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Archive for July 31st, 2009

Ok every since I saw my first hummingbird show up this year I have been dying to take a good photo of one. My first photo is not great and is a male sitting on a branch. But I wanted one in flight.

Ruby Throated male Hummingbird

So I looked around on Flickr and got a few tips. My next try was ass backwards. I set up six flashes triggered by Nikon wireless CLS around a feeder and blasted the poor hummingbird on full power while my Nikon D300 was set to a shutter speed of 1/8000.

Hummingbird Setup

This resulted in these photos. Note there is still motion blur in the wings.

Humming Bird

Humming Bird

Turns out I made a few mistakes. First FP Sync has issues. Again more tips and help from the Flickr community.

According to John Groseclose. Checkout his photos. They are great.

“If you’re trying to “freeze” motion, FP Sync isn’t the way to go. Since it turns the flash into a constant light source for the 1/300 or so it takes for the complete transit of the shutter slit across the sensor, you will still end up with blur.If you’d used an ND filter to knock down the ambient to black instead of using the high shutter speed to do it, you’d be using the flash duration of 1/1000ish at full power instead of the 1/300ish of the FP Sync. And since FP Sync loses a lot of power anyway, you might even be able to drop the flash power to 1/16 or so, and get a flash duration of 1/10000 or shorter (see page 122 of your SB-800 manual for the power/duration listings).

See webs.lanset.com/rcochran/flash/hss.html for details.

“You’ll want to get to a point where the ambient light is *zero*. If you shoot without flash, the scene should be *black*.

Then add flashes until you have enough to see the bird at a good exposure. That’ll freeze it.

At 1/250, f/8, ISO 400, you’re almost shooting for direct sunlight (f/16, ISO 100, 1/125 is “Sunny 16″.) Turn your ISO to 100, shutter to 1/250, and hit f/16. Don’t be afraid to crank your power up – the Metz 48 shouldn’t exceed 1/1000 at full power, and 1/2000 at half power.”


According to Michael Roy a.k.a. digitaldirectphotos.com. Checkout his photos and setups. They are awesome. Maybe buy his calendar.

” the ghosting appear because too much light hit the sensor. if you disconnect the flashes, everything should be almost black… if not ghosting appear. 1/16 should be ok for the flashes…, i would increase the f stop to f14 to f20 lower the iso to 250… the flashes have to be close to subject… use a patio umbrella or shoot when it is not in full sun… just like in studio.”

I really needed to reduce my shutter speed to 1/250 (i.e., no FP sync). Second I needed to decrease the power of the strobes down to say 1/16 power. The lower power settings actually allow the strobe to fire faster. This is where I am learning that when the strobes are the primary light source their speed is actually the important factor in the exposure. In stead of six flashes I am now using three on stands set around the feeder. Finally some of the blur was from my wide open F stop. I closed down that F-stop to the point that without flash, the photos were black. The next photos show this. Note that I have much better motion stop less blur.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

Also note the black background. I wanted a beautiful background. So again more tips from Flickr community. I put a piece of black foam core behind the feeder. I took an out of focus shot of my day lillies, printed that on a piece of plain paper and taped that to the foam core behind the feeder. Finally I took one more strobe and used it to light the background. This resulted in the following photos. I learned this trick from digitaldirectphotos.com as well.

Here are the backgrounds I have used so far.

Yellow Day Lilly Background

Pink Cone Flower Background

With these background I got the following photos.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

So I haven’t seen the male come back since my first photo and I sit around for hours and I am lucky if the female comes around once or twice. Today there were two females and they came around much more frequently and did not seem affraid of the flashes. One just about flew up the camera lens and into the house. My understanding is that by mid August the offspring will be leaving the nest. Cross your fingers. But this is sure a lot of fun. Now the next challenge will be changing up the backgrounds to see what I can get.

Yea I finally had a male show up. It happened so fast I didn’t even realize it until post.

Hummingbird on Gold

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