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WriterInChains
06-04-2013, 07:38 PM
Hi All!

My main character just informed me he's lying in the damp grass to get pictures of rare hummingbirds. I'm good on the birds (but wouldn't turn down any personal knowledge of nesting habits in general or the Calliope in particular) -- but it's been a long time since I used anything but a cheapie digital camera.

What kind of camera & lens[es?] would he use to get pix of such a fast-moving bird?
Any particular brands you'd recommend would be great so I can look into them individually.
Also, he's not huge on jargon (he's not much for talking in general so far) but any hints on the set-up he'd use would be cool.
Later he'll be shooting nesting herons (again, with the camera :)), so any info for large, slow-moving subjects that would be much farther away would also be welcome.

TIA! :)
Charley

Fran
06-04-2013, 07:46 PM
My friend emailed me some photos of hummingbirds just yesterday. I'm happy to email him for you, but he doesn't always get back to me right away. I'm sure plenty here can give you great advice, but I'll let you know what he used as soon as I hear from him. :)

WriterInChains
06-04-2013, 07:50 PM
Thanks, Fran! I'm just starting the first draft, so no rush. :)

mirandashell
06-04-2013, 08:04 PM
If he wants the wings frozen in place in the hummingbird pictures, he's going to need some quite specialist equipment. Even with some very slight blurring to show movement, it's pretty tough to do. And he'll need a completely different lens for the heron shots. I'll have a look at my old tech info for what I can find.

Drachen Jager
06-04-2013, 08:20 PM
Big objective lens (the lens furthest from the camera), big aperture (a setting, not an add-on to the camera) to let in as much light as possible for minimum exposure time. The aperture setting will cause a high depth of field (you'll notice most of these shots in nature books etc. have very blurry backgrounds).

Whether it's telephoto, or a shorter-range lens depends on the distance to the bird.

The most important tool is patience.

For the heron he can certainly use the same lens. The disadvantages of a big objective are cost and weight.

There is a divide emerging among pros right now. Some stick with the full-size Canon cameras, but many are switching to a 4 3rds format (smaller and lighter). Depends also on the size of the photographer (I can't comfortably use a 4 3rds size because my hands are too big). Nikon has a popular 4 3rds size.

WriteKnight
06-04-2013, 08:20 PM
Shooting digital - he'll want to use an extremely fast shutter speed to catch the wings - 'freeze' them. In order to use a high shutter speed, you need LOTS of light and/or an extremely FAST lens. This means a lens with a very wide aperture - lots of 'glass'. Think 1.2 F-stop.

A decent setup would be a Canon 5D MarkIII utilizing a fast lens - Like an EF 50mm f/1.2 This is a 'normal' lens. Not a telephoto. But with a hummingbird, you can actually get pretty close to them. Especially if they're eating out of a feeder, or you're already in place at their feeding spot. Depending on daylight you should be able to get a good shot. You can add a flash - but flash requires a slower shutter speed - believe it or not. Here's a good link to shooting hummingbirds.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/photography-tips/Hummingbird-Photography-Tips.aspx

Same camera for the Heron - but likely a longer lens. With long lenses you need a tripod to keep them steady.

JimmyB27
06-04-2013, 08:25 PM
If he wants the wings frozen in place in the hummingbird pictures, he's going to need some quite specialist equipment.

Not really. Pretty much any DSLR will do that easy, if the info on wiki is to be trusted. "They hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 1280 times per second (depending on the species)." The fastest shutter speed on my five or six year old Canon 350D (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_EOS_350D) is 1/4000th of a second. And that's a decidedly amateur camera - cost me about 500.
I'm the opposite of you, OP, I know a bit about cameras, but next to nothing about birds. Let me know how close he'll be able to get, and I can give you an idea of the lens he'll be likely to use.

mirandashell
06-04-2013, 09:32 PM
The info on Wiki is not to be trusted. If you want good photos, you need the proper kit. Speaking as a photographer, you can trust me on this.

Edit: Although I will admit that as an English person, I don't know how close you can get to a hummingbird.

JimmyB27
06-04-2013, 10:03 PM
The info on Wiki is not to be trusted. If you want good photos, you need the proper kit. Speaking as a photographer, you can trust me on this.

Edit: Although I will admit that as an English person, I don't know how close you can get to a hummingbird.
Okay, how about hummingbirds.net (http://www.hummingbirds.net/faq.html)?
"For small hummers like Ruby-throated, about 55 times per second"
I suppose it depends what you mean by 'proper kit'. Depending on the light conditions, I reckon it would be eminently possible with even a low end DSLR, especially a modern one, where the ISO can be pushed to ridiculous levels.
But that's supposing you even want to freeze the wings. Personally, I think the better photo would be one with a bit of motion blur to show the bird's motion.

mirandashell
06-04-2013, 10:06 PM
Eminently possible does not equal good photo. I'm talking about the kit needed for good pictures, not snaps. The quality of a picture is dependent on the lens, even in these days of digital.

Dave Hardy
06-04-2013, 10:17 PM
I've had them hover at a feeder (or land since there's a perch) within about 25-35 feet of me outdoors. They show up in Spring-Fall in Texas, so sunlight is VERY abundant. I have shot lots of pics of them with a cheap digital and they all come out rather poorly. I haven't tried with an SLR, just a digital. I may dig out my K1000 and have a go at it.

The birds are sensitive to sound and movement, so they seem a lot more comfortable when my back is turned. I commonly hear them buzz me on the back porch Now if I'm inside, they will occasionally hover at the window of my back door and check me out while I'm standing there.

JimmyB27
06-04-2013, 10:22 PM
Eminently possible does not equal good photo. I'm talking about the kit needed for good pictures, not snaps. The quality of a picture is dependent on the lens, even in these days of digital.
Which is why I wondered about how close you can get - a decent lens doesn't have to require a mortgage to buy.

mirandashell
06-04-2013, 10:27 PM
Ah no, I wasn't suggesting you need to spend loads of money! I was just saying that a good lens is worth its weight in gold.

JimmyB27
06-04-2013, 10:34 PM
Clearly my values are skewed. 'Proper kit' to me is a Canon 1D with an L-series lens. ;)
Several thousand pound's worth, depending on the size of the lens. :tongue

mirandashell
06-04-2013, 10:36 PM
Then why are you giving out crap to me about DSLRs?

Cath
06-04-2013, 11:26 PM
Mirandashell, knock it off.

WriterInChains
06-05-2013, 12:56 AM
Just a drive-by thank-you for now. Have to get ready for tonight's class, but wanted to be sure you-all know I appreciate the help!

I have some background in photography, but haven't had a darkroom since the mid-80s so am definitely not up to snuff on current technology!

If it helps - MC will be within, say, 30 feet (the backyard of a house built in the early 20th century) of the hummingbirds & their nest and is made of patience, so that's not a problem. Just need to know what equipment would make sense to put in his hands and what settings would be pivotal to the shots. He's not overly concerned with completely freezing the subject, but knowing what that would take might help me with the story as a whole.

Thanks again everyone! Later this week I'll have time to really study this great info & get to work on incorporating it into the story & repping & all that good stuff. :) Darned RL intrusions, why can't I just be independently wealthy & write all the time!?! *lol*

Fran
06-05-2013, 01:58 AM
I'll just quote my friend's email because I'm a numpty with this stuff.


Ah, ok, my hummingbirds. My camera is a Nikon D80, got it back in 2008, it's getting old now compared to new models on the market but its still pretty good and does what I need it to do mainly. I have a Tamron 70-300mm zoom lens. 300mm is pretty good for bird photography. I couldn't get as close as I wanted to the hummingbirds, they don't sit still for very long so I was having to use the maximum zoom to get them at all.

Hope it helps. :)

NikiK
06-05-2013, 02:45 AM
Maybe pictures will help? Maybe someone has what you're looking for? I'm not much of a photographer and I don't have much practice photographing birds, but this might give you a starting range for the camera.

If he's not completely concerned with freezing the subject, then a relatively cheap DSLR will do. Here's an example of some photos of hummingbirds I took with a $250 (CDN) camera (I hope the link works):
http://s577.photobucket.com/user/zanshina/library/Hummingbirds (http://s577.photobucket.com/user/zanshina/library/Hummingbirds)

Distance was about 25 feet away, with me standing as still as I could. My camera has a 21x optical zoom and wide-angle lens, and the focal lengths on the individual pictures vary from 32mm - 94mm. The 35mm equivalent focal lengths would range from 177mm to 525 mm. Exposure times varied from 1/125 - 1/250.

I've also used that same camera to take pictures of herons from a couple of hundred feet away, if that helps. I'm sure a more expensive camera (and a much better photographer) could show you better shots. But this is where you'd be starting from at the lower end.

Silver King
06-05-2013, 04:30 AM
...My camera has a 21x zoom, and the focal lengths on the individual pictures vary from 32mm - 94mm. The 35mm equivalent focal lengths would range from 177mm to 525 mm...
The crop factor for your DX camera is 1.5, not 5.5; so the 35mm equivalent is 48mm to 141mm.

Though it helps some, you don't need expensive equipment to make great wildlife photos. Even the cheapest cameras in the right hands can produce amazing images. The most important requirements are patience, practice and persistence. Then comes good light, composition and perspective.

You might find this (http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-photograph-hummingbirds) article that offers tips on shooting hummingbirds to be helpful.

For the nesting herons, any camera with a lens that has a focal length of 300mm or 400mm would allow the photographer plenty of reach without disturbing the birds.

lac582
06-05-2013, 06:01 AM
From what I understand,hHummingbird nests are tiny and usually fairly sheltered, so that's not the best bet to get shots of them. When I lived in LA there was a pair that lived in the courtyard of our apartment building, and they'd visit the salvia plant on our balcony to feed at least once a day, so we'd lie in wait and take some shots through the sliding glass door with our Canon 50d SLR and its standard 18-200 zoom lens.

As long as the light was good enough for a high shutter speed we could get some decent shots, including non-blurred or only slightly blurred wings.

But the best shots were actually when they were still. When they'd land and chill out on a branch they'd usually chirp surprisingly loudly, so it was easy to spot them, and they'd stay in place long enough to get some good snaps.

Dave Hardy
06-05-2013, 06:38 AM
But the best shots were actually when they were still. When they'd land and chill out on a branch they'd usually chirp surprisingly loudly, so it was easy to spot them, and they'd stay in place long enough to get some good snaps.

One strange thing hummingbirds do when they perch is to stick their tongues out. It's very fast and peculiar. Their tongues are colorless, they look like water. They also arch downward. When I first saw it I thought the birds were spitting.

NikiK
06-05-2013, 08:00 AM
The crop factor for your DX camera is 1.5, not 5.5; so the 35mm equivalent is 48mm to 141mm.



Quite possibly. I was just reading off the properties file when I right clicked my photos. I'm in a bit of a haze with the technical aspects of my camera, and I might have understood DH's explanation wrong. Thanks for correcting.

J. Tanner
06-06-2013, 01:29 AM
In my experience, the little birds don't have a very large radius of sensitivity to people as long as you're quiet and not dancing about all spazzy. (I had a chickadee I was photographing land on my shoulder earlier this year.)

This hummingbird nest was built in a potted tree on a front porch. The photo is from 3 feet away. The birds were unphased by any of the constant (but respectful) activity.

http://img28.imageshack.us/img28/7651/humsu.jpg

I don't really see the need to be 30 feet away hiding in the grass or whatever. You can park a lawn chair and a tripod 6 feet from the target plant and the birds will still come around like clockwork.

Regarding the camera stuff. You really do need a higher end camera or perfect conditions to get the frozen wings. While they may beat at 60 per second that "beat" is the entire process of the wing going through a full top-bottom-top motion. My camera is at the top end of point and shoots at about $500. It's not quite capable.

http://img16.imageshack.us/img16/4129/humimg8158.jpg

This was taken from about 5 feet. The shutter speed here is 1/500th of a second. Still too slow to freeze the wings. The plant was in shadow. The apeture was as open as possible for that speed (around f5). The picture is still too dark. It's compensated for a bit by high ISO which introduces undesirable noise/grain. What is really needed in this circumstance is more light... or a more capable camera. A low-end DSLR is probably fine (based on the specs--I've never owned one.)

NDoyle
06-08-2013, 06:00 AM
Charley, give him a DSLR of some kind (Nikon, Canon, it doesn't matter) and a long-ish lens, either a prime (400mm, or even 300mm) or zoom (e.g., 70-300, 100-400, 80-400, etc.) If you mention a brand, be sure that the brand makes that particular range of zoom. If he's a serious bird photographer, he will probably be using either Canon or Nikon glass, rather than, say, Tamron or Sigma, but there will always be exceptions. Such a setup will be quite adequate for hummers and for herons, both.

My own bird photograph gear has been or is a Nikon D300--now a D7100--with a Nikkor 70-300mm lens. A friend of mine photographs birds professionally with a Canon 7d and a 400mm lens. Oh, and he will probably prefer a "crop-frame" camera. In Nikonspeak this is a "DX" body (as opposed to a full-frame or "FX"). I can't recall what, if anything, Canon calls its equivalent.

ECathers
06-08-2013, 10:37 PM
We used to have a feeder hanging from a clothesline just off the side of our porch. The hummers had no problem with us moving around within about 5 feet, so long as we didn't bounce or yell.

When they had babies, the whole family lined up on the clothes line and took turns diving the feeder. (So cute!)

@ Tanner. Chicadees are quite bold and very easy to hand tame. Get them used to the feeder and then when the feeder is empty, put a small pile of seeds in your hand. Stand with your hand near (within a few feet) the feeder and wait. Sunflower seeds work best. They're a narcotic and the chicadees love them.

At one point we had a big snowstorm and ran out of seeds because we couldn't drive for a few days. As I went out the front door (I always fed the chicadees on the back porch) one of my birds came right to the door and fluttered in my face, asking for seeds. Needless to say, I hiked my butt to the store to take care of them.

WriterInChains
06-09-2013, 03:38 AM
You guys are so awesome. Can't thank you all enough--studying the different cameras, lenses, etc., is really helping me get farther into Phil's head.

Silver King -- Great article, thanks! It reminded me of something I'm not nostalgic for -- the 400 pix: 3 good shots ratio. That really hurt before digital! *lol*

J. Tanner -- Love the pic of that nest! That's one reason my guy's set up so far away; the bird's building her nest & it's easier to track her in more than one direction from farther away. Turns out that may not be important, but who knows.
I miss my yard with all the bird- & butterfly-attracting flowers, especially at this time of year.

Okay, I'm off to do more research. This story's becoming a lot more reasearch-intensive than I thought at first, maybe because I love that kind of thing. :)

Everyone enjoy the rest of your weekend! :)
Charley