Sharon Prislipsky, PPSA  

The Acrobat by Sharon Prislipsky, PPSA

October 2020 - The Acrobat

October 2020 - Sharon Prislipsky, PPSA


About the Image(s)

During the fall migration we get dozens of Ruby throat Hummingbirds around the feeders we put out. Since I am mostly stuck near home due to the virus, this year I spent many hours learning how to capture hummers in flight. It was a process that went on for many days, and mid-way through I was lucky enough to fnally get my hands on an adapter for my new Canon EOS R5 so I could use my 100-400mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter. Having 45 megapixels to work with certainly helps.

My camera was tripod mounted and I used my Sidekick (similar to a Gimbal Head)
Settings: ISO 2500; f/8; 1/1250 sec. I used high speed sync flash at 1/4 compensation.

By this time of year most of the flowers in my yard are looking pretty tired so I focused on the birds as they approached the feeder. The grass and foliage is far behind the feeder so that created the green background with no hot spots or other distractions.

I did miminal processing, increased the exposure by half a stop, set white and black points, tweaked contrast and clarity in LR. I ran Topaz AI DeNoise, then and cloned out a few tiny battle scars to make him beautiful.

Along the way I discovered a YouTube video about photographing hummingbirds by the one and only Moose Peterson. He is kind of "full of himself" but the video is worth watching.

12 comments posted

Lisa Auerbach   Lisa Auerbach
The clear sharp detail in the throat feathers pull me into this image. The bright orange/yellow glow keeps me there, and then I am drawn to the eye. Each part of this area is interesting and inviting. You have captured a hummer quite clearly. Since the body is so sharp, the movement of the fluttering wings is appropriate as movement. The background color on the right accentuates the colors of the feathers. The left side does not do this. It distracts me. In the original, I can tell it is a tree; however, in the post process it is a line that interferes with the bird's wing. In my opinion the right-side green would complement the left side more.   Posted: 10/06/2020 06:22:01
Sharon Prislipsky   Sharon Prislipsky
Thanks for the suggestion, Lisa. I am not sure the left side bothers me that much, but I will definitely give it some more thought. I am not sure this image is destined for competition or exhibition, but for nature competitions, I don't think there would be any allowable way to fix that.   Posted: 10/06/2020 12:15:57

Mike Cohen   Mike Cohen
Very pretty and I love the fanned out tail feathers. I appreciate Lisa's comment but it doesn't bother me too much although I think it's valid. That would be easy to fix if you don't mind changing the reality a bit. The entire image, to my eye, lacks some contrast. A simple S curve would address that nicely, maybe masked so that only it only affected the center.

I'm envious of your new camera, which from what I can tell, leads the pack for wildlife shooters. Since you have hummers at home, I'd shoot the flash remotely and set it up on a stand near the flowers or feeder. You'll get a lot more light and be able to get more flashes at lower power settings. More flashes are even better. It also allows much slower shutter speeds, since the flash is the main light source and must faster than the shutter. Without that, I personally would be shooting at 1/4000 or faster as I like sharp wings. Even then most will show some blur.   Posted: 10/06/2020 07:08:35
Sharon Prislipsky   Sharon Prislipsky
Thanks for the flash tips, Mike. It would be easy to set up in my location; but alas, they have now migrated so I won't have another opportuntiy until next year. As for the shutter speed, I prefer to have a little more wing blur to suggest motion. I know that is a matter of personal preference. If you watch Moose's video, he has quite a bit of wing blur, which I think is too much. I guess that it is a matter of taste.
I am really loving the R5. The auto focus tracking is amazing. And I don't mind have 45 megapixels either!   Posted: 10/06/2020 12:12:44

Ally Green   Ally Green
What a great capture and like the title...definitely an acrobat! The fanned out detail in the feathers are wonderful. The colours on its throat and chest compliment the background. I love photographing our hummingbirds in Colorado so it is quite an art to perfect and you have done a great job with this one. Not sure if it is just me or my computer but the head could be sharper but perhaps on yours it is. Will look out for Moose's video for next summer's attempt!   Posted: 10/11/2020 11:52:01

Pamela Hoaglund   Pamela Hoaglund
Beautiful capture of this fast little hummer. I agree with Mike that it seems a bit flat so maybe a bit of dynamic contrast on jut the bird would help. I love that the flash put a nice catch light in the eye. The tree on the left doesn't really bother me, I fact I didn't see it at first as the hummer really attracted and held my eye.

I did a week hummer workshop in British Columbia some years back with John Gerlach and we used three flashes, one on the background, one pointing down and one pointing up at the point where the hummer would be as it fed at the feeder. I'm no flash expert but my understanding is that the shutter speed is not a factor in stopping the action but the flash speed that stops the action. If you Google "John Gerlach humming bird photography" he has written several articles in Nature Photography magazine.   Posted: 10/11/2020 12:07:13
Sharon Prislipsky   Sharon Prislipsky
Oh goodie, another John Gerlach follower! I have followed him since his days in Michigan wheer I also lived for many years. I have also subscribed to Nature Photographer for many years.
With regards to this image, not a lot of planning went into it. I had just gotten my new Canon R5 and wanted to master its auto focus system. With time on my hands due to Covid 19 and plenty of hummers on the back porch I had some targets, The flash was actually an after thought. However, this has gotten me interested so I am going to plan ahead for next year and have something other than the feeders to draw them in and make a better image - I hope. The good thing about the hummers is that they always return! Thanks for your comments and suggestions.   Posted: 10/11/2020 14:56:28

Judith Lesnaw   Judith Lesnaw
Great job catching the bird in flight. As one who has yet to stop butterflies in flight I appreciate this victory. On the question of wing blur, I actually like both wings in motion (with the body tack sharp) and wings frozen in flap. I find the tan marbling (the left band and right blobs top and bottom) of the green background pleasing; it adds interest but not clutter. The flair of the tail feathers adds character. I agree with Mike that the image could use a bit more contrast.

Thanks for suggesting the Moose video. While watching this video and reading our dialog I began to wonder if flash photography, seamingly a key element of many hummingbird-in-flight procedures, had any harmful effects on the birds eyes. So far I have found only one article that addresses the owl eyes at night. Have you seen any studies that might shed light on the matter?   Posted: 10/11/2020 21:06:21
Sharon Prislipsky   Sharon Prislipsky
I have never heard or read that the flash hurts their eyes. I checked with my husband who is an avid birder as well as a photographer, and he has no kowledge of that either. If you want to know more, you might get in touch with your local Audubon Society. Thanks for your comments.   Posted: 10/12/2020 08:08:26
Isaac Vaisman M.D.   Isaac Vaisman M.D.
(Groups 4 & 58 & 72)
In one of our wetlands in south Florida (Green Cay)a small owl made a nest in one of the trees. There was a group of "protectors" of the bird that were yelling and complaining to any photographer that would use fill flash, Are they not aware that lightning has more lumens that a small flash.... Anyway, they made the park rangers built a fence around the area so you can not come close.   Posted: 10/17/2020 14:43:25
Sharon Prislipsky   Sharon Prislipsky
Hi Isaac,
That is really interesting. Where I live there are so many deer in the community that there are frequent car-deer collisions. But the animal lovers rant and rave against a limited hunting season and act like the hunters are deranged criminals. I just cannot figure out the logic some people use and why they don't do a little research. I really appreciate the information about more lumens in a bolt of lightening. Thanks for sharing.   Posted: 10/17/2020 15:23:19

LC Boros   LC Boros
Nice shot of a ruby in flight: good recovery of detail in post.

My only suggestion for improvement is to the composition: I'd go for a full square crop with slightly more negative space along the top to help create more story: as the birds eyes are looking up at something, so accentuate that in the composition.   Posted: 10/20/2020 15:36:15


Please log in to post a comment