Monday, August 10, 2009

Waiting for lady hummingbird

Last summer (that's a full year ago) I planted some red bergamot outside a window so I could attract hummingbirds to an area with a pre-existing blind that I could behind behind and not frighten any visitors. All I had to do was open the window and patiently wait for their arrival while sipping a cool drink. For a full year I eagerly waited for the seasons to turn and for summer to arrive so my bergamot would bloom. It finally did in late June. But it was a few weeks before a hummingbird came.

Now a female hummingbird visits several times a day and I've been photographing her regularly. Because she is somewhat backlit by the morning sun, I leaned a large white board against my house to reflect sunlight back on her (I'm sure the neighbors love the random white board against the house). I probably should use flash, but I have a beautiful background of yellow brown-eyed Susans that nicely set off the hummingbird and my flash behaves erratically anyhow.

Instead, I set a high ISO—800—and a fast shutter speed—1/2500 second. I use a 70-300 mm lens set at about 250 mm and an f/stop of 5.6. With the hummingbird only about eight feet away, those settings beautifully blurred the background.

At first, I shot from the open window. But the background wasn’t colorful enough. So to get a better angle I removed the window from the front storm door. I knelt on a high chair by the door and waited ten, fifteen, sometimes thirty minutes for my lady hummingbird to visit. For all her speed, she is quite shy. If she spots me lurking in the door or window, she zips away.

My best photo is her spotting me. She turned to face me, seeming to accuse me of spying on her. I quickly snapped a photo before she darted away.

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