The Back Story on Do You Like Hummingbirds


Anna’s Hummingbird

San Diego, CA, USA

Acrylic Print & Metal Print (Click on Image)

1/250s @ f/5.6 ISO 320 @ 300mm

Who doesn’t like hummingbirds? Well, believe it or not, I’ve met a few people in this world who don’t (a phobia I guess) but they’re far and few between. Most folks love hummingbirds (it’s kind of like loving penguins or koala bears). The little buggers are usually flitting around so fast it’s hard to really appreciate them and their beauty, and they’re so small you have to be really close to see any pertinent detail. As a photographer sometimes you just get lucky (Luck = Preparation + Opportunity).

That’s why I love this shot of an Anna’s Hummingbird. He’s wasn’t flitting around, he was actually sitting calmly. And I was very close (about 10-feet away) with a 300mm lens on my camera. The sun was to my back, it was about 2-hours after sunrise (nice soft light with no harsh shadows), and his feathers were shimmering iridescent with no blown highlights. The positioning of his head was perfect and I even got a catch-light in his eye.

Most wildlife photographers want action in their bird shots (especially with hummingbirds) like feeding, mating, or flight and usually I’m no different. But once in a while serenity is a nice change of pace. The moment was perfect except that a large group of jabbering women (Scientific Reason) was quickly approaching and I had to be quick about getting my shot. None too soon as it turned out.

I was still in San Diego, CA (my hometown) preparing to begin my expat life abroad. I had arrived at Lake Murray in San Diego’s east county at sunrise hoping to get some early morning shots before the crowds started to appear. Lake Murray is popular with the fitness folks with its walking, cycling, and jogging trails. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous smart phone and chattering female is always present—not great for grumpy, antisocial wildlife photographers.


Matted & Framed Print (Metallic Paper)

Everyone has a right to enjoy public recreational areas, but I’ve never understood why people can’t enjoy these areas quietly. There is so much wildlife to be seen, but it’s long gone because they hear the human herds approaching from hundreds of yards away. Constant chatter on a smart phone, or among one another, just spoils the serenity and peacefulness of the morning (and ruins many a wildlife photo-op).

I had already been at the lake for about 2-hours, the crowds had arrived, and I was heading back to my car (taking my time and enjoying the morning as it warmed up). There was a group of walkers ahead of me and another group of walkers behind me maybe 30-yards. Out of the corner of my eye I caught this little hummingbird coming to rest about 50-feet away, and I began my approach.

I had to be fast because although the group in front of me continued their walk, the group behind me was closing in fast from the rear (and talking loudly the entire time). I accelerated my stealth approach all the while taking a shot here and there. I finally got to within 10-feet and he hadn’t bolted—he appeared fearless. Now I took my time, composed the shot in my viewfinder, and got a few extra shots. This one was the keeper.

The loud group of ladies behind me finally caught up and my little friend had enough and whirred off into the morning sky. The women asked me what I had seen and what I was doing—I told them about the beautiful Anna’s Hummingbird I had interacted with and photographed, and how rare it was to see (and photograph) one just sitting calmly. Almost in unison they said they wish they could have seen it too. Seriously?

Photographer’s note: Captured as a CameraRAW file with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II full-frame digital camera and Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD telephoto zoom lens. The Tamron is an exceptional wildlife lens for budget minded photographers, and I recommend it highly (checkout the feather detail in this image). I’ve since replaced it with the more robust Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM super telephoto prime lens, but I still miss the zoom capability (and Image Stabilization) of the Tamron now and again. I shot wide-open at f/5.6 (the little critter was all on the same focal plane so DOF wasn’t a problem), and at 1/250s (handheld with IS-Image Stabilization); this combination kept my ISO relatively low at 320. The morning (2-hours after sunrise) was bright overcast—perfect. RAW file converted in Adobe CameraRAW (ACR) and minimal post-edits completed in Photoshop Elements 11 (PSE11). This image is pretty much straight out of the camera with some cropping. SFD

WB IMG_2747

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photographer, Writer, World Traveller

La Serena, Chile



5 responses to “The Back Story on Do You Like Hummingbirds

  1. Hey Steve, koalas aren’t bears, they are marsupials, but i truly get the point. Avoiding other humanoids is one of the reasons we love kayaking – we can go where the masses can’t/won’t tread. Beautiful shot, btw.

    • Yeah I know, but we called them koala bears back in the day. I always wanted to kayak and never did; I thought kayaking down rivers (slow easy rivers, not rapids) and then camping at night would be very cool. I almost bought a touring kayak for the purpose, but the wife wasn’t keen on it. We had a boat at the time and she loved things with POWER, but I thought kayaks would be quiet and peaceful and allow me to take bird photos easier. Since I’ve been on the road I’ve been in a number of river boats and pangas (on the Rio San Juan in southern Nicaragua and the Rio Frio in northern Costa Rica, and of course the Amazon). I love being on the rivers. And I was right, taking bird (and monkey) photos from a boat is much easier than traipsing through the jungles and rainforests on foot (at least at this age).

  2. Well I certainly love your picture AND I too love humming birds but really they are nasty little suckers…some of the meanest birds I’ve encountered. Probably to overcome their size but when a humming bird nests near your home and several have nested over the years near mine; they will dive bomb us monster humans with no thought to difference in size.

    I will be back to check out more of your work. What I’ve seen is fabulous. I’ve had two photojournalist friends in my live; one dead and one very much alive. They weren’t nature photogs but Motorsports photogs but hanging with them, I’ve come to appreciate photography far more than I use to. I’ve always loved the art but now I have an appreciation for the work and the craft.


    • Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog post. I can’t argue with your point about hummingbirds, they can be tough little guys (like terriers in the dog world). You’re right, it’s probably a survival thing. I’ve had a few tussles with mockingbirds too, especially during nesting season. Being a wildlife photographer (primarily) I’ve had more than few experiences with aggressive animals (monkeys, moose, and snakes for the most part). But then we humans are pretty darn aggressive too come to think of it. Thanks again for your comments.

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