This photo is the result of trial and error that basically took me all day to get. I achieved part of my goal (freezing the hummingbird wings) but the other part of my goal I did not. My next goal is to figure out how to light that beautiful red gorget for maximum color. This photo was created partly from hummingbird photo tips from one of my favorite hummingbird photographers Gregory Scott and partly from lots of patience. Check out Gregory Scotts amazing work HERE. Not only are his photos amazing but he's a great human being as well, willing to share tips with other photographers to help them rather than keeping all of his photo secrets to himself. I wanted to pay it forward so here are some tips that will hopefully help another photographer who loves these little flying gems as much as I do.
One of the tips I learned from Gregory Scott was to use a macro lens to get great detail. Most people including myself believed that you needed a really long telephoto to get hummingbird shots but this is not always the case. For this photo I used a 105 mm 2.8 macro lens on a tripod. The reason for the macro lens is detail. You can set his to a really large f-stop number like 18- 22 and this helps a lot with your depth of field for focusing so if you prefocus the focus is a little more forgiving. The camera was set 3-4 feet away from the feeder. I prefocused in the area where I wanted the hummingbird to hover and sat in a chair with my cable release in hand and waited and shot and waited and shot until I got the right combination of the little flying gem hovering where I wanted and the light to freeze the wings.
The settings for this photo were F-stop 18, shutter speed 320, ISO 200 and 3 flahes set to manual 1/32 power including the on camera pop up flash that triggered the other two Nikon S-B800 flases. I also used a piece of foam core board that you could purchase at any craft store for the back ground. The back ground was placed about 4 or 5 feet away from the feeder where I was trying to get the hummingbirds to hover.
Most people think that hummingbird flight is frozen with a fast shutter speed but that is not the case. It's flash duration that freezes the wings. And believe it or not this is done but setting the flash to a lower power rather than higher power. Bigger isn't always better. These settings are not written in stone as far as the camera settings so put your camera on manual and just take some test shots to get the light to where you want it by adjusting the shutter speed and f stop combos until you get what you want. I also used the lowest ISO I could because these keeps the noise down.
In order to get the flahses to do what you want, you need to have control over the light which you can't do in sunlight. I shot this in the shade on a cloudy day and I had the best results around 4 pm when the sun behind the clouds went behind the house. These were all shot on our deck using the shade from eves of our house but you could do this in your yard if you have deeply shady spot. I used a sprig of flowers inserted into a hummingbird feeder port and I taped off the other 3 ports to get the hummingbird to hover where I wanted.
I photograph on a budget so I have two tripods and two off camera flashes. I used one tripod for the camera and another for one of the flashes but since I only have two tripods for my 3rd tripod I used the arm of a chair and some electrical tape to hold the flash in place. The other part of my studio was the piece of white foam core board that I used for the back ground.
I hope these tips are helpful to others learning their way in photography and on a budget like myself. I'd like to be able to afford more flashes but in the mean time I'll make due with what I have and continue to try to get the most of what I have.
Thanks for stopping by to read my blog and for following my progress as a nature photographer. If you'd like to see more of my work, click on the photo below.