“Patience is a virtue”
The sheer ability to devote your time to something without any forms of frustration for sure is a good quality to have. That’s something I mostly lack in life. I have zero patience when it comes to most things in my life. The only thing that has ever driven me to build a little patience in me is photography and birding. I know I’m passionate about it, I know I love it, but still it’s hard to keep on fixated on it. But owls and hummingbirds have at least ignited the elusive patience inside me. Throughout winter, I spent hours and hours foraging through the forest to find owls or any signs of them. To be honest, this year, that paid off beautifully, I found so many owls. I got a few good photos too. But, since the summer of 2018, I was dying to take a photo of a hummingbird.
It all started when I saw a hummingbird late in the evening and tried to take a photo. The lightning condition wasn’t very good so I ended up getting a photo that would tell you that it’s a hummingbird, but it was nowhere near what I wanted. To be fair, I am not a good photographer, and I was just starting back then. It was in my early days and I happened to have a bird in front of me which is very ‘tricky’ to photograph. (Which of course, I learned later).
But looking back at it, there were so many things I had done wrong. Personally, I do feel like I’ve gotten better at it. Here’s the first photo that I ever took of a hummingbird.
As you can see, you can tell that it’s a hummingbird but that’s not the kind of shot you want.
After that I barely saw a hummingbird. I did see one in Glacier National Park, when we were eating an icecream, it was feeding right next to us. But, I didn’t have my camera with me, and when I went to grab it, the bird was gone.
I was somehow occupied or obsessed with the idea of getting a good hummingbird photo since then. But it never happened. Like I mentioned, I didn’t see one for years. That was in the summer of 2018. The next time I saw one was last year, that’s fall of 2020. I was in this campground in Northern Minnesota. Actually, I was outside the restroom in the campground, and I heard a buzzing sound that went past me in a blur. I didn’t see it, but I knew what it was. So I ran to my campground and grabbed my camera, but then the bird again was nowhere to be found.
This year could probably be my final year in the US, so that makes it more special for me to get a good hummingbird shot. So, I’ve been chasing one since forever, even for this year, I’ve been on it since the start of hummingbird season. I’ve been following Ebird lists to see where people have reported hummingbirds. Since we don’t get lots of hummingbirds here, it’s hard, actually, it’s really hard to see one. The best bet would be to find a feeder, but the feeders are usually up in people’s yards. So, I can’t just go up to someone’s yard and take photos. So, either I had to find one in the wild or just find it somewhere in a state or a national park that has a hummingbird feeder.
Few years ago, when I was in Itasca State Park, I saw a hummingbird feeder in the visitor center. And, last year when I was there, there was no hummingbird feeder there, but I thought that it was because of Corona, since the visitor center was closed. Post corona, well it’s not ‘post corona’ per se, but post vaccination, things have started to open up. So I thought they’d put the hummingbird feeder there. That was my best bet.
So that’s what I decided to do. My friends were interested in kayaking up the lake/river as well. So we all headed there. While my friends were in the lake, I decided to go to the visitor center, but to my dismay, the feeder wasn’t there. Disappointing….I know..but I had seen this place in ebird, it’s actually a biological station of the University of Minnesota. So, I decided to make rounds of that place to see if there are possible hummingbird areas. But that area just happened to be a cabin for the researchers who come up north during summer for their fieldwork.
Things weren’t going well for me. I decided to head back, but right before the exit of the main cabin area, I saw a guy riding his bike towards me. He was looking at me too, probably wondering why I was there. So, I decided to stop and talk with him.
“Hi, can I ask you a very weird questions?” I said
He smiled and replied “Sure”
I’ve been seeing ebird reports of hummingbirds from this area, would you be able to tell me where I can find one?
He laughed and said, follow me to my yard. I have a feeder.
Excited, I said, is it fine if I take a few photos?
“For sure,” he replied.
Much to my jubilation, there were two hummingbirds. When I got there, there were none, but they showed up in no time.
I was getting the setting right on my camera. It was outside his door, which was in a dark area, plus it was already dark by then. So, I had to pump up the ISO, and while doing so I got super grainy images. It was better than my previous shot, but not the shot that I wanted.
Ruby Throated Hummingbird
This is what I mean by ‘very grainy’
Grainy it is, but also, it’s still under exposed and I didn’t have the colors I wanted in it. The learner ‘photographer’ in me from the first time I took that hummingbird photo to now, was pretty confident in getting a ‘super shot’. But, which didn’t happen. I’ve sharpened my photography skills, but hummingbirds are just too hard and you need to get everything just right…or even perfect. I wasn’t disappointed though, this was better than what I had before and I also learned something more this day.
Need more light/wide open lens
Shady area is bad
Also, buy a monopod/tripod
That was one chance that I had blown, but it was evening again and there was nothing else that could be done. Next time, I was going to find a place where I can find one during daylight.
Back home, one of my friends mentioned to me that there’s a hummingbird feeder in this wildlife preserve around 3 hrs Northwest of Fargo. The place is called “White horse hill national game preserve”. Apparently it’s a wildlife preserve, which is awesome, it’s so beautiful with a great view. They have Bison, Elks, tons of other animals and the best one ‘a hummingbird feeder’. So, utilizing my day off, I reserved a campground in the nearby Graham Island state park and drove there after work. The next morning, I went to the preserve and started looking for the feeder. It wasn’t hard to find the feeder, nor the hummingbird. When I got there, it was already there. It flew away as I got there. So I had enough time to set things up and hide nearby, not too close to disturb or scare away the bird. But the tricky thing was that the feeder was under a tree that’s behind the visitor center building. Which meant, even though it was sunny and morning, there were bad lightning conditions where the feeder was. But, I drove 3 hrs from Fargo to get there, so I was going to try everything I could to at least take a few shots. But unlike the one in Itasca, the hummingbird there maybe weren’t used to humans? They were very skittish and barely visited the feeder. I was there holding my 500mm lens and the camera for more than 1 hr. My legs were giving up and my hands were tired from holding the camera. And, I couldn’t let the camera hang free either, because I’d not know when they came back, and if you have seen a hummingbird, you know how fast they can be. So, they’d just zap in and out so I had to point my camera at the feeder and get whatever shot I could. But, I didn’t deter at all, tired hands or feet, I was ready to get a good shot. I knew they weren’t going to be like the one I wanted because of the lightning conditions, but still I waited and waited and waited. Even though I didn’t get my dream shot, it was amazing looking at these beautiful birds. They’re fascinating. The things I’ve learned from this time is that I need a wider lens to compensate for the fact that they’re not going to be in a perfectly lit place. And, maybe a tripod or monopod would help instead of handheld. I’ll try that next time, and hopefully get that beautiful shot I have in mind. But, this whole scenario made me realize how patient I have been doing this. This could be exemplary in a sense that I could be a patient person, at least for the things I really want. One of these days, even if I have to hold the camera for hours, I will get that beautiful hummingbird photo.
Here are few of the shots from today.
Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Thanks for reading….If you ever reached to this point i.e. haha
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