It's been nearly twenty years since I was high atop that ladder with a paintbrush in my hand, when the first hummingbird flew by and changed my worthless life forever. I hauled out an old 35mm film camera and tried in vain to get some hummingbird pictures. But film is not the best medium for a creative endeavor, when your valuable photos are in the hands of a boy that's locked in a small room! Then, through some weird twist of fate, a very nice fella introduced me to the new world of digital photography. Now, I was the one with the control of my pictures.
Having a "bucket list" is all well and good, but in my wildest photographer's dreams I couldn't have imagined where my Wind River Canyon hummingbirds would take me. Winning numerous awards, and my website HogbatsPhotography.com, reviewed in Shutterbug magazine no less, was more than I could've even dreamed up.
My dedication to the nectar feeders brought in nesting Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds. But late at night, here in the canyon, I caught glimpses of hummers that weren't supposed to be here at all; at least according to the experts in the books! A flash of ruby-red near dark was all we ever saw, but I knew what these hummingbirds were; Broad-tailed Hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus). I hoped that someday I could get them to nest in the Wind River Canyon, which has come true, but a good image of an adult male Broad-tailed has always eluded me.
The Broad-tailed Hummingbird is emerald-green with a ruby-rose gorget that makes him stand out from the crowd. They are a shy species that are easily dominated by the Tiger-colored Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), whose name and color identify it's attitude. Yet, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird's wings make a sound that dances in the mountain air like bells. I wanted to capture an image of one, but never even had much of an opportunity. With the good breeding population of hummingbirds down in this canyon, we hardly got more than a glimpse of a male Broad-tailed.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird Waving HelloThe wings of a Broad-tailed Hummingbird imaged in the Wind River Canyon in the state of Wyoming. Monday afternoon my fortune changed while waiting in one of my favorite spots to photograph hummingbirds. A male Broad-tailed was stopping by the feeder near my bedroom at regular intervals; mainly to avoid confronting the young, male Rufous' that are everywhere this time of the summer. After almost two decades of photographing hummingbirds in the Wind River Canyon, didn't I deserve a break?
When you try and photograph hummingbirds in the wilds of Wyoming, without the aid of flash-units, you take what these magical, little birds give you. Somehow you will never get what you really want....take what it is they give you. This is wildlife photography rule number 74!
When the little four inch darling (he's the size of your thumb) would swing around for a snack on my sugar-nectar I was ready; or so I thought. The clatter of the mirror slapping up and down on modern DLSR cameras is enough to frighten your grandmother; hummingbirds aren't too happy about that sound, either. But, nineteen years and a lot of four letter words later, I finally got a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird in-flight imaged right here in the Wind River Canyon! As a very rich car salesman once told me, "Sometimes I amaze even myself." Broad-tailed Hummingbird In-FlightThe first time a Broad-tailed Hummingbird has been photographed in-flight in Wind River Canyon in Wyoming! Everything must be going right for you to photograph a hummingbird in-flight. Lots of sunshine, a steady hand, video game-like reflexes, and more patience than seems humanly possible. I can't afford one of the new silent mirrorless, magical pro-cameras that shoot 20 fps; I have a couple of well-used Canon 7D bodies. As a very old and very famous photographer wrote, "It's not the camera you use, it's who's behind the camera." I'm living proof that you don't have to be wealthy to photograph wildlife; just very, very persistent.
*Live for the moment & maybe a hummingbird will fly into your heart.