21st Century Observation (or, “You Can Photoshop That, Right?”)

An observation from a photographer in the digital age: All digital images are photoshopped - or processed in some way - if not on one’s computer then in camera. Photoshop is the darkroom tool of the 21st century, so saying “That image is photoshopped.” is like saying “That [film] image has been in the dark room.”. Of course it has! :)

And of course one can fake an image with this tool, but in my experience it is usually easier (and MUCH more gratifying) to get the shot right in the first place. Also keep in mind that today’s cameras are infinitely better equipped than their film-era predecessors, allowing one to capture images never before possible. These days it seems any time a photographer produces a great or unique digital image someone is there to cry “Photoshop!”. My answer is “Why, of course.”

The floor is open.  :)

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A Successful Season and A Glimpse of the End

Taking a much needed break from everything hummingbirds.  It was a very intense 2 months in which I netted more than two dozen images for my portfolio and next year’s exhibits.  To give a little perspective, I have less than 20 images in my portfolio from all 7 previous seasons.  So this year has been a big success.  Now it’s time for processing, printing, matting and framing.

Should point out that there are flowers I would still like to try with the hummingbird - Jewel Weed, Hosta, Morning Glory and Trumpet Vine to name a few - so I don’t think the summer is over in that regard.  But it is winding down.  In another month or so the hummingbirds will be molting - they look pretty ratty during this time - and will be leaving shortly thereafter.

A molting, male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, circa 2010.

Thinking about their departure saddens me already.  Winters are long and merciless here on the Mountain.  But the spring brings hummingbirds once again and with them, hope.

Already transitioning to my self portrait project.  Like the hummingbirds, this is an ongoing endeavor that is most likely years in the making.  For those who don’t know, self portraits are much more technically difficult than a typical portrait, especially when your subject looks like me (:p).  And again, like the hummingbirds, it can take a few of days or longer to get the “right” shot (whatever that may be).

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Hummingbird Photography Q&A

I thought I would create a dialogue that addresses just how I create these images.

General info: I don’t follow hummingbirds around with my camera - too much work ;) - instead, I create the composition and invite the bird into it.  The backgrounds are simply trees in the distance while the plants are usually in the pot they were in when purchased.  They’re set up on a table at such a height so that I can sit while taking the photos.

Feel free to ask questions.  I will do my best to answer them.



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The More the Merrier (or, It Takes Two to Tango?)

Wow. Seems there are two hummingbirds frequenting the feeder and flowers. This would explain why at times I felt like I was dealing with two completely different birds, lol. I’ve yet to figure just who is who. It will require some time reviewing photos that I just don’t have right now.

Finally noticed that one of the birds, presumably Nappy though I can’t be sure yet, has markings on his left side that are not mirrored on his right. This can cause confusion when viewing the bird in different profiles, further compounding the ID process.

In the end knowing the bird’s identity is not paramount to making the image. So, without further ado, here is today’s.

One of my two resident males tackling a Tiger Lily.

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The Imposter (or, How Many Birds in the Hand Is Too Many?)

Nappy may have been replaced, though it’s hard to tell at this point. The behavior hasn’t changed* - and that’s usually my first clue - but the photos have. I’m not seeing the markings on the hummingbird that I’ve been seeing. Often it’s tough to tell because the feather patterns change with the bird’s posture, but what I’m seeing doesn’t add up to Nappy. It’s entirely possible that a new bird has taken over without me realizing it, but I’m going to really have to study the photos to see just what’s going on.

Either way, the bird I worked with today managed to do fine. At one point he landed on a plant hanger nearby and watched me for a minute. Another time he flew from the feeder to a spot in front of my face and kept looking straight up. Not sure what that was about, but I took a break after the latter incident.

In the end, he gave me the shot I was looking for and did it without much fuss or bother.

??? with Firecracker Fuchsia

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Nappy’s Turning Point (or, The End of Innocence)

So, yesterday I wrote that Nappy was a stubborn bird with an attitude. And while this was true then, he was a different bird today. Still fiesty, but I think he’s finally getting it.

There was a point during yesterday’s shoot that he went to where the food used to be and then to me (hesitating to making sure I could see him, which was not easy to do considering my face was behind the camera). He went back and forth three times, pausing for a long 5 or so seconds each time he stopped in front of my face. Then he left, not bothering to feed and chattering loudly.

At the time I took it for frustration on his part - which I still think to be true - but I also think that was the moment he realized that I am ultimately the source of food. If true, this is a good thing. If true, he will start taking his cues from me, which means i can now direct him to the flowers I want instead of waiting for him to find it on his own.

Indeed, today was a fair bit easier than any other day with Nappy. Despite the fact that setup took more than an hour and 30 minutes (frustrating and void of inspiration - until I tried a different flower and a different BG), Nappy was around more often than usual and seemed eager to try out the flowers. When I finally did get set up, it only took an hour and a half to get my shot.

Thank you, Nappy. :~)

Nappy with a Mandevilla.


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Napoleon’s Attitude

So his name is Nappy, which is short for Napoleon. It’s also Nappy because he usually has an odd feather or two sticking out at odd angles, making him look nappy.

Nappy is a stubborn bird with an attitude. He actually seemed to be chewing me out both today and yesterday by chattering loudly during a close fly-by. He also buzzed* the flower I had him going to; I’ve seen this behavior before and I think it’s an expression of frustration. Soooo, we take breaks, lots of breaks.

Here is another plant from this week’s flower bonanza, a Flowering Maple.

Napoleon with a very cool Flowering Maple.

* - meaning that he brushed the flower so hard that he rocked it back and forth.

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The Lost Session (or, What an Aging Brain Says)

Going through my hummingbird files from this season, I ran across some photos from early June that I had forgotten. I temporarily labeled the folder “KMart Special” because the plant was a clearance sale item at, well, Walmart actually (Long story) and it had no tag to ID it.  I have since discovered that this is a variety of Bellflower.

Leatherneck feeding from a Bellflower.

Anyway, I had completely forgotten about this whole shoot, which actually was the better part of two days (Oy!). In a way I hope this gives an idea as to how many hours I truly spend behind the camera during hummingbird season, especially this year.  :~)


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Flower Bonanza! (or, How to Beat the Heat)

Misses and I decided to beat the heat and took an air conditioned drive to a nursery located a little over 30 minutes away. Good move. They had a number of plants we liked, so $60 later I was home setting up my equipment.

Here are the first two entries from today’s acquisitions.

The new hummingbird with a Bachelor Button(Centaurea Amethyst in Snow).

This could be Leatherneck - though not completely sure - with Monk’s Hood (Stainless Steel).

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Many “Happy Returns” (or, What’s in a Name?)

The new bird with a Lily.

This is a “Happy Returns” Lily that I picked up at the supermarket. This is also a new hummingbird to the property. He’s intrepid and curious - good things - though his feeding intervals are much longer than his predecessor, Leatherneck, averaging about 12-15 minutes apart. He seems a bit more relaxed than Leatherneck, another good thing. Still, he doesn’t have a name. Any ideas?

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Leatherneck with penstemon digitalis, or Husker Red Foxglove (6/16/12).

Leatherneck with penstemon digitalis, or Husker Red Foxglove (6/16/12).

Leatherneck with Blue Salvia, 6/12/12.

Leatherneck with Blue Salvia, 6/12/12.

Non-essential Vacation (or, A Fly in the Ointment)

Been nearly three weeks since I posted.  Minor but nagging health issues finally caught up with me and put me behind the eight ball regarding all non-essential work (like this blog).  So I’m catching up.

Good news is I have been keeping up with the hummingbird photography, so I have a lot to share.  But that will have to wait until tomorrow.  So for now, good night.


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A Second Chance (at Immortality)

Friday, the 8th, was nearly a complete loss in terms of having no flowers left with which to photograph Leatherneck.  Then, with just a few hours of good light left, I noticed the Foxglove. 

It had been damaged by wind during a shoot some days ago.  My wife had cut the broken stalks and placed them in the house among some cut flower arrangements.  One of the stalks was in full, glorious bloom, so I decided it was time to get it outside where maybe Leatherneck could work his magic.

Winds that afternoon where sporadic, but strong enough and frequent enough to double my usual set up time.  Fortunately, Leatherneck was on his game and within an hour we had the shot done.

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