A snowstorm came roaring through the Wind River Canyon last week and left a foot and a half of snow, but with warmer temperatures it has disappeared as quickly as it came galloping through the mountains. These sudden changes in weather is not uncommon in Wyoming and in the month of March means Spring cannot be too far behind. It all makes me anxious for Hummingbird Season, which is still quite a ways off; my particular favorite time-of-the-year.
Choosing Canon cameras to photograph wild-nesting hummingbirds here in the mountains of Wyoming was no easy task at the time; I've been digitally imaging hummingbirds for a dozen years, now. Digital was just beginning to rise to the level of the Kodachrome I'd loved for so many decades.
It wasn't just the digital cameras and lenses. It meant computers, monitors, laptops, memory chips, expensive batteries, cables of all sorts, profiling those monitors, printers, ink cartridges, special paper, frames, framing, glass, plexiglass, camera bags, pricey software and a very understanding wife that is also a fan of my art. And art it truly is: I put far more time into a final piece than Picasso ever did; sorry, but it's true. Learning how all of this crap fits together is all self taught; I could write a big book. But the real key was my choice of Canon equipment from the very start. The above baby Rufous hummingbird picture was imaged with a now ancient Canon digital camera; it was my first hummingbird work-of-art.
You see, Canon makes cameras and lenses, but they also make the printers, ink cartridges, fine art printing paper and all the software that makes it all "talk" to one another, including your computer. Of course as time goes on and experience and expertise rise, so do the prices and complications like outside software. And don't forget the cost of getting the works out "there." Galleries need money and they get their cut (30% - 35%)! The above image is a first-place winner in the Cody Country Art League annual competition of a female Black-chinned hummingbird taken with a Canon 7D. They are still great cameras for wildlife imagery, but resolution has gotten much better since; I still use them.
Canon's L-series lenses are very good and are worth the expense. My personal favorite is the fairly lightweight 70-200mm F/4L, which I now use on my Canon M6 Mark II camera-body. At my age and experience I wanted a challenge and the M6 Mark 2 was a good choice; small, fast and very detailed images, as the photograph below will show. The photo below is a color-image that shows just how fast technology has evolved and images detailed. It was imaged at F/8, ISO 800 and a shutter-speed of 1/3200th of a second! The picture is cropped from a larger digital file, yet the image is clear and brightly detailed. This isn't to say that any of this is particularly easy, it is not. Reaction times need to be fast and precise; think video games. But this is the real world and unpredictable from the very start. A wild animal as fast as a hummingbird presents many challenges beyond that make-believe shoot-'em-up video game; this is the real world Neo.
It will be 100 degrees in the shade, sweat in my eyes, but it's a wonderfully magical experience, and completely frustrating at times. I'll shoot thousands of images for that one that dazzles even me; and that's the one. Or, I could shoot thousands of images and get nothing I love. I may shoot ten thousand pictures and have no more than a few finished photographs to print----such is the life of a hummingbird photographer. Then something like this can happen, and it is all worth the effort. The above photograph is a Calliope hummingbird male that is smaller than my thumb! The sun has come up behind him and has "blown-out" the background; the hummer is in the shade and the manual exposure was set for the Calliope in the shade, making the background appear white; a great trick that took me years to time just right.
Liking your equipment is a good thing, and making it work to your satisfaction takes time, practice and loads of patience; sometimes the patience of a saint. Canon has helped me make my visions come to fruition; awards and sales are just the gravy. Just like Thanksgiving though, there is not enough gravy to go around; revel in your artwork.
Thank you for your time and love of the hummingbirds. My name is Michael John Balog and I live in the Wind River Canyon in Wyoming and I photograph hummingbirds. All wildlife stories and photographs are protected by copyright and all rights are reserved.
Safely visit my website HogbatsPhotography.com for more hummingbird photographs and Bighorn Sheep, deer, orioles, bluebirds, vultures, eagles....... MjB