The Hummingbird Project 1: First Attempts

Hummers AU11-4

Had a chance this morning to make a first tentative attempt at setting my “hummingbird” studio in motion. This “studio” involves trying to photograph hummingbirds with multiple flashes. I could only use two flashes today, because I didn’t have enough batteries for all three of my wireless receivers. The results were hardly spectacular, but were at least promising:

Hummers AU11-14

Hummers AU11-18

These are rather heavily cropped. They also suffer from a bit of available light “ghosting,” noticeable in the middle photo. There was just enough available light for a faint “ghost” of the wings to show up on the sensor. Hopefully, by adding a third flash, I can stop down a bit and take away the available light ghosting issues for good. Only possible negative is that I don’t think I can take these kinds of pictures in sunlight.

Using flash for photographing hummingbirds is essential if you wish to freeze the wings. Those wings move very very fast, too fast to be captured by the camera at a reasonable ISO. But if you power down a flash, the duration of the flash is so brief that it can freeze the wings. I powered both flashes to 1/8th full power, at which I get a flash duration of about 1/6000 of a second. If I get another flash into the hummingbird “studio” I can stop down the lens enough so that it doesn’t pick up any of the available light, only that which is illuminated by the flashes.

Another issue I ran into is the timidity of the birds. I was ten feet away from the feeder, and this particular heli-bird was rather nervous at having me so close. Yet I would really wish to get even closer, so I don’t have to crop so much. Six feet would be ideal. But will the birds let me get that close?