SKYLARKING Travels with Andy Skylarking homepage Previous Next
Stucco tile bg

Hummingbirds!

They're all over the place up here on the mountainside. Jan set up a feeder this afternoon and shot a bunch of images with synchronized electronic flashes. Although my camera wasn't set up to trigger her strobes, I took advantage of her feeder and background to shoot a number of available-light photos. Here's our friend Andrea waiting for a hummingbird to perch on her finger (they actually will!):

Andrea and hummingbirds

I can't say enough good things about my Panasonic FZ150's ability to get shots like these. It's the best camera I've ever owned—and I've owned a lot over the past forty years. The combination of a 25-600mm (equivalent) Leica lens and 12 fps/12 megapixel burst mode lets me get shots I never could have before, like this one of a hummingbird with its tongue out.

Tongue out

The green background looks the most natural, but it was fascinating to see the birds isolated against a white background. They swarmed the feeder several at a time, jostling each other for space.

Three hummingbirds

The camera is capable of remarkable detail, especially considering that these photos were all shot handheld from about eight feet away. Bear in mind that these birds are only about two inches long, so these images are larger than life.

Hummingbird in flight

For the older photographers out there: these birds in flight were photographed in available light with a handheld (!) 600mm lens on a $400 consumer-grade non-DSLR camera in auto-everything "idiot mode." For somebody like me who spent many years shooting Kodachrome with Nikon SLRs, this is way beyond anything I ever dreamed of being able to do. My hat is off to Panasonic for the camera and Leica for the 25-600mm lens. (Details: ISO 100, f/5.2, 1/400 second.)

Hummingbird's head

I'm sure Jan's photos are still better, because she has the ability to freeze the birds in flight with those synchronized flashes... but I was delighted to get these pictures with handheld, amateur-grade equipment and amateur-grade skills! For the record, here's what the scene looked like from the hummingbirds' point of view:

Hummingbird's-eye view

Inspired by Jan's success in attracting hummingbirds, I attached a feeder to the outside of my office window and set up my camera on a tripod on my desk. Here's a short video clip that I shot through the window. (Click this image to play the video. Be sure to watch it full-screen!) I'm using a Perky Pet Products model #217 feeder that attaches directly to the window with a suction cup. With heavily tinted windows like those of my Lazy Daze motorhome, this feeder is ideal, because it lets you get your eyeball or camera lens just inches away from the hummingbirds and observe every detail of their behavior.

(Note: these videos are large and may take awhile to load.)

Hummingbird5

For example, note how the bird in this video (a rufous hummingbird female) drinks for a few seconds, then backs up and then quickly runs her tongue in and out half a dozen or so times before returning to the feeder. Every hummingbird I've watched does the same thing. Why? I have no idea.

(This was shot in 1080p 60 fps HD video by the same Panasonic FZ150 camera that took all the stills, and then reduced to less than half size for the web.)

As a bonus, here's another neat trick the Panasonic FZ150 has up its sleeve: 220 frame per second (1/7x) slow motion video at reduced resolution. (Click this image to play the video.) If you look closely, you'll see the bird's beak opening and closing slightly as it darts its tongue in and out of the feeder, and its little throat going "gulp, gulp, gulp."

hummingbird slo-mo


Think those wings are moving fast in the slow-motion video? They're actually flapping 70 times a second—much too fast for your eyes to see at normal speed!

Finally, lest you think I do all my shooting with the FZ150, here's a hummingbird photo taken through my window with my iPhone 4. Hummingbird - iPhone 4

Navigation buttons Travels with Andy Skylarking homepage Previous Next

© 2012 by Andy Baird. For an index of my other websites, see the andybaird.com homepage.