I photographed Allen’s Hummingbirds in my front yard. We have them year round, but there is an increase in numbers around August with some migrating south for the winter. They are extremely territorial and spend most of their time chasing away other hummingbirds. It takes standing approx 12 feet away from the flowers and waiting for sometimes hours to catch them feeding. If you try to approach closer they fly away. I was using a Canon 1dx II with a 300 mm f2.8 lens and 1.4 extender usually 1/2000 sec to freeze the wings.
We photographed Birds in the Cloud Forests and Subtropical areas in Ecuador including the Tandayapa Valley, Guango, Rancho Suamox, Milpe, and San Tideo, Papallacta Pass, and Antisana. Elevations ranged from 1200 ft to 14,000 ft. The lodges we stayed at were at around 8,000 ft and 6500 ft. The trip was with Tropical Birding and they did an excellent job of taking us to various habitats and getting us close to the birds. Our guide was Pablo Cervantes who is an excellent photographer and helped to find the target birds. I used my 300 mm f 2.8 lens with and without a 1.4 extender or 2 x extender. As I process more of my images I will post more over the next few weeks.
New photos of Anna’s Hummingbird nest and Allen’s Hummingbird
male Allen’s Hummingbird
You can never get enough hummingbird photos so when I have a chance I try for better shots. The technique I used this time is called the ” Patience technique”. Notice which flowers the hummingbirds are feeding and you sit quietly( in one position) in front of the flowers and wait for the birds to feed. In this case usually every 15 to 20 min the same hummingbird will come back. I took me about 45 min to get these shots, all with a 400 mm lens.
In early April we traveled to SE Arizona (SE of Tucson) to Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. This is one of the “mountain islands” ( higher elevation areas than the surrounding desert) where species from the Sierra Madera Occidental of Mexico range northward into the U.S.
You can stay at the 5000 ft elevation Santa Rita Lodge, which caters to birders, with lots of hummingbird and other feeders to attract birds from the surrounding wilderness or Madera Kubo Bed and Breakfast just up the road. Both are reasonably priced and comfortable spots to spot some of the birds including the Elf Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl, the Elegant Trogon, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Lucifer Hummingbird, Blue-throated Hummingbird, and 10 more Hummingbirds (mostly Summer). You can hike the canyon woodlands for many miles or hang around your motel and see many birds in your own “backyard”. Many rare birds show up during the late Winter and Spring migration. It is cooler here than Tucson in the Spring and Summer and can snow in the Winter.
We used a guide- Laurens Halsey of Desert Harrier Birding and Nature Guides http://www.desertharrier.com/ who was very knowledgeable and helped us find the Elegant Trogon and many other difficult to find rare birds. If you have limited time an expert who knows the local area can save you time and enable you to find and photograph birds that you might not find on your own.
We saw this Vermillion Flycatcher at Lake Patagonia ( about 1 hr drive from Madera Canyon)
When we hiked at the lower elevation of Madera Canyon road we were chased by this skunk for at least 1/4 mile all the way back to our car. I guess it didn’t like being photographed! He would not give up, and it was both comical and dangerous; as it might have been rabid. Skunks normally can spray if you corner one but aggressively chasing people is not typical behavior
Attract hummingbirds to your yard with feeders and have other flowering plants nearby (reds or oranges). Instead of shooting while they are on the feeders wait until they back away just a little and then shoot to avoid having the feeder in the shot. Autofocus on the bird in the correct position and then switch to manual focus to avoid losing focus to the distant background.
My goal when photographing birds is to avoid unnatural backgrounds including feeders.
Another approach is if there is one shrub or flower that a hummer frequents then sit or stand quietly and be focused and ready for the bird when it feeds. They are more likely continue feeding if you don’t approach any closer. Try and keep the sun behind you so that the bird is lit from the front or side which can show off the bright colors of the neck or head. To freeze the wings in motion I try for 1/1600 sec exposure or 1/2000 sec. If you want some wing blur then experiment with slower shutter speeds.