It started long ago, a tradition from back in film days and thankfully it’s continued this summer. Alvin Sr. is an Allen’s Hummingbird and at the end of most summers, fledgling Allen’s come to our feeders in good numbers. But not every year do we have ones with the character of the original Alvin. This year’s crop of hummers have been a bit funny, I think in part because of the heavy days of wildfire smoke and our warmer temps. Things started to settle down this past week and when it was all done, well, there was Alvin Jr! He’s quite a character even chasing the Mtn Chickadees that come near “his” feeders. Finally, I got some Alvin time in and he’s a hoot to work with!
With the smoke being the heaviest in the afternoons, I changed up my shooting to the AM. There is a small window of time when the light comes in and backlights the perch I’ve got stuck in a Justin Clamp. The piece of Manzanita that I select for the perch has to have its own character as well as be small in diameter. I then left my tripod set up in the location I will eventually place the camera rig so he could get used to it. He instantly perched on the tripod so the break-in period was short! With that, I just need to attach the rig and shoot.
I changed the rig up this year shooting with the D5 / 180-400VR (@560mm) rather than the 300PF in the past. I did this for a couple of reasons. First is I just used the 180-400VR at Madera Canyon with great success. Second is while the 300PF can focus a couple of feet closer than the 180-400VR it’s too close for the hummer’s comfort range. With the 180-400VR I have more focal length at that comfort distance and therefore a bigger image size.
The goal of my shooting Alvin Jr. is more a character portrait then inflight shot. This means I use natural light rather than setting up the SB-5000s which makes it easier. The only downside at this moment is I’m getting Alvin Jr. use to my presence so I’m shooting remotely. With the WR-R10, I’m standing back about 15′ from the rig and when Alvin Jr. comes in, I fire. But I know it’s Alvin Jr. cause like his predecessors, he seems to like to give me directions! mtc