Photographing Hummingbirds: A Pandemic Escape

Hummingbirds getting ready to migrate. (The right front is an adult male Rufous; the other three appear to be Broad bills.) © Debbie McCulliss
Hummingbirds getting ready to migrate. (The right front is an adult male Rufous; the other three appear to be Broad bills.) f/6.3, 250mm, ISO 640, 1/8000 sec. © Debbie McCulliss

By Debbie McCulliss

On the snowy first couple of weeks of this past spring, to lessen pandemic anxiety, I was thinking of migration—movement from one region to another. It was timely. Epic animal migrations take place every spring. Some of the feats that these animals accomplish, crossing oceans, traveling without stopping, are unthinkable. Their destinations are clear and instinctual.

But this spring was different. People all over the globe were migrating, many without a clear destination, back to their home continent, country, or state, not knowing if, when, or how their lives would be permanently or temporarily altered.

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NANPA Weekly Wow: Sept 19-26

Pholcid spider holding eggs in her jaws © William Tyler

Pholcid spider holding eggs in her jaws © William Tyler

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2016 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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Multi-flash Hummingbird Photography by Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

Images and Text by Nate Chappell

Photographing hummingbirds in flight in countries like Ecuador and Costa Rica with natural light or with just one flash can be very difficult. The reason – most of these birds live in the cloud forest where there isn’t much light due to both shade from trees and cloud cover. One solution for this, which creates beautiful flight shots, is a multi-flash hummingbird setup. By setting up several slave flashes set to 1/32 or 1/16 power around a hummingbird feeder or flower you can produce stunning images of hummingbirds in flight. The reason is that the flashes are actually synching at speeds of 1/8000 to 1/12,000 of a second changing the effective shutter speed from what is on your camera – let’s say 1/200 sec to the lightning fast speed of the flashes synching. The key to this is having the flashes produce all of the light, otherwise you will be mixing ambient light and flash lighting. In that case the 1/200 sec shutter speed will affect the image by causing blurring in parts of it. So you need to have your camera’s exposure set to at least -3 or -4 stops below the ambient lighting.Another helpful component is to have an artificial background – often a large printed photograph held a few yards behind the mutli-flash setup. Continue reading