Photographing Hummingbirds in Flight Using V3 Built-in Flash

Further to my recent article about photographing perched hummingbirds, this short article features images of some British Columbia hummingbirds in flight captured using a Nikon 1 V3 with its built-in flash.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

Obviously capturing images of hummingbirds in flight proved to be a bit tougher than when they were perched.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 192mm, efov 517mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

I still had to deal with the very short lag from the time that I pressed the shutter on my V3 to when the flash would fire. I also had to attempt to catch the hummingbird when it was hovering quite still.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 246mm, efov 663mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

These little speed demons were so quick at times that they would almost disappear from the frame in the instant that it would take the flash to fire.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 201mm, efov 542mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

Some of the individual birds were pretty bold and being photographed didn’t seem to bother them at all. Other hummingbirds were very skittish and tended to hide behind the feeder opposite me.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 275mm, efov 742mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

After some experimentation I decided that the best strategy was to stand on a very short row of stones that was adjacent to one of the feeders and remain as motionless as possible. This allowed me to photograph the hummingbirds with my camera being in a position parallel to them, rather than shooting upwards.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 254mm, efov 686mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-2800, V3 pop up flash

I did my best to shoot with my CX 70-300mm fully extended whenever possible. Some of the individual hummingbirds were so fast and erratic with their flight that I did have to back off on my focal length in order to find them in the frame.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

By studying the movements of the hummingbirds I was able to begin to recognize good shooting opportunities. These tended to be when the birds approached the feeder from the right-hand side.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

That side of the feeder was a bit more cramped in terms of flying room so the hummingbirds tended to be a tiny bit slower with their approach. This gave me a split second more time with which to acquire focus on them.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

I prefer to create hummingbird images with their wings ‘frozen’ by using very fast shutter speeds like 1/5000. Shooting with the pop-up flash on my Nikon 1 V3 meant a shutter speed of only 1/250 so I knew that my images would have wing blur.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

After working with these images in post I must admit that I don’t mind having some wing blur in the photographs. I won’t hesitate to use this shooting approach again when circumstances dictate it.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-3200, V3 pop up flash

I have never used the pop up flash on my Nikon 1 V3 before and I’ve very seldom used them on my other Nikon 1 bodies either, other than for casual family images. This impromptu experiment was a great learning experience for me.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held using a Nikon 1 V3 (with pop-up flash engaged) and a 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. Images in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6, and the Nik Suite.

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6 thoughts on “Photographing Hummingbirds in Flight Using V3 Built-in Flash”

  1. Hi Tom,

    Wonderful images once again though that’s expected of you. Also, another wonderful demonstration of what you and your trusty Nikon 1 V3 can do. Wish there were hummingbirds in our part of the woods (LOL), my window feeder attracts pipits though on closer observation, they have incredible patterns. One day I will figure out how to shoot them without shooing them away – the really persistent ones come to about 4 inches from my window blinds 😀

    Oggie

  2. The eyes of the hummers look like glass eyes to me. I wonder if the eyes would look more natural in appearance if the flash was more distant from the lens. The feather color though is superb with the flash at that angle.

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