Change is a good thing. We made several positive changes to our flash setup and settings for photographing hummingbirds in Madera Canyon this year. These changes helped me improve my hummingbird photography and I came home extremely satisfied with my performance this year; considerably better than I did last year.
This is a male Black-chinned Hummingbird. We had very few of these birds compared to large numbers of the more aggressive Broad-billed Hummingbirds. When the Black-chinned Hummers came to the feeders, they were harassed and chased away so I got only a couple of photographs of the Black-chinned.
The main change that allowed me to improve was the use of Manual Mode on the flashes instead of using TTL (Through The Lens) technology. Although TTL makes automatic adjustments to flash output, TTL uses lots of battery power so the flash needs time to recover before firing again in order to put out the same amount of light. If you depress the shutter release immediately after firing the flash set to TTL, the flash doesn’t have time to replenish and the next and subsequent shots are dim. Using the manual setting in the flashes, we were able to adjust the power output of the flash based on our ISO, the higher the ISO, the lower the power output needed. Recovery was quick and that allowed us to use Continuous High release mode on the camera so we could take multiple bursts without losing flash power. It also helped that we used auxiliary battery packs for each flash as well.
And, this is a female Black-chinned hummingbird. I was able to get many more in-focus photographs using Continuous High release mode.