Hummingbirds

A few days into the last school year, our Life Skills teacher handed me her phone. Playing on the screen was a movie that I couldn’t believe was real. A cloud of hummingbirds was buzzing a bird feeder like electrons orbiting an atomic nucleus. The teacher had shot the movie through her kitchen window.

Today, she invited my wife and I over for lunch, and suggested I bring along my camera. For the next hour, we ate salads and watched the little birds feast at the feeder. Between bites I switched lenses and mostly failed to catch the little scamps in action. I shot almost 600 frames, and wound up with these four.

The challenge is not just in their speed, though that is a problem. They really don’t stop moving for more than a half-second or so, and are in and out of the focal plane before you can get a bead on them.

The real problem, though, is shooting fast enough to stop their wings, while also allowing enough light into the camera to make a decent image. I would have loved to have shot these images at 1/4000, but it was cloudy and even rained for part of the time. It was just too dark. And shooting with any speed at all meant cranking the ISO to 3200 sometimes, which made even the decent images a little too grainy.

Still, they are fascinating creatures. One thing I’d heard about but never seen was their aggressive behavior to each other. I guess if I had to get through the world eating liquid sugar all day, I’d be a little cranky, too.

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