2017—And, Yes, More Hummer Photos

These shots were taken late on consecutive afternoons, about 24 hours apart.  I decided to experiment with changing the aperture so that the depth of field was not as shallow to see what, if any, difference that made in the shots.  The background was the same in both,  deep shade against the fence and shrubs.  I kept adjusting the exposure compensation to try to keep the shutter speed at a minimum of 1/250, although the shutter speed changed constantly as I moved the camera to focus on the hummer and it dropped to 1/160 in the first shot.  I also set the camera to high speed flash sync so that the shutter speed could exceed 1/250 sec.  I’m still using the Nikon D500 with 300mm lens. 1.4x teleconverter and two SB5000 flashes for hummingbirds but m thinks my Big Bertha needs another shot, too.

I took the first shot at 5:57PM, September 25.
f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/160, Exposure  Compensation -2.3, Flash Compensation -1.7

I took the second shot at 5:47PM, September 26.
f/11, ISO 1600, 1/400, Exposure Compensation -4.7, Flash Compensation -1.7

Despite the difference in aperture and shutter speed, the photographs are very similar but I think the faster shutter speed in the second shot kept the background darker.  But, the wing on the hummer in the first shot appears more in focus than the wing in the second shot despite the slower shutter speed.  Obviously, more experimentation is in order.

Homer jr. at salvia f5.6

homer jr. at salvia f-11.jpg

2017—High Island Feeding Frenzy

I’ve been reviewing my photographs and came across this sequence from Smith Oaks Rookery on High Island, Texas from April 2017, taken five months before Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc in the area.  I was so fascinated by the behavior of these feeding chicks that I took dozens of photographs of their frenzied feeding at intervals throughout our visit there.

There always seems to be a runt in the litters.  Connie and I witnessed at least two chicks falling from (or perhaps being pushed out of) the nests and being devoured by the alligators that lurked in the water under the nests.  At first, I was worried that the runt in this nest wouldn’t be able to compete.  I was wrong.  The runt appears in the first shot in the front right.  And, by the second shot, it had grabbed onto the adult Egret just as enthusiastically as the other two, larger chicks.  In the third shot, the difference in size is quite apparent.  And just to show that the adult Great Egret still has an eyeball after the chicks have practically gnawed it off, the last shot shows the eye looking normal.  Of course whether the bird still has sight in that eye is questionable.

Nests in the rookery are practically on top of one another.  It is a very crowded place.  Two large chicks in another nest are visible behind the feeding frenzy, and Roseate Spoonbills and more Great Egrets are visible in the surround trees.  I hope that the area can recover from the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey.  By the looks of the rigor with which these Great Egret chicks are feeding, my guess is even the runt  survived the hurricane.

Egrets Feeding 1 High Island.jpgEgrets Feeding 1 High Island


Egrets Feeding 2 High Island

2017—Sixth Sense

Late Monday afternoon, I took my camera, double flash set up, and a glass of  Michael David Sixth Sense Syrah out to the patio to wait for Homer Jr.  He has dethroned Homer as my resident hummer.  I’m really looking forward to his gorget filling out into that glorious gem-like garnet color.   In the meantime, I wait and watch.  I’ve developed a sixth sense (thank you Michael David) about his movements and I’m familiar with his feeding routine and  know just about when to pay attention because he’ll be feeding soon. The salvia I brought in has been a success.  I’m thrilled to be able to photograph him at a flower instead of trying to keep a feeder out of the photograph.

Afternoon hummer 3.jpg


2017—Glowing Mums

It was bright out at midday and the sun was shining directly onto the mum mound (the potted mum looks like a giant mound of flowers).   The 105 mm macro lens has an extremely shallow depth of field so with the lens wide open only a fraction of an inch of the flowers was in focus.  The low ISO (100) and the fast shutter speed (1/2000) and -0.7 exposure compensation, made the area surrounding the flowers very dark and the lighted area seemed to glow.  It reminded me of an effect of the Topaz Glow filter but I did not use any filters on this.
Glowing Mum.jpg

2017—Field Of Mums

The Autumnal Equinox happened yesterday at 1:02 PM Pacific Daylight Time.   I had just returned from Costco with four bags of charcoal (I grill year round, I didn’t want to run out) and a giant rust colored chrysanthemum.   Mums say “fall” to me and since the equinox had just occurred, I thought what better time to photograph it than as close to the Equinox as I could get.  I was 31 minutes late when I took this shot.  The blossom on the mum are so profuse and dense, it looked like a  field of flowers through my macro lens.

Field of Mums.jpg

2017—He’s Everywhere, He’s Everywhere

Indeed, hummingbirds seem to be everywhere in my life.  The other day when I was at the nursery shopping for new plants for the hummingbirds, I stopped inside to get some pieces for my sprinkler’s drip system.  I noticed a small bird high up in the building (it’s a warehouse type metal building with large barn door openings).  The bird was darting around flying exactly like a hummingbird.  And that’s because it was a hummingbird.  The reason it was flying around so frantically was because I had stopped my cart next to the feeder installed by nursery staff.  Apparently this little guy has claimed the territory.  He finally settled down on a palm frond behind the feeder where the staghorn ferns and other indoor plants are shelved.  While I extracted my camera from my bag, he flew to the feeder and I managed a couple of shots.  I had my 24-120mm lens on the D500  and I didn’t take time to increase the ISO so I was lucky to get his eye sharp as the shutter speed was at 1/60 second.  With  such a slow speed, the wings almost disappear.  I think it’s probably an Anna’s.  Since I didn’t have my official two-flash rig set on the tripod with the 300mm lens and we were indoors,  the gorget didn’t reflect any color.

Green Acres Hummer.jpg


Clearly, I have become obsessed with hummingbird photography.  I only wish there were more species of hummers here.  After dropping friends at the airport at Zero Dark Thirty, I arrived home as the clouds were blushing pink and it was still a few minutes away from sunrise.  I went outside with my camera rig and discovered that the early morning darkness required me to raise the ISO on my camera to 6400 in order to get a shutter speed of 1/250.  I really hate to use high ISO because of the noise but I needed the shutter speed.   I’m trying to get a particular shot of a front view of a hummingbird at a flower with the entire gorget lit up.  This photograph comes really close to what I’m trying to capture except it’s Homer Jr., whose gorget isn’t too colorful yet, his head doesn’t have much color, and there’s a little too much noise for my taste.  But I’m quite pleased that the hummers are enjoying the flowers I brought into the yard.  I’m also beginning to think that Homer has been displaced by Homer Jr.  Junior seems to have taken over Homer’s preferred observation spot the past couple of days.

homer jr at salvia.jpg


2017—My Brother And Me

I ran across this undated photograph of my brother and me on a horse.  I love it for some reason.   With the lead rope laying on the ground, I guess my mother trusted that the horse wouldn’t bolt.  I don’t know where it was taken and I’m not even really sure which brother it is but I think it’s John.  My brother Art is five years older and John is two and a half years older.  I’m guessing I’m about 3 in this  and the brother on the horse looks only about 5.  After  scanning it I decided to post it on the blog but thought it was too plain and I needed to spiff it up a bit.  I remembered I had some background textures that might work from my trip to the Grand Tetons in 2013.  I even had a rusty nail that I extracted from a photo I took on that trip.  So, I used my rather crude Photoshop skills to combine all three photos and make a shadow of the nail and the photo on the wood wall.  I should have taken the time to make the photo look like the nail had pierced it but  I’ll try that some other time.  I placed the shadow of the nail  in the opposite direction from the shadow of the horse in the photograph (no, I didn’t add the shadow of the horse) to balance out the shadows.  John seems pretty mesmerized by the shadow of the horse.

My brother and me.jpg


2017—Yes, Hummingbirds Molt

Homer seems to be a bit wary of the new natural flowers on the patio and stays with the feeders but Homer Jr., on the other hand, seems to enjoying testing out the real flowers.  I also bought a red mandevilla  which has a much larger tubular flower than the Black and Bloom Salvia which he’s also tried a couple of times but so far, my only shots him at the red flowers are of blurry blobs retreating.

As much as I’d love to photograph a mature bird with a colorful gorget feeding at the flowers, Homer Jr. is it right now.  And, he seems to be molting.  The large white feather on his tail is a little distracting but until it molts off, it’s part of him.


homer jr at black and bloom.jpg

2017—Black And Bloom

After spending way too much time trying to keep the feeder out of my hummingbird shots, I decided to give the hummers something more photogenic to feed on.  My red blossomed Pineapple Sage, a favorite of my hummers, is not in bloom at the moment.    I love purple flowers, too, so when I visited Green Acres Nursery (it’s the place to be) and saw this gorgeous Salvia called Black and Bloom, (what a fabulous name) I knew it would be perfect.   I potted it and placed the pot on a wheeled dolly so that I can move it to make sure the background is good when I photograph the hummers I knew would come to immediately.  And, they did.

Black and Bloom 2.jpgfirst feeding at salvia

2017—Introducing…Homer, Jr.

I took advantage of the cool, cloudy afternoon Thursday and spent an hour watching the hummingbird feeders, camera at the ready, waiting for Homer.  He never came.   Then, a hummer, that I at first thought to be a female, arrived.  I have noticed that the females seem less skittish than the males and tolerate my presence better than the males.  But this bird seemed a little different.  The gorget was not the complete gorget of a mature male’s but it was more extensive than the female’s and seemed brighter.  I also discovered that immature males have a white tip on some of the tail feathers, similar to the female’s, as did this bird.  This, I believe, is Homer, Jr.  He did not seem concerned with my presence and his “between feeding” perch was in a different place than Homer’s.  He spent much more time while he drank nectar and so I was able to capture several shots of him each time he came to feed.

Homer, Jr. 1


Homer, jr. 2

2017—Healthy And Guilt-free

While I was making breakfast this morning, I realized I hadn’t done a blog post for today.  I was going to forgo a post, but as I flipped my healthy banana pancakes, which were actually perfect today for once,  I thought I’d share.  I can’t claim credit for this recipe.   Credit goes to my friend and fellow photo blogger, Melinda, who shared it with me on my visit to her home in Arizona this past July.

They’re Paleo friendly, gluten free,  Weight Watcher worthy, and approximately 250 calories, but above all,  they’re yummy!

Banana Pancakes
1/2 ripe banana
sprinkle of ground cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 tsp. Ghee (or butter)

2-3 Tbsp. Fat Free Greek Yogurt
1 tsp. honey
1-2 strawberries
1-2 Tbsp. blueberries

Mash and whip the banana and cinnamon with a fork until creamy.
Add egg and continue stirring until egg is combined.
Preheat pan (I use cast iron)
Add 1/2 tsp. Ghee to hot pan
Pour batter into three  3 1/2 inch pancakes (I use silicone rings or a Plett pan –  that’s a Swedish pancake pan – but free form is OK, too)
Cook until top is mostly set  (about 3-4 minutes) then flip and cook another minute or two.
Top with Greek Yogurt, blueberries, strawberries, and drizzle with honey.

Enjoy without guilt!

banana pancakes

banana pancakes finished.jpg

2017—Try, Try Again

I’m still working on trying to improve my technique for photographing hummingbirds.  My successes have been few and far between. It finally occurred to me to move the feeders. I have a double shepherd’s hook and I had only one feeder hanging from it. By adding a second feeder and repositioning the shepherd’s hook I instantly doubled my chances of well positioned birds at the feeders. Then I taped off access to all but one feeding port on each feeder. But Homer was apparently thrown by the rearrangement of the feeders and he changed his frequency of feeder visits. While I waited, the good light dimmed. I was trying to keep the feeder out of the frame so when Homer finally visited the feeder, the resulting photograph had him far to the right, just barely in the frame so I cropped the shot. Obviously I need to try, try again.


Homer square dark.jpg

2017—Always Entertaining

The Bushtits arrive like clockwork to bathe in the fountain year round.  I happened to be outside waiting for Homer when they arrived and one by one they jumped from the azaleas onto the flat fountain top and  splashed in the water.  The Bushtits are always entertaining as more and more of them crowd onto the fountain.   Bathing Bushtits 2.jpg

2017—Florida And Irma

As Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida, I am worried about  my Florida friends and the  wildlife I’ve photographed there.   The refuges and beaches we visited earlier this year to photograph birds are closed in preparation for the storm surge.  Once again I am feeling frustrated and helpless.  I can only hope the devastation will not be as catastrophic as predicted or as widespread as the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.  I photographed this feeding Willet on Sanibel Island, near Ft. Myers in March.

Willet feeding Florida.jpg