Monday, August 17, 2015

Angel Wings

It is amazing how many different "looks" can be achieved as the light changes throughout the day. To obtain this dramatic effect, the hummingbird has to be in full sunlight and the background has to be in shadow. In addition, the shutter speed has to be fast enough to record the bird, but not the background.

This is almost the opposite conditions from the last photo. The bird is in the shadows and the background is in strong sunlight. One thing I have noticed is that blurred foliage in the backgrounds is not the same color in the pictures as the actual leaves are. The camera is blurring the background and averages all the different shades of colors, so the photo is neither quite as dark or light as the actual leaves are in reality.

There is some kind of law similar to Murphy's Law that says the birds will seldom do what you are expecting them to do and/or what you are set up to do. I had a basket of flowers hanging near the feeder. (Yes, almost everything I use is a prop. If you didn't use them, you would be fortunate to get one picture a day.) The feeder being near, encourages them to visit the flowers as they arrive or leave. So, what did this one do? Checked out a different basket of flowers with an ugly, high contrast background of house siding.

"What you see is what you get," is not a rule of SLR photography. When the shutter is actuated, you cannot see through the view finder for the split second in which the photograph is actually taken. Whatever the subject is doing at that instant is what is in your picture and, in the case of super fast hummingbirds, it probably is not anything like what you thought you were capturing.

This is another example of what I said about the last image. You cannot take a picture of a hummingbird taking off. They are just too fast. If you wait to press the shutter until they begin to fly, you will end up with nothing in the frame. It doesn't matter if you are shooting at 1/8000 second (the camera's maximum), you won't get it. That is because it is not dependent on the speed of the camera, but on your reaction time. And, with hummingbirds, you cannot react fast enough. I just happened to get this because it chose to fly in the same instant I pressed the shutter.

Yes, it would be nice to be able to completely freeze every wing beat. Good luck with that! Blurred wings are not always unacceptable, but it is on a case-by-case basis. A good one-third to one-half of the photos I take of hummingbirds are thrown out immediately because of blurring; not in the entire picture, but just in the wings. Their wings beat so fast that they can completely disappear if you shoot at a slow enough shutter speed. Have you ever seen a fat bird in mid-air with no visible wings to convey why it is flying? It isn't a pretty sight. But, given the right conditions, they can look like angel wings.

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