How To Photograph The Best Hummingbird Photography By Nature Photographer Meta Gatschenberger
Meta’s Best Hummingbird Photography Tips For Beginners
Meta doesn’t think of Hummingbird Photography as Super Long Lens Birding Photography – She thinks of it as High Speed Macro Photography. If you think of Hummingbirds as a Large Flying Insects, you’ll understand how to Best Photograph Hummingbirds as Macro Photography.
Hummingbird Photography is one of Meta’s favorite type of Digital Photography, because you can photograph these amazing tiny birds right off your front porch or in your backyard garden.
Shooting RAW at 10 to 12 Shots Per Second in High Speed Burst Mode can quickly fill up Smaller SD Cards, which is why Meta uses Faster and Larger SanDisk Extreme Pro SD Cards. Now Up To 1TB!
Award Winning Western North Carolina Nature Photographer Meta Gatschenberger, RN, shoots with Sony Digital Cameras and Vintage Minolta Maxxum AF Lenses.
Meta’s “Hummingbird Hovering” (Photo: Top) was shot with a Minolta AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens mounted on a Sony Digital Camera.
Ad • Faster and Larger SD Cards – Shooting 5 Bracketed Shots for every HDR Image or Shooting RAW at 10 to 12 Shots Per Second in High Speed Burst Mode can quickly fill up Smaller SD Cards, which is why Meta uses Faster and Larger SanDisk Extreme Pro SD Cards. Now Up To 1TB!
Meta’s Best Hummingbird Photography Tips For Beginners
Hummingbird Photography Setup For Beginners
For Shooting Hummingbirds, Meta has tried all of her Long Telephoto Lenses, including her Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G and her Minolta AF 75–300mm f/4.5–5.6 Telephoto Lens, but they all have a typical MFD of 1.1–1.5 Meters, requiring a 100–200mm Telephoto and setting up too away just to get within the range of focus.
Being a Macro Photographer, Meta found that her Minolta AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens (Photo: Left) and Sony AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens worked the best for Hummingbird Photography, due to its very short (35cm) Minimum Focal Distance (MFD) and fast f/2.8 Aperture. You can also use the shorter Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens.
Ad • Disposable Shower Caps – Meta discovered this tip while Whale Watching off the Coast of Southern California. Hotel Disposable Shower Caps can be used to protect your Digital Camera and Lens from Hummingbird Poop and Pee. They are so small and compact, you can keep a few of them in your camera bag or pocket!
How To Photography Hummingbirds with Multiple Low Power Flash Units
The Multiple Low Power Flash Method uses Wireless Flash Photography to control the Four Remote Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Units, with one Top Mounted Controller Flash on her Sony Digital Camera (Photo: Left). To save money, Meta purchased all of her 5 Sony Flash Units used from amazon.
The Camera’s Sony HVL-F45RM Flash is the Controller Flash (CTRL) for the Four Remote Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Units (RMT).
Meta labels her Flash Units with ID stickers (CTRL and RMT2 to 5). If you have more than one Sony Digital Camera, label them as well, #1, #2, #3, etc.
Sony Digital Camera Sync and Flash Unit Setup
We’ll first need to Sync each of the Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Units to your specific Sony Digital Camera. This is important, if you have Multiple Sony Digital Cameras, as it prevents the other Sony Digital Cameras from accidentally firing your Flash Units.
1) Turn Flash Unit Power On and Check The Battery Status. The Battery Indicator Blinks if the Batteries are Low. If Low, Insert 4 new Energizer AA 1.5V L.ithium Batteries into each Sony Flash Unit Before Continuing.
2) Reset Each Flash Unit to Factory Default Settings. Press the MODE and TTL/M buttons together for more than 3 seconds. Resetting each Flash Unit removes any past Sony Digital Camera Sync connections and other Custom Flash Settings, that could cause problems later on.
3) Setup your Sony Digital Camera to Photograph Hummingbirds:
MENU –> 2 –> Power Save Start Time –> 30 Minutes (Prevents Sleeping)
MENU –> 2 –> Flash Mode –> Wireless
MENU –> 3 –> Power Ratio –> 1/16 (Fires The Popup Flash at 10,000th of a Second. Not Required if using a Top Mounted Flash)
4) Attach one Flash Unit to the Sony Digital Camera and Power On the Flash Unit and the Sony Digital Camera.
5) WL (Wireless) should be automatically displayed on the Flash’s LCD panel and the 4 Remote Flash Units should be set to RMT. The Top Mounted Controller Flash Unit is set to CTRL.
6) Press the TTL/M Button to Display MANUAL (HSS is Automatically Disabled in Manual Mode).
7) Press the Up or Down Arrows to Select the Power Level of Each of the 5 Flash Units to 1/16 Power Level. Lower Power Flash Units will recycle much quicker than Full Power Flash Units.
8) Set the Flash Manual Zoom to 70mm – To Closely Match the 50mm Lens x 1.5 on a Cropped Sensor Sony Digital Camera. The M ZOOM Number refer to a Full Frame Camera.
9) Power Off the Flash Unit and the Sony Digital Camera. The Flash Unit / Camera Sync is remembered by the Flash Unit until the Flash Unit is Reset to Default Settings.
10) Remove the Flash Unit from the Sony Digital Camera.
11) Repeat Steps 4–10 until each of the 5 Flash Units have been Synced to your Sony Digital Camera.
Test Fire to make sure all 5 Flash Units are Firing at the same time.
For More Information, Refer to the Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Manual.
The Secret To The Low Power Multi-Flash Method
Reducing the power of the Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Units to 1/16th Power Level, should fire each flash at about 1/10,000th of a second, which is fast enough to freeze the Hummingbird Wings. Photograph normally at 1/250th of a second at f/16 for a Wide Depth of Field. Let the Multiple High Speed Flash Units freeze the Hummingbird Wings, and not the Sony Digital Camera’s Shutter Speed.
The Flash Range is much shorter on 1/16 Power Level, so you’ll need to position the Multiple Remote Flash Units closer to the Hummingbird Feeder. Meta uses multiple Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Units placed about 0.5 Meter from the Hummingbird Feeder, one pair of flashes on each side of the Hummingbird Feeder. Her Sony Digital Camera with Minolta AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens is positioned about 0.5 Meter from the Hummingbird Feeder with the Top Mounted Controller Flash Unit.
You can mount pairs of Flash Units on the one Lightweight Tripod or Flash Stand using these inexpensive Dual Flash Mounting Brackets.
These Flash Mounting Brackets can be mounted to the Lightweight Tripods. Meta uses zip-ties to double secure the Flash Unit Feet to the Brackets.
When using Low Power Flash, Photograph in the Shade, not in Direct Sunlight. Early Morning and Early Evenings are the times to Photograph Hummingbirds, when they are most active.
The new Sony HVL-F45RM Flash communicates via 2.4 GHz Sony Radio Frequency instead of the older Line of Sight IR Technology.
If you have older Sony IR Flash Units, such as the HVL-F32M, Sony HVL-F43M or HVL-F60M, they can be easily converted to 2.4 GHz Radio Flash Units by adding a Sony Radio Control Wireless Commander (FA-WRC1M) (Photo: Left) on the Sony Digital Camera, and a Sony Radio Control Wireless Receiver (FA-WRR1) on each of the Remote Sony IR Flash Units.
The Sony Radio Control Wireless Commander also works directly with the Newer Sony Radio Controlled Flash Units, such as the Sony HVL-F45RM Flash, without the need for Radio Control Wireless Receivers.
The Sony Radio Control Wireless Commander features 2.4 GHz Sony Radio System has an effective range of 98.4’ (30 Meters) and can operate without direct line of sight, so the Remote Flash Units can be hidden in planters or in bushes.
How To Use High Speed Sync (HSS) to Photograph Hummingbirds
The Sony HVL-F45RM Flash also supports High Speed Sync (HSS) in TTL Mode (Not in Manual), so you might want to try this HSS Flash Method as well. HSS was invented so that you can a nice blurred background with a Flash when shooting up to 1/8000th of a second at f/1.4 to f/4.0 in Full Sunlight.
The only problem with HSS and Hummingbird Photography, is that you have to photograph at 1/8000th of a second, in TTL Mode, wide open at f/2.8 or f/4.0. Wide Open Apertures don’t produce a wide enough depth of field to capture both wing tips (Photo: Left), but it can sometimes freeze the Hummingbird Wings. Compare this Photo to the Sharper one below, which was shot at 1/160th of a second at f/16, using the Low Power Flash Method. To get a wider depth of field and freeze the wing tips, f/16 or smaller aperture is required.
What’s Inside Meta’s Hummingbird Photography Field Kit
Meta carries her Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Units on her Camera Belt inside Think Tank Flash Pouches.
This Modular Flash Unit Configuration is used for Remote Hummingbird Photography:
• 5 Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Units – 4 Remote Flash Units and 1 Controller Flash Unit
• 8 Energizer AA 1.5V Lithium Batteries – Stored in AA Battery Cases
• 5 Flash Stands (Included with each Sony Flash Unit)
• 5 Flash Think Tank Photo Pouches
Hummingbird Photography Camera Settings For Beginners
Camera: Sony a99 II Digital Camera or Sony a77 II Digital Camera
Lens: Minolta AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
Flashes: Sony HVL-F45RM Flash Unit
Flash Diffuser: Sto-Fen OM-C Flash Diffuser
Flash Stands: Small Tripods
Tripod: Slik Pro 700 DX Tripod with an Intervalometer
Camera Mode: Program Mode
Focus: Expand Flexible Spot
ISO: Auto ISO Limited to ISO 800 (APS-C) or ISO 1600 (Full Frame)
Shutter: 1/250 of a second
Aperture: f/16 (For a Wider Depth of Field)
Drive Mode: Single Shot Mode
Flash Unit Power: 1/16th Power – Trigger the 4 Remote Flash Units with the Top Mounted Controller Flash Unit.
Flash M Zoom: 70mm – To Closely Match the 50mm Lens on a 1.5x Cropped Sensor Sony Digital Camera.
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How To Best Attract Hummingbirds For Beginners
How To Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden with Flowers and Plants
Meta’s migrating Hummingbirds show up every year on her front pouch around mid April in North Carolina, at elevation 3,800’. A week before they arrive, Meta hangs up three Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeders. The bright Red Glass attracts the Hummingbirds, without using any harmful red dye. They usually head south mid October.
Hummingbirds can be attracted by sound. Sibley Guide to Hummingbirds is a Free Hummingbird App which includes Hummingbird Sounds. Meta pairs a Portable Bluetooth Speaker to her iPhone and uses the Free Sibley Hummingbird App to play Hummingbird sounds. The low frequency beating of wings seems to attract the Hummingbirds.
Meta hangs many shade loving Gartenmeister Bonstedt Fuchsias on her Northeast Facing front porch, along with other Red, White and Purple Fuchsias. In her Side Shady Mountain Side Garden, Meta plants Native Mountain Huckleberry Bushes, Milkweed and Bright Red Bee Balm to attract Hummingbirds and other Pollinators.
Ad • Fuchsia Gartenmeister Bonstedt – Meta’s Hummingbirds are very attracted to the tubular, orange-red flowers of the Gartenmeister Bonstedt Fuchsias. This is an upright Triphylla Fuchsia, with dark reddish-green leaves, purple beneath, and clusters of pendulous, long trumpet-shaped bright orange-red flowers, with slender tubes and small petals.
What Time of Day to Photograph Hummingbirds?
Meta’s Hummingbirds are very active early in the mornings, starting about 1/2 hour before sunrise to about 10:00 AM, then they seem to disappear for the rest of the day. They return in the early evening around 7 PM to sunset. These are the times to Photograph Hummingbirds.
To Make Hummingbird Nectar, take a large 1.5 Liter of bottle of Spring Water. Pour out 300ml (20%). Fill up the 1.5 Liter bottle to the top with Quick Dissolve Superfine Sugar. Shake well and Store in the Fridge for up to 2 weeks. This is enough Clear Hummingbird Nectar to fill her three 8 oz. Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeders twice a week for 2 weeks.
Meta makes her own Clear Hummingbird Nectar. No Harmful Red Dye should ever be used in Hummingbird Nectar.
Hummingbird Feeders For Hummingbird Photography
Meta modifies one of her her Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeders (Photo: Left) by blocking 3 of the 4 feeding tubes with 1/4” ClosetMaid End Caps, so the Hummingbirds can only feed on 1 feeding tube, exactly where her Sony Digital Camera is focused on.
Remember to clean the Hummingbird Feeders every 3 to 4 Days, especially if the Hummingbird Feeders are in direct sunlight.
Dangerous mold buildup in Hummingbird Feeders can kill Hummingbirds!
Ad • Hummingbird Feeder Cleaning Brush – Meta found this great Baby Bottle Brush which has two types of bristles for gentle cleaning and serious scrubbing of Glass Hummingbird Feeders. Flexible neck for easy reach inside Hummingbird Feeder bottles. Feeding Tube cleaner gets into tight spaces. Ventilation holes help cleaner dry quickly.
Meta’s Best Hummingbird Photography Books For Beginners
Well known and respected Hummingbird tour leader and author, Steve Howell, has made a particular study of the finer points of Hummingbirds. Over 200 stunning Hummingbird Photographs complement this highly recommended Hummingbird Photography Book. Some Hummingbird species feature as many as 14 different Hummingbird Photographs in each set.
Professional Hummingbird Photographer Dan True conveys his passion for these buzzing aeronauts by describing all 16 species of North American Hummers, listing their favorite flowers and going into detail about their habits, courtship and distribution. Dan then tells us How To Photograph Hummingbirds as he does with such consummate skill. Here in one Hummingbird book is all you could hope to know about our Hummingbirds.
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
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