1/640.

Hummertwo25June2011.jpg


At some point you may become more selective about when and where you shoot, ie., the full color of the males gorget is only visible with the light from the right direction.

Hummer22June2011.jpg


This next "trick" may not be appropriate for a public location but you can hang a branch near a feeder and they will soon stage on the branch before and after feeding.

You would think you could get away with bringing a "stick" and a light stand :)

Even narrow DOF works if the "eye" is sharp.

Hummeronbranch.jpg


This can lead to some interesting behavioral shots even under poor light conditions.

Groom3FS-1.jpg


Hope this helps.

Cheers, Don
 

CowgirlMama

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Jan 13, 2012
Messages
338
Reaction score
53
Location
In the Middle of Nowhere
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
I'm going to be shooting some hummingbirds tomorrow, so I'm really glad this thread popped up! Great advice Don. Thanks!
 

bratkinson

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Dec 4, 2011
Messages
1,642
Reaction score
318
Location
Western MA
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Incredible shots, Don!

WOW!
 
OP
SCraig

SCraig

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
6,474
Reaction score
2,450
Location
Nashville, TN
Website
sc-photo-tn.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
BTW, your image is not visible to me using "show image" or "properties - copy/paste in new tab"

IE9

Cheers, Don
My stupid web site was down for a while last night. I sent them an email about 9:30 CDT and they got it back up some time during the night. It's becoming an all to common occurrence and I'm starting to get annoyed with my hosting service.

Your shots are great, and the information is very useful. Thanks for providing it. One thing I was unsure of was whether it was possible to get good shots of them down in the 1/500 second range (or 1/640) and now I know that it can be done. I don't want to lose the motion blur in the wings but I do want to lose it in the bodies of the birds.

I did notice the same scenario that you mentioned. They would pause by the feeder and hover, then take a drink, and hover again. I was trying to shoot them at that transition position but didn't do nearly as good a job as you did.

Also, at this particular site I'm pretty limited on the light and will pretty much have to use artificial light. The building has a walkway down the side and a large covered concrete patio in the rear. The feeders are hung along the edge of the walkway and covered patio. There are about 6 steps down to ground level so the feeders are several feet over my head when I'm on the ground. I don't want to shoot up at them and, as I said earlier, I'd rather have the trees for a background than the building. This pretty much limits me to shooting from the patio or walkway, and it's pretty dim there.

I'll see what I can do though. I've gotten some good advice from several people and I'll see if I can make it work. Thanks for the help.
 

Kolia

No longer a newbie, moving up!
Joined
Jul 19, 2011
Messages
682
Reaction score
54
Location
Ohio
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Good topic Scott, and great feedback from everybody.

My first attempt at hummingbirds was handheld handheld and pretty useless ! This topic will help a lot !
 
OP
SCraig

SCraig

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
6,474
Reaction score
2,450
Location
Nashville, TN
Website
sc-photo-tn.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Second attempt .... I combined the advice from both of you. Cloudy and rainy this morning so no chance of using natural light so these were all with my SB-700 on camera. I had my light stands and second speedlight but the birds were going from feeder to feeder to I decided to try and wing it.

All three were shot in shutter priority auto at 1/1000 second, f/4.8 to 5.3, ISO 800, and 155-200mm. I was using my tripod but it wasn't locked on one feeder, I was moving among several of them. I shot a bunch, got a bunch of decent shots that were a lot better than last week thanks to you guys. I think these were the three best of the bunch though. Still not great but a huge improvement over last week.

2012-09-02-08.jpg


2012-09-02-10.jpg


2012-09-02-11.jpg
 
OP
SCraig

SCraig

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
6,474
Reaction score
2,450
Location
Nashville, TN
Website
sc-photo-tn.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Images don't show and both links in your signature don't work.

Try Photobucket.
It must have just been momentary since I never noticed it. I'm about to come down hard on my hosting service. They started out 100% reliable and are falling hard now.

I'll pass on Photobucket, but thanks for the advice.
 

Don Kondra

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
1,637
Reaction score
904
Location
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Website
donkondra.weebly.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
The reason I mention Photobucket is so I will at least be able to see the images...

Hummers.jpg


EDIT - for some reason the only way I can view your images is with Jeffrey's Exif Viewer.

Cheers, Don
 
Last edited:

Most reactions

New Topics

Top