Monday, October 31, 2016

Shooting Hummingbirds.

I made a video of hummingbirds buzzing about our backyard.  I'm fascinated by hummingbirds, tiny bundles of iridescent fluff with high-speed aerobatic talent.

Weve installed a number of feeders - I call them "hummingbird traps" - to encourage these mini-birdies to choose our backyard as the place to hang out.   And this year has been a banner year for quantity of hummers in the backyard.

Don't imagine that we've had hummingbird swarms (like you might see on YouTube).  I'm grateful just to see five or six of the little fighter-pilot critters all dive bombing at once.  That represents a big population increase over previous years.

In a moment of weakness I resolved to get a stop-action picture of a hummer in mid-flight.

What's more, I would use the point'n'shoot in my pocket to take the picture.

Frankly this turned out to be quite a challenge given that I was using a camera which literally fits in my jeans.

My criteria were pretty simple: I wanted a picture of a hummingbird in flight showing its wings in focus without any blurring.  This was a difficult task given my limited patience, expertise and equipment.

It became immediately apparent that there was no way I could get an in-focus shot while the bird was flying.  They're just too fast.  I would have to wait with my camera trained on one of the feeders, poised for instant action when a bird decided to drop by for a wee drink.

My point'n'shoot's fastest shutter speed is 1/2000th of a second, barely up to the challenge.  And there needs to be full sunlight to get a decent picture at that speed.

Did I mention there is going to be a video?  If you make it through all these still pictures and silly comments you can watch the video.  Or you can just scroll down.

Also don't forget that you can click on any picture to see an enlargement.

Our hummers are mean little critters who try to chase the other thirsty hummingbirds away from the sugar juice in the feeders.  It's just simple sugar water.  I mix the magic potion myself (Secret formula: 1 part granulated sugar and 4 parts tap water.)

In fact, this is the first year I can remember having multiple birds on a feeder at the same time.  They're fighting over sugar water!  It must be high energy stuff.  I suppose they get their protein and fiber from eating insects.

Watching these bird brains' high velocity antics as they pursue one another over who gets the soft drink made me turn to video.

Yeah, my pocket point and shoot does video too.  No, not great video.  What did you expect?  Did I mention that the camera fits in my pocket?

Anyway, I edited together short clips of birdies feeding on sugar drink as they anxiously keep a lookout for enemy hummers who might swoop down on them at any moment and chase them away faster than a human eye can blink.   It's a tough life being a hummingbird.

I think this next shot is my best picture of stopped hummingbird wings.  Too bad the head is obscured by the metal post of the feeder.

The final still is my luckiest shot.  You can see the bird and the feeder and you can see the shadows in the lower left.  Got that?  Now look closely at the light fixture in the upper left corner and you'll see both the bird and feeder reflected upside down in the glass.  Three in one.  Cool.

I remember mentioning something about a video.  It will give you some idea of what the hummingbirds in our backyard are up to these days.  They're really into sugar water.

(A word of warning - in order not to scare the hummers off most of the video was taken with high zoom magnification.  That means there's a lot of camera shake.  Sorry about that.  Someday maybe I'll find a tripod that I can carry around in my pocket.)

Birds Who Don't Know The Words 2 - by David Ocker - © 2016 David Ocker - 167 seconds

Previous Mixed Meters stories about Hummingbirds:
The story of Red Thor, a hummer who thought he owned our driveway - (also a crow).
The original Birds Who Don't Know the Words from 2007 (my first attempt to add music to a video) 

Our backyard has been a fertile source of inspiration for Mixed Meters over the years.  Here are posts with music videos inspired by the back of our house:
The Mister and Mockingbirds - listening to the birds while watering the ferns
Breezes in the Danger Garden - like hummingbirds, plants can eat insects
The Parrot Duet - two parrots on a wire plus a piano and a trumpet.  And some drums.  And another bird.
All my videos with my music are available here.

My friend Eric Peterson has a blog called The Odd Sock in which he publishes lots of fascinating nature photos all taken in his neck of the woods.  Eric has unlimited patience, remarkable technical expertise and the proper equipment for taking pictures.  That's why his shots are so much better than mine.  I recommend that you check out his pictures.


Frank Ostlinger said...

Mr. Ocker,
I'm a lifelong birdwatcher and -photographer, and these are lovely photos! In addition to your lucky shot, I particularly like #5 and 8 from the top, and #3 from the bottom. Thank you for sharing them!

David Ocker said...

Thank you Frank. Your comment is much appreciated, especially from an FZ fan.

ericnp said...

Thank you very much for the kind plug, David. Here's a direct link to my "best of" blog entry for hummingbirds. That's a few years old now, it's probably about time for a "better best of" entry.