Some observations about photographing hummingbirds.

These shots were taken on an overcast morning, so I had to push my ISO up pretty high. Blah! Will have to keep trying.

1/500, f/4, ISO 800, 80mm, flash

1/500, f/4, ISO 800, 80mm, flash

1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 170mm

1/500, f/4, ISO 1600, 86mm

1/500, f/4, ISO 1600, 86mm

1/500, f/4, ISO 800, 100mm, flash

These photos took a little over an hour, and I took about 120 photos in all. Noelle thought it’d be interesting if I caught a photo of her holding the hummingbird feeder. I didn’t think it’d do so well, but it did ok, for several reasons.

Things I leaned:

  • Autofocus is useless for something moving so fast. I had to focus on an object that would be the same distance that the hummingbird would be (the white nozzle on the feeder) and then switch the focus to manual.
  • Tripod is a must.
  • I had the camera set to Manual. I didn’t even try Shutter Priority. I’ll have to play with that next time.
  • f/2.8 has a VERY SHORT depth of field, especially when zoomed all the way in to 200mm. I got better shots by zooming out (which also increased my depth of field) and stepping back a bit. For the last photo, my tripod was maybe 8′ away from the feeder, and the lens at 100mm f/4 gave a much better depth of field in order to keep the bird in focus.
  • Flash helps to light up the bird, but gives a very different quality of light. My shutter speeds had to drop down to 500 in order to sync with the flash. Too bad. I saw an article online about syncing flash at much higher shutter speeds. I’ll have to check it out and see if that’ll work on this camera.
  • When using flash, I was surprised at how little the exposure varied. I don’t know if this is Nikon’s CLS at work or just the nature of flash. I should have tried bringing the ISO all the way down to 200  (anything above 800 on this camera starts looking splotchy)
  • I expect better luck in bright sunlight. This will let me push the shutter speed up higher, and keep the ISO low and still maintain good exposure. I’ll also need to move the feeder since it sits under some partial shade.

One of these days I’ll get a shot worth framing.