Meta Reviews The Best Hummingbird Photography Tips For Beginner Photographers
The Best Hummingbird Photography Using Multiple Low Power Flash Units
Hummingbird Photography Tips – In this section of Photography Tips and Techniques, Meta Explains The Best Hummingbird Photography Tips For Beginner Photographers. Don’t think of Hummingbird Photography as Super Long Lens Birding Photography – Think of this as High Speed Macro Photography!
If you think of Hummingbirds as a Large Flying Insects, you’ll understand better how to Shoot Hummingbirds as Macro Photography.
Meta’s Hummingbird Photography Tips and Techniques
What’s The Best Lens for Shooting Hummingbirds?
Meta has tried all of her Long Zoom Lenses, including her Sony 70-200mm F/2.8 G, and her Minolta AF Zoom 75–300mm f/4.5–5.6 Lens, but they all have a typical MFD of 1.1–1.5 Meters, requiring 200–300mm Zoom and setting up too away just to get within the range of focus.
Being a Professional Macro Photographer, Meta found that her Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens (Photo: Left) worked the best for Hummingbird Photography, due to its very short (16cm) Minimum Focal Distance (MFD).
Meta sometimes shoots Hand Held or with a Monopod, but more often with a Tripod.
Multiple Low Power Flash Method For Shooting Hummingbirds
This Multiple Low Power Flash Method uses Wireless Flash Photography to control Four Remote HVL-F43M Flash Units, with one Top Mounted Controller Flash on her Sony Camera (Photo: Left). To save money, Meta purchased all of her 5 Sony Flash Units used.
The Camera’s HVL-F43M Flash is the Controller Flash (CTRL) for the Four Remote HVL-F43M Flash Units (RMT).
Meta labels her Flash Units with ID stickers (CTRL and RMT2 to 5). If you have more than one Sony Camera, label them as well, #1, #2, #3, etc.
Sony Camera Sync and Flash Unit Setup
We’ll first need to Sync each of the HVL-F43M Flash Units to your specific Sony Camera. This is important, if you have Multiple Sony Cameras, as it prevents the other Sony 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 AA Lithium Batteries into the Flash Unit Before Continuing.
2) Reset Each Flash Unit to Factory Default Settings (Diagram: Left). Press the MODE and TTL/M buttons together for more than 3 seconds. Resetting each Flash Unit removes any past Sony Camera Sync cononections and other Custom Flash Settings, that could cause problems later on.
3) Setup your Sony Camera:
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 Camera and Power On the Flash Unit and the Sony 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 (Diagram: Left). 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 Camera. The M Zoom Number refer to a Full Frame Camera.
9) Power Off the Flash Unit and the Sony 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 Camera.
11) Repeat Steps 4–10 until each of the 5 Flash Units have been Synced to your Sony Camera.
Test Fire to make sure all 5 Flash Units are Firing at the same time.
For More Information, Refer to the Sony HVL-F43M Flash Manual.
The Secret To The Low Power Flash Method
Reducing the power of the HVL-F43M 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. Shoot 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 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 her 5 Sony HVL-F43M Flash Units placed about 0.5 Meter from the Hummingbird Feeder, one pair of flashes on each side of the Hummingbird Feeder (Photo: Top). Her Sony Camera with Sony 50mm 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 flashes on the same tripod or flash stand using these inexpensive Dual Flash Mounting Brackets. Flash Mounting Brackets simplifies the number of tripods or flash stands required when using multiple low power flashes. Meta used zip-ties to double secure the Flash Unit Feet to the Brackets.
When using Low Power Flash, Shoot in the Shade, not in Direct Sunlight. Early Morning and Early Evenings are the times to Shoot Hummingbirds.
The Sony HVL-F43M Flash communicates via Wireless IR – Line of Sight, so if you are having firing issues, make sure the Top Mounted Controller Flash Unit is in Line of Sight with each of the Four Remote Flash Units.
IR Flash Units can be easily converted to 2.4 GHz Radio Flash Units by adding a Flashpoint Transmitter to the Sony Camera and a Flashpoint Receiver to each of the Remote Flash Units. This allows the Remote Flash Units to be out of the Line of Sight or Hidden.
Can You Use High Speed Sync (HSS) to Shoot Hummingbirds?
High Speed Sync Flash Method – The Sony HVL-F43M 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 shoot 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.
How To Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden
Hummingbird Season – Meta’s migrating Hummingbirds show up every year on her front pouch around mid April in Western 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.
Hummingbird Flowers – Meta hangs many shade loving Fuchsia Gartenmeister Bonstedt on her 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.
Hummingbird Sounds – 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.
When is the Best Time to Shoot Hummingbirds?
Hummingbird Times – 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 best times to Photograph Hummingbirds.
No Boil – No Mess – Clear Hummingbird Nectar – Take a large 1.5 Liter of bottle of Spring Water. Pour out 300ml (20%) and have a drink. Now 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. No Harmful Red Dye should ever be used in Hummingbird Nectar.
The Best Hummingbird Feeders For Hummingbird Photography
Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeder – For Hummingbird Photography Only, Meta modifies her Perky Pet Red Glass Hummingbird Feeder (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 Camera is focused on.
Hummingbird Feeder Cleaning – Meta found a Baby Bottle Brush with Nipple Cleaner that works the best for Cleaning Hummingbird Feeders. This Bottle Brush has a small Nipple Cleaner Brush built into the the handle, which fits into the four Hummingbird Feeder Tubes for scrubbing. Remember to clean the Hummingbird Feeders every 3 to 4 Days. Dangerous mold buildup can kill Hummingbirds!
Meta’s Hummingbird Sony Camera and Sony Flash Settings
Camera: Sony a77 II Camera
Macro Lens: Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
Flash Units: Sony HVL-F43 Flash Unit
Flash Diffuser: Sto-Fen OM-EW Flash Diffuser
Camera Mode: Aperture Priority
Tripod: Use a Tripod or use Hand Held for Better Aiming Control
Focus: Zone Focus on Center Area
ISO: Auto (Maximum Range limited to ISO 800)
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 or 1/24th 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 Camera.
What’s Inside Meta’s Hummingbird Photography Field Kit
Meta carries her Sony HVL-F43M Flash Units on her Camera Belt inside Think Tank Flash Pouches. This Modular Configuration is best used for Remote Hummingbird Photography:
• 5 Sony HVL-F43M Flash Units – 4 Remote Flash Units and 1 Controller Flash Unit
• 8 Extra AA Lithium Batteries – Stored in AA Battery Cases
• 5 Flash Stands (Included with each Sony Flash Unit)
Shooting Hummingbirds can be tricky, because Hummers spook very easily. If your Sony Camera allows for Remote WiFi Triggering from a remote iPhone or iPad, consider using this WiFi Control feature from a short distance. You can also use an Intervalometer with an Extension Cable, and manually trigger the Camera from up to 15 feet away.
Meta Reviews The Best Hummingbird Photography Books
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.
Boone NC Commercial Photographers
PO Box 1571
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Purchase Framed Prints Online.
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