Nature Blogger Network

Nature Blog Network

Sunday, February 23, 2014

FIELD NOTES: LEARNING THE CLICK MOMENT - HUMMINGBIRDS


The pictures below are the result of lengthy field observations and a wondering mind. I am a late learner of the wonders of videography, and a victim of a foolish the concept, that video is not a tool in the photographers' trade. In fact, I should have asked myself, why would the camera makers design and incorporate video, in photo cameras of all sorts, and why would I deny myself its use. Well, first, I thought, and it may be a fact,  that using a DSLR to make videos would shorten the sensor’s life.This is a question, that I have no info about, but cameras are expensive, and shortening their lifes, is not within my priorities.

Then, you are challenged by a photo project, that involves a subject that has a mind of its own, flies unseen, between point "A" to point "B", its tiny and the best way to secure a picture of it, is by been close to its food source. Now, the subject I am writing about is humming birds, and our understanding of their natural history and flying capabilities defy our imaginations. Therefore, we most imagine, what goes on between point "A" and point "B" to develope a technique, that would enble us to freeze a moment, that takes fractions of a second by an animal that can be the size of your thumb. The picture below is just a small example of the unseen acrobatics these birds do right in the front of our eyes, but our brains, just won´t register.
Copper-Rumped Hummingbird (Amazilia tobaci)


This is a video capture, where I used a Canon EOS 7D set up at 1080 and 60 frames per second to catch a humming bird in flight . The cut is of a 13 second feeding flight of a Glittering-throated Emerald, in a tropical dry forest located in a Caracas suburb. The 13 seconds were slowed down to 2 minutes, in postproduction, to enable me to learn, and then guess, the flight trajectory of this particular humming bird. From watching this, over and over, one can see the bird hovering to inspect the site, then, it takes a forward dive to approach the food source, and it stops. Once it feels safe, it takes another dive to the feeder, and starts to feed. During the feeding time, it resumes a hovering style flight, where the bird maintains its head in one place, and the wings and body may move, to compensate its posture as it feeds. Then, the hummer engages in a back flight and a hover. The back flights are used to checkout the surroundings, the dives are used to approach the food source (and they include a small fraction of time, to slow down, before feeding, and then, resume the hover to feed). Once the bird is done, it flies away.

THE CLICK MOMENT: It is during the brief stops, that the photographer should have pre-focused his lens, and have both the flash and camera arranged to take multiple frames. I set a Canon 580 XII at multiple flashes or at ETTL at -1 1/3 to do the fill light. The birds are very close to the camera, the distance between the birds and myself is about 6 feet. How do I get so close to the hummers? by feeding them two times a day, letting them get to know me, by holding the feeder in my hands just after each water replacement, and not challenging their fearless nature.


FROZEN ACTION
(CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO ENLARGE)

Glittering- Throated Emerald (Amazilia fimbriata) 
series.


Stop/ Who is that? (The photographer)...
The flash does not hurt carry on...
Full speed ahead. Mind you, that there are two species of Emeralds
competing for the feeder so drink and go avoids agresive interactions
Slow down full flap stop
Slowing down avoids collition and the birds change into the hovering mode
In the hovering mode, the birds will keep their bill inside the
feeder, they do not move their heads, but their bodies move
up and down and and from one side to the other by flying in
a very steady way so the bird maximices the sugar water intake.

FLIGHT DURING THE MOLTING STAGE
An interesting note is, that this Emerald is molting and
the molt begins with the secondary feathers first. I
looked at the tips of the primaries and they are worn.
However, primaries are key to the birds survival and they
 will molt them later. (Need some feedback on this)

Copper-rumped Emerald (Amazilia tobaci) series

This species approaches from the side and up close. In this
case, the bird has a nasty passenger, a tick on its neck.
The Copper-rumped Emerald seems to be more acrobatic.
Its no unusual to see them belly up flying. They are a joy
to see, but our naked eyes is incapable of catching this type
of action, so freezing it with our cameras is the cheapest way
to attain this memories.
Use your video capabilies in your cameras and learn how
to become a better nature photographer.

See you in the next post. If internet is not taken away from us like the rest of our media. All these images were taken from my appartament's window, as nature sets my imagination and soul free, for some minutes a day, its a matter of sanity and survival. 

Peace
Leopoldo García-Berrizbeitia
Photonaturalist
Caracas, Venezuela





















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