Not because I got skunked at Miramar Lake, but because I just wanted to get some good Anna's Hummingbird images, I signed up for a hummingbird workshop with Neil Solomon (www.nsolomonphoto.com). Neil conducts his workshops in Alpine, California (www.alpinechamber.com). That is just a forty minute drive from home and too good an opportunity to pass up. The target workshop species in Alpine are the Anna's, Costa's, Ruffous and Black Chinned hummers. During the workshop, it was predominantly the Anna's that buzzed around the feeders and flowers. A Ruffous and Black Chinned showed up occasionally, but I failed to get images of those. Since my objective was to get some good Anna's images, the workshop turned out great for me.
Neil is a true professional. His setup included five flashes, a variety of backgrounds and native flowers right out of the yard. Since his equipment and my camera were all Canon, the whole setup was triggered wirelessly by my 550 EX Speedlight flash with its wireless selector switch on the "master" setting. We had to experiment a bit on the appropriate exposure settings. Once that was fine tuned, the rest of the shooting was almost automatic. Since it is nearly impossible to focus on the flittering hummers, the camera was pre-focused on the area where the birds were expected to feed and set on manual focus. I still ended up with hundreds of out-of-focus shots. That was OK since I filled four 8 GB cards during the two day workshoop and had plenty of in-focus images to work with.
The birds seemed to follow a pattern of all showing up at the same time and then disappearing for a while. At times there were as many as five or six hummers pushing, shoving, intimidating and chasing each other around the feeder. It got nasty at times and the clashes could easily be heard. During the lulls, Neil and I had plenty of time to swap stories and get to know each other. Turns out, we have photographed at many of the same locations. Neil's specialty is definitely birds and he responds immediatly when he hears of any special bird photography opportunities. Most recently, he flew to Seattle in order to take advantage of the Snowy Owl irruption resulting from too many young birds for the available northern food supply. To learn more about bird irruptions or explosions check out these sites www.birdsource.org and www.ebird.org.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the two days I spent with Neil photographing hummingbirds in Alpine. You can see the results of the workshop on my website in the Alpine Hummingbird Workshop gallery. Most of the images are of the female Anna's with its freckled throat and golden and green back feathers. My personal favorites are the male Anna's with there bright, irredescent red gorgets. There are also a couple of Costa hummingbirds with their purple gorgets.
A few years back, I participated in a hummingbird workshop with John and Barbara Gerlach (www.gerlachnaturephoto.com) at the Bull River Guest Ranch (www.bullriverguestranch.com). During that workshop I was able to capture many Rufous and Caliope hummingbird images. You can see those on my Hummingbirds gallery.
If you care to leave a comment, let me know what you think of the silhouette images. They were actually a bit of a mistake in lighting.