The transition to autumn has begun. Late summer wildflowers are fewer and smaller, many have gone all to seed with no blooms left. Aspens leaves are turning golden yellow and contrast beautifully with the greens of the conifers. The broadtail hummingbirds are leaving the area and will be remembered fondly until next spring. Their rival, rufous, is long gone. Nights are very cool and mid-days warm. I want to write that it’s my favorite time of year, but in January I may contradict that when I proclaim my love for winter.
Beautiful little rufous arrives in July and the property disputes begin as he tries to claim ownership of all the feeders, flowers, and the good lookout perches. The Broadtails give way to him and sneak in to sip when he’s not watching. The smallest of our bird community, Rufous is only here to rest and feed for a bit on his long migration south, so the broadtails who stay all summer only have to put up with Rufous ruling for part of their time here. I’ve read Rufous is the faster and more agile flier and my natural light shutter speeds confirm this.
Broadtail cleans his beak by scraping on aspen twig.
A hummingbird sips nectar from a wild currant flower amid the multitude of tiny pink flowers covering the bushes. Too dark a day for wing stopping shutter speeds, I opt for a wing blurring speed and find the resulting transparency of the wing make this a favorite image of recent days.
Here’s how I capture hummingbirds sipping nectar with mountains and sky in the background making bands of blurred color:
Put the pot of flowers on the deck rail where there is a distant view of mountains. (This will work with other distant views or objects as well. Try to find a pleasing background with nothing between the flowers and the background.)
Use a telephoto and experiment with aperture settings until your flowers are sharp and background blurred.
A tripod helps to support a heavy lens while waiting to photograph.
To capture the hovering wings, use a fast shutter speed.
Optional: Add a little fill flash to lighten shadows or light up the iridescent feathers of the bird.
A male rufous speeds back and forth from his guard post on an aspen branch to the feeder to defend against all incoming sippers.
Being the dominate rufous at my house would not be so difficult, but feeders on every side of the house make defending from a single branch impossible.
Watching all the feeders throughout the day, I see sippers I might think were being denied if I watched only watch one feeder. Broadtails are still about, but rufous attempts to rule.
Capturing perfectly sharp stills of hovering hummingbirds’ wings was a bit of an obsession for me in the 2005 – 2006 hummingbird seasons here in Consworld. Now, as I continue to experiment with both natural light and flash hummingbird photography, I’m favoring the blurred wing images over the sharper ones.
Even with the bill shadow cast on the bird by the midday sun, I like this photo, but might remove the shadow before printing.