Test Images of a Hummingbird in Flight at 60 FPS

I’ve been having quite a bit of fun lately experimenting with using fast frame rates when photographing birds in flight. I took a couple of minutes today to capture some test images of a hummingbird in flight at 60 frames per second (FPS).

The 15 consecutive images that follow were part of a test run of 40 images that I shot handheld with a Nikon 1 V3 and a 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/.4.5-5.6 zoom.

I had a few objectives with this test run. The first of which was to find a good shooting angle in my backyard that would yield a muted background. Since at 60 FPS the first frame locks focus for the rest of the run, this shooting angle also needed to put me at a 90-degree angle to a target hummingbird in order to keep the bird in focus. My last objective was to move in close enough to get a sufficient number of pixels on my subject, while not scaring my subject away.

As an experiment these test images did provide me with some good learning:

  • I discovered that it can be worthwhile to use fast frame rate of 60 frames per second with this type of subject in terms of the variety of wing positions captured. More experimentation is needed to determine if other frame rates like 10 FPS, 15 FPS, 20 FPS or 30 FPS will generate a wider variety of wing positions due to the impact of rhythmic motion.
  • I didn’t get a sufficient number of pixels on my subject and I’ll need to find a way to get closer in to my subject so I can fill the frame better.
  • I need to use a faster shutter speed to reduce wing blur.
  • While lighting was at an acceptable level, I will need to shoot under brighter conditions in order to utilize faster shutter speeds while keeping my ISO as low as possible.
  • I will need to stop down my 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm to f/8 to provide a bit more depth-of-field.

The following 15 consecutive frames were captured in a total of 1/4 of a second.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1250

I’m looking forward to spending more time in my backyard over the next week or two to see if I can put this learning into practice, and produce some improved quality images.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection. All images were cropped to 4000 pixels in width, with the subject bird re-positioned in the frame as needed.

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8 thoughts on “Test Images of a Hummingbird in Flight at 60 FPS”

  1. Top work Thomas as always.This is where I find that my 300 f4 pf comes in handy for that extra stop of light.Like yourself I`ve had some interesting results just a pity we don`t have humming birds but it can come in handy for birds in flight in general to observe the amount of wing positions in a second.Another bonus for the 1 system.
    Regards
    Stuart.

    1. Hi Stuart,
      After I bought my first Nikon 1 V2 I did shoot with it for a while with a Nikkor 70-200 mm f/4 and having the additional stop of light was handy as you pointed out. Since most of my bird photography is in good light (and since I sold my FT-1 adapter quite a while ago) it is hard for me to justify investing in the Nikkor 300 mm f/4.
      Tom

      1. Hi Thomas,
        I love shooting as much as you do with the system as it is and the 70-300 cx is my most used lens by far but it`s nice to know of 2 lightweight alternatives (I do own both with the 70-200 F4 being the lens that got me hooked on the system on my old V1 in the first place) that are a bit more robust,just in case!Now for a back up 70-300 cx!!
        Regards
        Stuart.

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