Thursday, August 25, 2011

A hummingbird sampler

We have hummingbirds in our neighborhood year-round. There's one feeder hanging outside our master bathroom window, and another hanging in our back patio. They are constantly buzzing and chirping.

I use a tripod-mounted Nikon 300mm f/4 lens most of the time when photographing hummingbirds, although I have hand-held it on some occasions. Mounted on a Nikon DX DSLR, like my D300, the 300mm has an angle of view equivalent to a 450mm lens mounted on a 35mm film or full-frame DSLR. I can never get close enough to get some really cool shots taken by my friends that I've seen.

Usually the best light for me has been during the late-afternoon or early evening like this:

In the mid-summer's early evening the birds are backlit, which outlines them nicely but can pose an exposure problem:

In the former picture I did not add any exposure compensation, but in the latter picture I added one stop. I just took a picture, previewed it and looked at its histogram, then adjusted my exposure accordingly.

I've always liked this hummingbird picture best:

The light was wonderful in how it sculpted the shape of the bird and also how there is detail in the shadows and yet the highlights aren't overexposed.

Finally, I only have two flying hummingbird pictures that are worth sharing, so I picked this one:

I used shutter-priority on all these pictures because these birds are fast; just pick a fast shutter speed (like 1/1000 second or faster) and let the camera worry about picking the aperture.

(Shot with the Nikon D200 using a Nikon 300mm f/4 lens; shutter-priority with shutter speed set between 1/800 second and 1/1250 second; normal or fine JPG.)


  1. Beautiful shots! I just can't get close enough with my current lenses. A nice telephoto is next on my list. Maybe the new 200-400mm f/4L IS. Not sure if an f/2.8 is worth the exorbitant cost differential.

  2. Oh, I take that back. After reading a couple of reviews, it appears that lens is going to be in the $8000 range when it arrives later this year. Too rich for my blood.

  3. thanks. trying to get close enough reminds me of the hummingbirds that hung around my parents' place in the roaring fork valley. they were so tolerant of people being around; they'd land on your finger to drink from a feeder if you placed it close to one. the ones in our neighborhood are much more leery of people being around.

  4. I know there are a few hummingbirds around this area, but you hardly ever seen them. They definitely don't stay around long enough to get the camera handy to be able to get even a bad picture of them!

    I really love those shots you've gotten! I don't think I can pick a favorite in the group.

  5. The colors of the shot with the bird on the bird of paradise are lovely!

    I have a small stained glass bird with a bright red berry that is suction-cuped to my window. The hummers come within inches of the window, whether I'm on the other side or not, to look at the bit of red before flying away. :)

  6. i thought that was a picture just waiting to be taken because the green and orange of the birds-of-paradise mimicked the hummingbird. it just stayed there while i composed the shot. for a few moments i watched and enjoyed what i was seeing; if i didn't get a picture, it was no big deal. but i am glad that i did get it.

  7. So beautiful! I didn't know hummingbirds came in different colours. We sadly don't have them in New Zealand. And I've been trying unsuccessfully to grow a Strelitzia for about 25 years, grrr. I love them and I love these photos.