Hummingbirds
























When I first purchased a DSLR, I never imagined I would be able to capture a decent photo of the hummingbirds that flit about my yard and neighborhood. I can now get such photos routinely. 

It's not even that hard. You need a good camera -- a DSLR helps, although it hardly has to be an expensive one. And you need a good telephoto lens. The photos above were taken with my Nikon D5100 that I purchased for $600 in 2011 and my Nikon 70-300mm that I bought used for $450 a couple years ago. 

In other words, I got the above photos with about $1,000 in photo equipment. The photos aren't pro quality because there's a bit too much digital noise. But they're nice enough photos, certainly the kind of thing you could hang in a home or office or use as a nice gift to a (surely!) appreciative friend.  

Of course, you need one other thing: a location where there are a lot of hummingbirds. In that respect, I'm lucky. I live near the Huntington Gardens in San Marino (a 'burb of L.A.) and the desert section has tons of hummers. You need to go there when there's a lot of sun and find a spot and hang out for a while. Yes, you could just get a feeder -- but those red plasticy things are hardly photogenic and look very unnatural. 

What else do you need to do? 

Shoot. A lot. 

I probably cranked out 300 or so shots over a 75-minute span. It also is helpful to shoot on manual or shutter priority mode. In my case, I mostly shot at ISOs between 400 and 640 and shutter speeds from 1/2500th to 1/4000th of a second -- a short enough time to freeze or almost freeze a hummers wings, which can flap 50 or more times per second. The camera is set on continuous shooting mode, so I can fire off a bunch of shots by holding down the shutter release and I'm using continuous-servo AF (which means the camera keeps focusing until the shutter is pressed all the way, which is good for moving objects) and dynamic-area AF (which helps the focus points in your camera track moving objects). 

As per usual, I tried some different things while processing -- playing around with color, aspect, grain and noise and even black-and-white. The photos were all shot in RAW and edited in Lightroom 5. The last photo is the one just killing me. I was maybe seven or eight feet from the hummer and just mis-timed my shot by a milli-second. Ugh. So close! 

Check out my SmugMug site for more of my work, prints and licensing info. To save 20 percent on the cost of a SmugMug account, please click here. SmugMug lets you customize your page and sell prints and licenses -- unlike, for example, Flickr. I also think photos look better on SmugMug than Flickr or Facebook due to the way those sites compress big files. 

--S.H.

The photos above are ©Steve Hymon and may not be used elsewhere without my advanced written permission. All rights reserved. 

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