Shedding Some Light on the Subject

While I’d been mostly pleased with my initial attempts to photograph back yard hummingbirds with available light (requires a very high shutter speed and wide aperture), some advice from a blogger ( ) with whom I occasionally correspond suggested I consider using electronic flash for better images. This nudged me to do some additional on-line research and early results are below. My poor, tiny subjects, however, likely can’t figure out what the heck I’m doing since my experiments have required constant adjustment of lighting position, sugar water lures, additional props like flowers, etc. The advantages of high speed auxiliary lighting include higher resolution and a better way to “freeze” the fliers since electronic flash easily can be adjusted to speeds like 1/10,000th of a second. However, lights must be placed very close to these guys for proper exposure. They don’t seem to mind and the consensus is that the flashing does them no harm.

Generally, folks seem to prefer shots that don’t include a plastic feeder and I agree. But sometimes it’s tough to get them perfectly posed in the vicinity of an actual flower.

The use of a flash-lit, poster-sized background helps emphasize the hummer itself and negates ambient light that can lead to “ghosting” (one image produced by the flash and another, fainter one by sun light). I’ve favored white but am trying out others, including this blue one.

Below is an image with no artificial background but, rather, the branches of a tree plant that are too close and too much in focus. While the bird is pleasingly lit, the branches arguably detract. At a minimum, I should have lit them up but even then they’d be too busy.

Last is a shot of my set-up as of yesterday. Yep, that’s six lights. Subject to change.