Hummingbirds!

January 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

One of the wonderful things about living in Ecuador is the incredible biodiversity, particularly when it comes to birds. There are companies set up to conduct tours just for bird watching; hummingbirds are one of the biggest draws here. They are amazing little things, with aerial acrobatics and all of their other differences from "regular" birds.

The challenging thing is photographing them. I've played around with a few different techniques and found something that seemed to work fairly well.

The following photo is from one of my first attempts - higher ISO, higher shutter speed, only natural light.

Great Sapphirewing, Yanacocha ReserveGreat Sapphirewing, Yanacocha Reserve

OK, so the head and eye are in focus, but the rest of the body is moving so quickly that it's out of focus.

What about adding flash? If I had dropped the money on a Canon flash, I could high-speed sync, which essentially fires a rapid burst of flashes to sync up with a higher shutter speed. But, I didn't do that. So what to do with a non-Canon flash with no high-speed sync?

After doing some research on-line, I decided to try to following configuration - max flash sync speed (1/250s), camera on shutter speed priority, and on-camera flash at 1/8 power. The lower flash power would give me a short burst of light (flash intensity tends to peak uickly and then taper off) and allow for multiple shots in quick succession. 

Here are a couple of examples from this configuration:

Hummingbird, butterfly farm, Mindo, EcuadorHummingbird, butterfly farm, Mindo, Ecuador Hummingbird, butterfly farm, Mindo, EcuadorHummingbird, butterfly farm, Mindo, Ecuador

In the top image, the back wing is not flashed and you can notice some movement in that wing, which illustrates what a difference the flash makes. All in all, I think it was a success! Now I just have to practice being able to track, focus, and photograph the birds!


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