Hummingbirds and red tubular flowers are a classic combination. They will feed at other kinds of flowers, but in this hemisphere, they form a symbiotic ecological system. Hummingbird migrations tend to be timed approximately at times which coincide with abundant blooms of suitable flowers. Some homo sapiens have entered into the relationship to supplement this natural system with bird feeders, and non-native species of appropriate flowers. Almost all species of flower may be of some interest to a hummingbird, but most are only of value because of the insects they harbor. If you were a tiny insect, then you would consider a hummingbird to be a terrifying carnivore, if you had the capacity to formulate such a thought!
This Autumn, I was late to begin photographing the birds, and have missed the migration of most of the mature males, who have the "namesake" iridescent ruby feathers at the throat, and and are the first to migrate in the fall. Hopefully, I'll have some next year!
I never see the migrating birds in the spring. I've got lots of hummingbird preferred flowers in the fall, but I heard "rumors" on the internet that the birds northward and southward migration paths are NOT the same. That could explain it. I would like more information on the specifics, if you can refer me to it. Although the "initial" migration of hummingbirds is well documented, it would also be of interest to know the "amplitude" of the migration from one year to the next, in a given location, and also gender of the birds reported, if known. Since immature birds are difficult to distinguish from females, this might be somewhat vague.
| Some technical
The bird was photographed with a fairly standard setup, which consists of a Canon D60 camera, Two Canon 550EX flashes, and sometimes a white card is used for a background. In this setup, the white card was close enough to the bird to for bright gray background. This is a bright gray background. It can be edited digitally, if desired, to substitute a "fake" background which appears more natural. Alternately, the feeder and flowers could be removed digitally, to produce an image showing only the bird itself.
The flashes are set on manual exposure, at the lowest possible power, which is 1/128 with my Canon flashes. This makes the flash light very brief, about 1/20000th of a second, which can show some detail in the wings of a hummingbird.
The slave flash is quite close to the bird, about 7 inches, or so, and set on 105 mm setting, so that the light will be concentrated. in a small area. The master flash, in this case, was on my camera, not my preferred setup. and not as close to the bird. This shot makes me happy that I decided to take some photos, rather than build my flash bracket. (I'd misplaced the one I had built previously.)
The camera is pre focused on the where the bird is expected to be. Very often, between "sips", he will hover several inches back from the feeder. This is particularly true if your feeder doesn't have a perch. The perch rings are removed from most of my feeders, or a piece of red tape covers a feeding port I don't want the bird to use.
I mostly use a "saucer" style hummingbird feeder, which was concealed partially in this shot by placing one of the blooms which attracts the hummers, in this case a scarlet sage. This improves the "educational" value of the photo, and increases it's cosmetic appeal. However, it can detract from the "scientific" value of the image. If you know your flowers well, you'll note that the flowers on the left are "upcurving", but curve down when the flower is upright. The flower's stem is usually mostly vertical, so the horizontal stem would be atypical, anyway.
This detail photo shows the shot at the full resolution of the image. Note the detail visible in the eyelashes.
This is my favorite hummingbird shot, so far this year, in terms of composition and grace.
I'm particularly fond of the shape of the bird in this pose. The "swoop" (dihedral") in the wing tips is quite pleasing to the eye. Not that a hummingbird depends on dihedral for flight stability! Being so small, and quick, a hummingbird's flight is not the same as other birds. At that size, the viscosity of air is much more significant a force than with other birds, and the hovering modes of flight are akin to "sculling" when paddling a canoe. A figure 8 motion, and rotating the angle of attach to keep the leading edge in front on the trailing edge on both the forward stroke and back stroke. However, all of this is subject to instant variations to adjust the flight as needed, to maneuver agilely in a territorial battle, to hover upside down to feed from a difficult flower, or to perform abrupt maneuvers to escape the unidentified click of a camera.
|This bird was
shot with nearly
the exact same setup as the bird above, as you might suspect from the
fact that it's exactly the same bird, with exactly the same pollen
clump stuck on his beak. I suspect that the yellow pollen is goldenrod,
which is not a nectar source, but is a source of insects. There are a
few other flowers in my garden which might have the yellow pollen, but
mostly I have Cardinal Vine, and Scarlet sage, and I don't think that
their pollen is yellow.
In this shot, you can see why I might use a light gray background. I've changed the gray to a blue, to simulate the sky. Perhaps the color is somewhat off, for a "classic" sky. And the whit area at the lower left would be quite unnatural in any natural sky. However, most people wouldn't notice these things, and my "simplistic" objective was to change the color composition to a "fundamental" triad, Red, Green and Blue.
I might have gone somewhat further with digital editing, and removed the detail of the feeder, below the flowers, but I haven't done so. It hardly seems worth the trouble, since they aren't very noticeable. It's somewhat draw your eye away from the bird to the flower, and even harder to look at the space under the flower.
Birds may quickly learn to disregard the flash and click of being photographed. The click seems more startling to them, which is why my Canon 100 mm macro lens is ideal for the purpose of taking "studio" flash shots of them. The flash can be as close as they need to be to produce correct exposure, and the camera can be a bit further back, to reduce noise, and to give a better chance of getting the whole bird in the frame.
The grey background in this image from a "slightly underexposed" white card has been digitally replaced with this blurred background. It's an example of how a more natural "looking" background can be substituted (with some effort) on a digital image with a plain background. The outline of the trailing edge of the far wing is not quite "tight" enough, so that it has a "grey halo" where the edge of the feathers hasn't been accurately located. This is a somewhat difficult process. This photo has also been altered to hide the feeder in the lower right corner with digitally substituted blooms.
I like the "lacy veil" transparency demonstrated by the ability to see eye detail and the head and beak through the wing. There's a photo below which provides a "magnified view" of the detail around the head of the bird, to show better why the wing is transparent.
was taken in
daylight. However, the background is not
sufficiently illuminated by the flash, being too far away, and
therefore is nearly black. (Remember the Inverse Square law from
natural science, optics, geometry, and physics. How many times does it
take, anyway? Perhaps just a few more!) because of the strong dark
green in this background, and the strong green light "bleeding" through
the wings, this background could be fairly seamlessly switched with
another image chosen to provide a dark green image.
The main flash in this photo was below the bird. There was a "secondary" flash located on the top of the camera. That's not optimal, and the darkness of the top of this bird illustrates that fact.
to the right of the image above there's a full resolution
detail of the image above. You can see that the image of the bird's
head, eyes, and the base of the beak is seen through lacy "holes' in
the structure of the feather of the bird. On the other hand, the
brighter "white" lines on the feather shafts and feather tips are
places where geometry and gaps in the feathers provide a reflection of
the flash's light. They're useful for observing the following fact: the
edge of a bird's flight feather isn't particularly "feathery" at all,
as most people mean the word. The barbs and mini barbs (barbules?) lock
together, and the wing tip is mostly a smooth curve, at the macroscopic
The micro-structure of the feather is opaque or translucent, for the most part, at least in macroscopic detail, depending on just how you define translucent.
is a shot at very high
magnification of the feathers at the bottom of the bird's back and tip
of the tail, as seen from directly behind the bird. You'll note that
the feathers aren't particularly "feathery" at all, as I believe that
people mean it, except as you see them at the left side of the image,
which is toward the top of the bird. Most of the feather tips on the
back of the bird aren't as tightly locked together along the perimeter.
However, the bird's flight feathers have generally smooth edges, which
are locked together by the barbs, (The flight feathers include
the tail, which serves rudder
and keel, or horizontal and vertical stabilizer to the bird.