Hummingbird Garden by Alpha Whiskey Photography
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Hummingbird Garden

  • Mar 10, 2016
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Hummingbird Garden

Not so much a dedicated garden as a communal area for hummingbirds to feed. The last time I photographed hummingbirds was with my dear friend Lisa in California and it was one of the most amazingly peaceful experiences I've ever had. Alas, Lisa was not with me on this occasion in Costa Rica but I wanted to enjoy seeing and photographing them again so that I could share some of the resulting images with her, both as a reminder and a tribute to our previous experience. So, while almost everyone else went off to do some zip-lining or some such tomfoolery, I lost myself in the solace and serenity of this small enclave where hummingbirds of all colours and sizes buzzed around me. Paradoxically, their speed and hum only emphasised the otherwise silent tranquility of the garden. Capturing them was an almost impossible feat, however, especially hand-held with a contrast-detection AF system. They were so fast that by the time my eyes told my brain to send an impulse to my finger to hit the shutter they had disappeared. I resorted to manually focusing on a spot where they would frequently fly and hit the shutter when they came into focus. Even so, success was as much down to luck as tactics and required ramping up the ISO to have an effective shutter speed.Perhaps the challenge made the results more rewarding and the experience more enjoyable. I have no regrets about forgoing the zipline to see these beautiful birds, although I must admit my previous attempt at capturing them with Lisa delivered better images. All the images below were captured with the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8 and MC-14 teleconverter.

Mar 10, 2016
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Hummingbird Garden

This post has 17 photos Mar 10, 2016Comments (8)875 views
Not so much a dedicated garden as a communal area for hummingbirds to feed. The last time I photographed hummingbirds was with my dear friend Lisa in California and it was one of the most amazingly peaceful experiences I've ever had. Alas, Lisa was not with me on this occasion in Costa Rica but I wanted to enjoy seeing and photographing them again so that I could share some of the resulting images with her, both as a reminder and a tribute to our previous experience. 

So, while almost everyone else went off to do some zip-lining or some such tomfoolery, I lost myself in the solace and serenity of this small enclave where hummingbirds of all colours and sizes buzzed around me. Paradoxically, their speed and hum only emphasised the otherwise silent tranquility of the garden. 

Capturing them was an almost impossible feat, however, especially hand-held with a contrast-detection AF system. They were so fast that by the time my eyes told my brain to send an impulse to my finger to hit the shutter they had disappeared. I resorted to manually focusing on a spot where they would frequently fly and hit the shutter when they came into focus. Even so, success was as much down to luck as tactics and required ramping up the ISO to have an effective shutter speed.

Perhaps the challenge made the results more rewarding and the experience more enjoyable. I have no regrets about forgoing the zipline to see these beautiful birds, although I must admit my previous attempt at capturing them with Lisa delivered better images. 

All the images below were captured with the Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8 and MC-14 teleconverter.
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Comments

LisaMar 9, 2016 11:53 AM

So beautiful it brought tears to my eyes!!

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyMar 9, 2016 12:07 PM

Thanks Brat! :)

Fernando B. CorradaApr 4, 2016 08:43 AM

Great hummer shots! What was your typical ISO/shutter speed for the flying hummers? How close were you to the hummers?
I will be in CR in 3 weeks. Did you visit Rancho Naturalista? Thank you!

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyApr 4, 2016 10:10 AM

Thank you Fernando. Typically 1/800s at ISO 1600 or less. I was about 3 meters or so away. Didn't visit Rancho Naturalista.
Cheers.

WillApr 9, 2016 02:29 AM

Hey AW, another great article on Photography Life, has inspired me to book Costa Rica for Feb '17.

Just to check, was this Selvatura Hummingbird Garden? It seems they have bright red feeders for the birds, was it hard to frame these out of shot?

Did you see hummingbirds in natural settings too?

I went to Madagascar for my honeymoon and was blown away, so can't wait for Costa Rica!

Thanks again for great inspiration.

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyApr 9, 2016 04:03 AM

Hi Will. Thank you very much.
Yes, I think this was called Selvatura but yes, there are hummingbirds all over the place. I didn’t find it particularly difficult to frame the feeders out of the shot and even used them to give me a point to manually focus on. Then I'd recompose away from the feeders and wait for the hummingbirds to fly into the shot.
Hope you have a fantastic time when you visit Costa Rica! Madagascar is on my list! :)
Cheers,
AW.

John StainesJan 26, 2017 02:39 PM

Only just seen your articles on Costa Rica and agree with AW that your shots are inspirational. I am off to CR in a few days time and can only hope to return with hummingbird shots as good as these. I have read that they pose a specific challenge and I see that you manually focus and recompose but do you use multi-point focusing or single point ? Also I presume you used a tripod or was this handheld ?
Unfortunately I cannot travel lightly (DSLR + several lenses) so I envy your approach.......needless to say I cannot wait to get there and experience all aspects of the rainforest.
Thanks again.

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyJan 26, 2017 04:44 PM

Hi John. Thank you stopping by and for the kind words. I used single point focusing and everything was done hand-held.
Yes, your DSLR gear will be heavier but your shots will have probably better bokeh and subject separation. You'll also have phase detection AF which will help you keep up with the moving hummingbirds with greater success (as indeed I found the first time I shot them in California a few years ago with a DSLR). Shooting this subject with m4/3 was always going to be a challenge :)
I hope you have a fabulous time in Costa Rica and I wish you the very best of luck! :)

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