Rick Hobbs Photography

Wildlife/Nature/Outdoor Photography

From The Field

Hummers at Home

You have probably heard somewhere along the line that even though it is fun to travel to different locations to do photography it can also be just as good at home. Believe me after many years of hiking through the forest with a heavy telephoto lens and heavy tripod on my shoulder, falling into ravines, sliding into icy rivers and being threatened by wildlife it was a PLEASURE to do a photo shoot on the patio of my home.

Living in the mountains of Colorado I am surrounded by an abundance of wildlife that comes to my door. This summer alone I had three different bears, red fox, silver fox, bobcat, deer, coyote, skunk, racoons, two species of squirrels, three species of hummingbirds, woodpeckers, stellar jays, hawks, robins, and I don't know how many other species of birds within 5-20 feet of my house. I'm sure that wherever you live there is plenty of activity near your home as well.

On this shoot I wanted to focus on the hummingbirds. We have 5 hummingbird feeders up all summer and have a significant number of wildflowers on our property that attract the hummers as well. By mid-summer we had at least a dozen hummers hooked on wildflowers and sugar water so it was time to get busy.

The first thing you need to do is train the hummers to go where you want so I picked a location on my patio that would be good for me and good for them as well. The first week I took down the two feeders on the south side of the house and left the three feeders on the north side - 15 to 20 feet from where I wanted to eventually photograph them.

After they adjusted to the feeders being in only one general location it was time to move them in closer. I set out three old cheap tripods close together on the patio where I wanted the hummers to be and hung the three feeders from the tripods in a tight area about 3 feet off the ground. Remember, I want to be comfortable and sit in a chair while I work ;-)

This worked well and the hummers came to the feeders as consistently as before when they were hanging on the house.

Now it was time to get the rest of the outdoor studio prepared. Because I was going to photograph the hummers for a few days I set up an easy-up tent like you see at the art/craft fairs to block the sun during the day and any rain that might fall. Since all the lighting is done by flashes you can photograph all day and I needed to be comfortable.

I selected a spot on the patio where I could put my backgound in the shade by leaning it up against the house. Then measured 7 feet from the background and put a 5 gallon bucket upside down - this would be my studio table to hold the flowers you see in the images. Some of the flowers are taken from my yard while others were purchased in pots from the local garden store and then planted when the shoot was over.

The next step was to get my chair and tripod positioned so I could use a 400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter, and of course, a small table to hold my cold drink and the hummers sugar water.

Then I put the three tripods holding the feeders in position.The tripods will each hold a flash for the lighting.

Now that all the equipment is in place and the hummers are still coming to the feeders regularly I went out and sat in the chair and read a magazine during the prime feeding times so the hummers could get used to me sitting in the area. They kept coming to the feeders, in fact, they were buzzing around my head constantly as well and I was a bit concerned about getting hit in the eye but all was fine.

Now it was time for the fun part - the photography. I selected a plant and put it on the 5 gallon bucket then made any minor adjustments to my flashes to make sure the measurements were correct. I took down the feeders, put them out of site, and squirted sugar water into the flowers that I wanted the hummers to visit. When they flew in for the feeders it didn't take them long to figure out the feeders were gone so they tried the flowers and found the sugar water. Once they found the reward they kept returning to the flowers for more.

For the next several days I was able to sleep in my own bed and be on location ready to start shooting in 5 minutes. If I needed anything I was only a few steps from the comfort of my home. This was indeed a pleasure and a great deal of fun not to mention extremely productive as well. On one of the days a little black bear did walk up to see what we were doing, got a drink out of our pond, and walked off.

If you would like to see more of these images please look at the Gallery Section of my website at www.rickhobbs.com and click on Hummingbirds, pages 4-12 are from this photo shoot.