I’m heading down to Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra for a few days. It reminded me of my quick trip (5 hours) to Yosemite in June of 2016 en route to Mammoth Lakes with my photo buddy Richard and our friend Dave. This is a shot of the Three Brothers taken on that whirlwind visit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hummingbirds drink lots of nectar but they also eat tiny critters for protein. Homer Jr. visited the feeder but he’d been nibbling on aphids or something elsewhere. If you look closely, a tiny white bug, what I think is an aphid, is stuck to Homer Jr.’s beak.
One of the new salvia plants I brought home the other day, called Mystic Spires, draws honeybees as well as hummingbirds. Nikon D5 Hand held, 105mm macro, ISO 400, f/11, 1/200, EC-1
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.
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.