Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My first hummingbird shots

Fall of last year we went to our favorite botanic garden in Glencoe Illinois to take photos of the last blooms of the season. The weather was getting chilly and the flowers were on their last blooms. Also wildlife is starting to get rare, with a couple of birds and bees and animals going around gathering food to get ready for the cold winter. My friend from work told me a week earlier that hummingbirds are now frequenting some of the spots in the garden. I have never photographed a hummingbird in my life...this will be my first attempt. 

As soon as we got to the garden, we saw a bunch of photographers waiting for the birds. All brandishing their cameras of choice, from medium formats to point and shoots. My camera of choice was my 5D MK2 equipped with my favorite 70-200 IS USM f/2.8 with my Kenko 1.4x DGX 4 attached to it for the extra reach. The telephoto 200mm range will now become a 280mm...I think that'll be enough for what I'm gonna use it for. Of course my f2.8 lens with the teleconverter attached is now an f4 lens. Still not bad for the maximum aperture. We had plenty of sun that day which translates into faster shutter speeds for me. Excellent when capturing hummingbirds.

As soon as we get to one spot, 2 hummingbirds were already flying around. With hummingbirds you really have to have a very keen sense of hearing and sight. These birds aren't big enough to be noticed and they also fly really fast! The busy landscape of bushes and flowers doesn't help too as it helps to hide these little birds. 

I set my camera to aperture priority to let me set it to the maximum aperture that I can so I can have the maximum speed that my camera will allow me to have with the lighting conditions. I know I should've set it to shutter priority so I can specify my speed but it was getting darker in the late afternoon that I am not taking any chances with underexposed photos. I was thinking, it's better to get a blurred hummingbird picture than to get a very dark image of it. Next time I'll remember to bring a flash.

I handheld my camera waiting for the hummingbirds and managed to take some shots while they flew in front of me. 

This hummingbird just froze in front of me for about 4 seconds. Enough time for me to snap this. 

I was lucky with this one. The sun was shining directly into the bird that my camera allowed to have a 2000/sec shutter speed to freeze it in motion.

This season I have my longer 400mm ready for any birds that might come along. I'll be ready to take it with soon when I hear the hummingbirds are back in the gardens!


  1. Hi, I see you have the Kenko 1.4 and the Canon 400 5.6... Have you used these together successfully? I have the 400-5.6 and have been tempted to buy the Kenko TC, but I find so much conflicting info. Some say they'll work together, some say you have to tape the pins, and still others say don't bother with it. What's your take?



    1. Yes, the Kenko 1.4 that I have works together with the Canon 400mm f/5.6 without any modifications. The autofocus works fine and pretty fast. I have tried the Kenko 1.4 on a 70-200 IS USM f/2.8 lens but the autofocus was really slow. With the 400mm it seems a bit slower than normal but it still is pretty fast. The only thing about using the 400mm with a tc is the image quality degrades a lot. Fringing is so visible and any imperfections on the glass is easily seen. Also, vignetting is also bad with this combination. I wouldn't really use this combination if you want excellent image quality. The 400mm f/5.6 in my opinion is not supposed to be used with any teleconverter due to the fact that the image quality isn't good with a tc. Also your maximum aperture will now be f/8. If it was the 400mm f/2.8 version then the tc might be a good option, but with the f/5.6 version, I wouldn't use it.