2023—Insider View

Without a macro lens you don’t always pick up on the nuances inside a flower. This lily opened from bud to flower in a bouquet I picked up at the grocery store a couple of days ago. The anthers have just begun to produce pollen so the sticky tip of the pistil hasn’t attracted any yet and the petals aren’t yet sprinkled with the colorful pollen. This is another experiment in focus shift shooting and focus stacking images.

2023—Poetry in Motion

To me, there isn’t a bird that I’ve photographed with more fluid and graceful movement than a hummingbird. Their grace in flight is truly poetry in motion. At five inches in length, Rivoli’s Hummingbirds are the second largest hummingbird species in the United States, after the Blue-throated Mountain Gem. This beautiful male Rivoli’s is a stunning example of poetry in motion as he hovers in mid-air at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon, AZ a couple of weeks ago.

2023—Do I Pull the Z9 in too Tightly? 🤪

Do I pull the Nikon Z9 in too tightly against my eye? Or maybe, you should see the other guy! Actually it’s neither. In the continuing saga of my aging eyes, I had surgery on Tuesday to lift up my drooping left eyelid. I was warned that I would have a black eye. It’s actually a red eye. I have no pain and the good news is that, as you can see, after 25 years of droop, I finally have a catch light in my left eye again! And that is important because when I had cataract surgery on my left eye a year ago, the vision in that eye was corrected to 20/20 (it had been 20/400) but the droopy eyelid prevented me from fully appreciating that new vision because the eyelid covered half of the pupil. This is a selfie taken with my Z9 and my Nikkor 105mm macro. The doctor told me I couldn’t put a camera up to my eye for a week and I couldn’t take a selfie that way anyway so I used Nikon’s Snapbridge app to take the photo using my iPhone to control focus and shutter release. Sweet! And, thank you to my good friend, Moose Peterson, for suggesting the title for this post.

2023—One of the Smallest

The Costa’s Hummingbird is one of the smallest birds and one of the smallest hummingbirds in North America. Only the Calliope Hummingbird is smaller than the Costa’s. He is barely more than three inches in length. We saw this male Costa’s briefly on our first day at Madera Canyon, AZ a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t see him again all week.


The bouquet that adorned my dining room table for guests the other evening continues to make me smile. The sun was streaming through a high window and highlighted just the yellow lilies so I made a few clicks. This is one click, not focus shift shooting or focus stacking. I still had the Z105 macro lens on the camera and I increased the aperture to f/9 to get a little more depth of focus. The sun was so bright that the background faded to black, my favorite background for floral photographs.

2023—Wing Stretch

A subadult Rufous Hummingbird stretches his wings as he watched the activity at the feeders at Madera Canyon a couple of weeks ago. This particular perch, behind a huge oak and deep in the shrubs, was popular with many of the hummers. Sometimes it had a little light on it so the birds weren’t in deep shadow so when I saw him perched there and stretching, I turned my camera in his direction. A millisecond later, he took off and returned to the feeding frenzy. The hum of the Rufous Hummingbirds, one of the smaller hummingbirds we saw at Madera Canyon, was every bit as loud and possibly even louder than the largest one we photographed, the Rivoli’s, almost twice the size of this one. The loud buzz of the Rufous always got my attention so I knew when he was in the area and could focus my lens on him.

2023—Hot Fun in the Summertime

When it’s 105° outside and climbing, I stay inside. The recent heat wave gave me a chance to stay inside in the cool and practice focus shift shooting and focus stacking using a macro lens again. It is so simple to create images using this technique, especially using the Nikon Z9’s built in focus shift shooting capabilities. From my bouquet of flowers, I chose a yellow Gerbera daisy. After fine-tuning settings (i.e., how many images to take, how far to move the focus position for each image, and where to position the flash) I selected the floppy petal in the upper right as the closest point of focus as a starting point. What astonished me even more than the ease with which the camera creates the images as it subtly shifts the point of focus, was how fast my new Macintosh rendered 200 images into a single image, taking slightly more than a minute using HeliconFocus software. At that speed, I was able to try all three rendering options in just a few minutes to see which returned the result I preferred.

2023—Perfectly Imperfect

Most mature adult male hummingbirds of a given species are pretty hard to tell apart from each other —— unless there is an anomaly. This gorgeous adult male Rivoli’s Hummingbird had an interesting anomaly. His lower mandible is broken off. I saw him only briefly, late one afternoon. It makes you wonder what could have happened, when and how. He seemed healthy and was able to eat so he apparently has overcome this problem. Although this is not a “perfect” specimen of the species, I find him perfectly imperfect.

2023—Suspended in Air

Hummingbirds can hold their heads perfectly still in mid air with just their wings and maybe their tail moving. But, if the shutter speed is fast enough, even the wings will freeze in a photograph. I prefer a blur to the wings, sometimes the more blur the better so there is the suggestion of movement but sometimes it is interesting to see the wing structure. The shutter speed in this image was fast enough to freeze most of the wing’s movement. There are a few slightly blurred feathers in the tail, body and wing but overall, this Broad-billed Hummingbird seems to be suspended perfectly still in mid air.

2023—What’s Up?

What’s up? More hummingbirds. The Black-chinned Hummingbirds were greatly outnumbered by the aggressive Broad-billed Hummingbirds. The males, especially were quite wary and seemed tentative, keeping their eye on the Broad-billed Hummingbirds that swooped and darted around them. They spent much less time at the feeders, easily bullied away. This wary male seems to be watching for an attack from above.

2023—Brief Respite

The continual frenzy at the feeders at Madera Canyon must have been exhausting for these small birds. Occasionally, one would disappear into the shrubbery and watch the action from afar. I believe this is a female Broad-billed Hummingbird, possibly an immature female (lots of pin feathers), who took a brief respite.

2023—The Birds and the Bees

This was a week for the birds and the bees. The feeders at Madera Canyon attracted more than Hummingbirds. There were Wasps, Yellowjackets, Honey Bees, and Bumble Bees all buzzing around the feeders to try to get to the nectar despite the bee guards on the feeders. Most of the time, the hummers managed to put up with the various apian interlopers but on a few occasions, they jumped, well they flew backwards as Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards, to avoid an encounter. This immature Rufous Hummingbird seemed to be more plagued by the bees than the other hummers.

2023— The Color of a New Penny

A mature male Rufous Hummingbird is as bright and colorful as a new copper penny. Despite its tiny size, it was one of the most aggressive hummingbirds we saw in Madera Canyon. He was drawn to the nectar feeders, but as you see by the gnat clamped in his bill in this image, he also feasts on bugs, as do all hummers. He looks quite pleased with himself, too.

2023—Wonderfully Magnificent

The first time I saw a Rivoli’s Hummingbird was in 2017 in Madera Canyon. He was still known as the Magnificent Hummingbird then and we dubbed him Mr. Wonderful. His common name did change to Rivoli’s that year. When I saw him again last week, he was still wonderfully magnificent. His teal gorget and violet head help him stand out from the other hummers and since he is nearly double the size of other hummers, and along with the loud hum of his wings, he is hard to miss. He is the second largest hummingbird in North America, only a fraction of an inch smaller than the Blue-throated Mountain Gem. We got to wondering about his name change from Magnificent to Rivoli’s and learned that he was originally called the Rivoli’s, named after the Duke of Rivoli who was also an amateur ornithologist in the early 1800’s. The bird was known as the Rivoli’s from 1829 through the 1980’s when it was renamed ‘Magnificent.’  In 2017, the Magnificent Hummingbird was split into two species and the bird that is seen in Arizona returned to its original name, the Rivoli’s Hummingbird. Its scienfic name is perhaps more descriptive of this elegant species: Eugenes (meaning high born) fulgens (meaning glittering), a perfect descriptor. FYI, if you read my post yesterday about the optical illusion I created in my brain watching tiny hummingbirds through a telephoto lens, you might be wondering how a bird that is almost double the size of the Broad-billed Hummingbird I posted yesterday, doesn’t fill the frame as much as the smaller bird. The answer is easy. I was about twice the distance from the Rivoli’s when I took this photograph. Much of the time when I tried to photograph the Rivoli’s at a closer feeder, he was much too close and I cut off tails or wings in the images.

2023—Optical Bird Illusions

The brilliantly jewel-colored Broad-billed Hummingbirds, with their sapphire and emerald feathers, dominated the feeders at Madera Canyon this past week. They outnumbered the other hummers fifteen fold at least. They were first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave in the evening. They were feisty, constantly buzzing from feeder to feeder, and possessive of those feeders, sometimes even using their beaks to tap on the heads of other hummer species daring enough to feed there. And, undeterred by our size difference, they were unafraid of us. Seen through a supertelephoto lens placed about 9 feet away, their tiny bodies filled the frame, as in this image, despite measuring only about 3 and 3/4 inches. After viewing them this way for hours each day, when they flew within 8 inches of my eyes to feed at the tiny one portal feeder I had on the top edge of my lens (click here to see) I realized that the camera had distorted my perception of them. Viewing them at 560mm, the camera had created an optical illusion in my brain about their size. Seeing them a few inches from my eyes even though it was 20 times closer than through the lens, I was astounded to see how incredibly tiny these exquisitely beautiful creatures really are.

2023—View from the Top

Our shooting gallery at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon in Arizona drew at least ten (maybe 11) species of hummingbirds this past week. The most common species was the jewel-like Broad-billed Hummingbird, a tiny, feisty hummer sporting emerald and sapphire feathers and a bright orange bill. The Broad-billed hummers acclimated quickly to our presence, even escorting Moose at first morning light when he put the feeders out and sipping nectar within ten inches of our faces at the tiny feeders we all had perched on the end of our Nikkor Z400mm f/4.5 lenses. This is the view I had; my left eye looking through the view finder at the birds coming and going from the feeders in the distance and watching this bird with my right eye as it drank from the small feeder perched on the end of my lens. N.B. The feeders are red plastic and the nectar inside is clear as shown in the feeder on top of my lens. Red dyes in some commercial hummingbird foods could be prove harmful to the birds according to the Audubon Society. Taken with my iPhone 14.

2023—Having the Time of My Life!

After a two-year absence, I have returned to Madera Canyon in Arizona to photograph Hummingbirds. Between the abundance of Hummingbirds to photograph and the spectacular performance of my new “hummingbird rig,” I’ve been having the time of my life! The Nikon Z9, the Nikkor Z400/4.5 with the Nikon ZTC1.4X attached (a 560mm focal length) and two ProFoto A10 flashes to bring out the color of the hummers, I’ve never experienced the spectacular results I’ve had so far this week. I may not post again until after I return home. In the meantime, please enjoy this immature Rufous Hummingbird.

2023—The Interloper

Today is the first day of shooting hummingbirds at Madera Canyon, Arizona and Saturday was my last day of shooting at home to get ready for today. This is one of the birds that the male Anna’s Hummingbird in my garden considers an interloper. She is a female Black-chinned Hummingbird who was either so acclimated to me or so desperate from being chased away by the male Anna’s that she remained at the feeder even though I walked outside while she was there. My camera was already in position and I didn’t see her at first. She stopped feeding and looked at me, then returned to fill up on nectar. The Anna’s was not around so she continued to feed for quite a while. One of the things I find difficult when photographing hummers at a feeder is keeping the feeder out of the frame while keeping the bird in a good position in the frame. Sometimes the hummers will back away far enough from the feeder so I not only keep the feeder out of the frame but get the bird in a good place in the frame. That didn’t happen Saturday but I got close. I am looking forward to lots more opportunities here in Madera Canyon.