Monday, August 24, 2009

Shooting Hummers

When I say I'm shooting hummers, I'm not talking about shooting the military-inspired (and utterly ridiculous) SUV. I'm talking about taking pictures of humming birds. Photographing hummers may be one of the single most difficult tasks in wildlife photography, especially if you're trying to get them in the air. You have to have lightening fast reflexes and really good camera equipment--I have neither.

To get good hummer shots, you need a fast shutter speed, which means you need a lens that can give you a really big aperture--and those lenses are expensive. You also need good, bright light, so I have to wait for a sunny day. Focusing becomes an issue as the little devils move so quickly, so I end up putting the camera on a tripod, focusing on the feeder, and then I start shooting anytime a bird flies by. Most of what I get are furry blobs, but every so often a bird will fly by the area in focus and I get an OK shot.

This series is of a male hummer, a little fellow who guards this feeder with all of his tiny heart, warding off all would-be sippers with a thrust of his needle-sharp bill and a series of raspy alarm calls. Despite his best efforts, however, other hummers manage to slip in for a drink.

There he is! up there in the left corner above the thistle feeder!

Now he's moved around to the front, choosing his perch.

Thrusters on!

Preparing for arrival!

I use a Perky Pet feeder, and I take off all the hoohaas like the yellow wasp cages (they can come loose and get stuck on the hummer's bills) and the goofy flower-shaped cups (they just collect nectar and water and bugs and poo). Also, I make my own nectar from baker's sugar (dissolves easily in tap water) and I don't add any coloring--the birds do just fine without it, and it's possible that it's not good for them.
This is the time of year when they're stocking up for their long trip south, so we're going through about 2 cups of nectar a day between our two feeders. When the hummers are gone, you can be sure that the frosts are not far behind.

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