Visioning

photography and digital scrapbooking


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Photographing a Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird: A Simple Strategy

Our feisty Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived a little late this year. We put the feeders out in April and faithfully filled and cleaned them all summer. Finally in July, three birds decided to claim our yard as their territory. We love watching them fatten up for their long migration next month!

Today the cloudy sky created good light, so I set up my tripod, attached the remote shutter release, and carefully considered my camera settings. Determined to photograph the male hummingbird, I felt it would be easy since he was feeding and zipping around the yard all morning. I soon realized he was chasing other birds more than eating, so I needed a strategy. I decided to place all the feeders on the porch except the one in front of my camera. Then I added a misting spray of water from the garden hose to make the remaining feeder more interesting. The strategy worked and the male finally posed in all his orangey-red-throated glory!

Click photos to view in higher resolution.

All photos: Canon 60D, aperture priority, RAW format, AI Servo AF, continuous high speed, partial metering, ISO 2000, 200mm, f/11, 1/250 for the perched photos and 1/400 and 1/500 for the flying photos. Exposure compensation: -1 to help produce a proper exposure of the lighter hummingbird on the darker green background. I set the focal point on the right flower port. When the hummingbird came into that plane of focus, the f/11 aperture allowed his eyes and most of his body to remain in focus. In post processing, I was able to retain most of the light feather texture, even after increasing the exposure by about 1 stop. I experimented with reducing noise in Nik Define 2.0, but ultimately decided to accept the noise generated from ISO 2000.


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Digital Scrapbook Layouts: Easy with Templates

ScrapHappy Page Template Mini: Mega Photo is my new product for quick and easy digital scrapbook layouts. Use the templates as is, or modify with your own creative touches.

Digital scrapbook layouts print beautifully! I printed the layouts, then trimmed the pages and added to the album I created for Mallory, my grandniece. Memories to treasure!

Update: Digital scrapbooking products by Karen Chandler are no longer available.


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Holmes County: Old Farm Buildings Part 2

Holmes County, Ohio Part 2 includes an abandoned farm that was most recently owned by an Amish farmer. The first 6 photos are from that farm. Portions of siding are missing from the barn – probably an act of vandalism.

The last two photos show the house and part of the farmland near Shreve where my grandparents lived until 1958. When I look at the house, I can imagine my beloved Grandmother walking to the garden behind the house to cut rhubarb or pick beans. The outside of the house and yard has changed little since those days, except for new construction on the right side of the house. Obviously a fresh coat of paint would make the house look better. The last photo is a small part of the view from the yard. The view has not changed. I think that is remarkable and wonderful!


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Holmes County: Old Farm Buildings Part 1

My recent trip to Ohio included visiting back roads in Holmes County. The textures of rust and faded paint were everywhere at the abandoned or nearly abandoned farms I discovered. I especially enjoyed photographing the windows and doors of old houses. I always wonder if the original residents had a happy life there so many years ago.

The turkey vulture photo was a bit disappointing. The location is a wide valley that was formerly a wetland. Turkey vultures perched all over the driftwood, but we startled them when we traveled the unpaved road and all but two flew away.

I will post Part 2 photos from Holmes County soon!


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Portrait of a Hummingbird

He is a trusting young bird, so I am now able to set the camera 12 inches from the feeder. During one of his visits yesterday, he stopped moving for a moment (except for sticking out his tongue), allowing me to take a macro portrait.

I tested a relatively high ISO setting during this shoot to compensate for an overcast sky and shaded feeder. If you are a photographer and use Photoshop, you might be interested in how I edited this photo for noise. I usually reduce noise in Lightroom 3. But for this photo, I tested the ‘reduce noise’ feature in Photoshop CS5 and was happy with the result.

  • I duplicated the photo, then Filter>Noise>Reduce Noise. Basic panel: Strength 8, Preserve Details, 77%, Reduce Color Noise, 90%, Sharpen Details, 10%. In Advanced panel, I set the red and green channels to: Strength 4, Preserve Details: 60%. Blue channel: Strength 7, Preserve Details, 60%.

Canon 60D, ISO 1600, 100mm, f/4.0, 1/80.

Click on the photo to enlarge.
male juvenile hummingbird


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The Smallest Bird in the World

I tried a different approach to photographing the smallest bird in the world! After placing my camera on a small, flexible tripod, I placed it on the kitchen countertop about 3 feet from the window. I wanted to get a different perspective and get close enough to use a macro lens. But manual focusing was more difficult, since touching the lens caused the tripod to bounce a little. I noticed the hummingbird tends to hover and feed at about the same place in front of the feeder. So I decided to focus on the bird once, then just shoot during his next visit (hoping he would position himself in the plane of focus for a second or two). It was the easiest shoot so far and produced two photos that I like.

The young male shown here had the feeder almost exclusively to himself yesterday. The adults stayed at the other feeders in the yard. The youngster has learned to accept my presence, even when I move slowly a few feet from him. He usually looks directly at me and always checks out the camera no matter where I  place it in the kitchen.

Although the hummingbird has a tiny body, his brain is 4.2% of his body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. This particular bird’s curiosity is amazing! Recently, my husband and I were standing side by side at the kitchen window watching goldfinches eat seeds from my basil flowers. We froze when the young male suddenly showed up at the feeder. He drank as usual, but before flying away he paused and looked at us; moving his little head back and forth to get a good look at each of us! The hummingbirds always seem to know when something is different from their previous experience!

Both photos: Canon 60D, ISO 1600, 100mm, f/4.0, 1/200.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird

The macro photos make the hummingbird look huge! To provide perspective on his size; the flower shape of the feeder measures 1.5 in. (3.8 cm). His body is about 3.3 in (8.5 cm) from the tip of his beak to the tip of his tail.

Hummingbird facts I have discussed on my blog come from World of Hummingbirds. The information on this site is comprehensive and entertaining!

juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird


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Hummingbird Quirks

Observing the Ruby-throated hummingbirds revealed some quirks of the juvenile and the female. They are the most active, so I ‘know’ them best.

All photos: Canon 60D on a tripod.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird

The juvenile male  (identified by a few red and gold throat feathers) is the least wary of humans. He visits the feeder more often than the adults. And he is more likely to perch for a few seconds after he drinks. When he perches, he looks left and right almost constantly, sometimes angling his head in comical positions.

(This photo is similar to the one included with my Juvenile Hummingbird post.)

ISO 400, 370mm, f/5.6, 1/40.

ruby-throated hummingbird

The juvenile male does not hover long before drinking. And he usually drinks without harassment from the adult birds. I read that at some point, the female will begin treating juveniles like other birds who invade her territory and begin chasing them from the feeder. I guess it prepares them for territorial issues they will face as adults!

ISO 800, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/40.

juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird

The youngster sometimes peers directly into the camera. Or so it seems!

ISO 500, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/160.

female ruby-throated hummingbird

The adult female (white tail feathers, no red spots on throat) tends to hover in front of the feeder for several seconds before, during, and after feeding. While hovering, she looks up and turns her entire body left and right to survey the area. I think she has claimed this feeder as her own, since males rarely show up here. When they do, she chases them all day.

ISO 800, 220mm, f5.6, 1/60

ruby-throated hummingbird near feeder

One of the female’s quirks is to investigate the area under the opening of the feeder. She moves all around this area,  poking her bill and extending her tongue as well. I have no idea why she does this, but I think it is interesting. Update: Thanks to a comment by one of the readers of this post, I think it is likely she was looking for an insect snack!

ISO 640, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/160.


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Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

A male started feeding at the window feeder yesterday! The female strongly objects to sharing her personal food source, but manages to drink when she is not engaged in territorial battles. All the birds look healthy and will soon begin their migration to the western states of America or Central America. I will miss seeing them every day!

Canon 60D, ISO 640, 200mm, f4, 1/250

Click on the photos to enlarge.

male ruby-throated hummingbird

male ruby-throated hummingbird


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Juvenile Hummingbird

Finally everything came together! First thing this morning, I set up my tripod, metered, and waited for hummingbirds to come to the feeder. They visited briefly several times, but I was unable to get a manual focus. Finally a young male Ruby-throat hovered, then perched. He stayed for about a minute, which allowed time to focus manually and take continuous photos. See the small red spot on his throat? Juvenile males develop spots in August and September. During his first molt, he will obtain the iridescent red throat of an adult male.

Canon 60D, ISO 500, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/80

Click on the photo to enlarge.

juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird



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Hummingbird Photography

Experimenting with hummingbird photography has challenged me this week. We have a window feeder, so I set up my tripod in the kitchen and with Larry’s help outside, I manually focused on an object where the hummingbird will be feeding and hovering. When a bird arrived, I shot using a remote shutter release and high-speed continuous shooting. This is my best photo after a few hundred attempts earlier this week! See a bit of her tongue slightly extended? The feeder is somewhat shaded, so I plan to find a way to reflect more light on the feeder, without scaring the birds.

This little bird is very observant. When I replaced a yellow dish towel with a white one on a hook next to the window, she came to the feeder and glanced almost constantly at the white towel. She even perched and stared at it for a while! These little birds are so much fun to watch. I can remain stationary in front of the kitchen sink and watch them from a distance of 18 inches!

Canon 60D, ISO 400, 200mm, f4.0, 1/160.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

female ruby-throated hummingbird