The key, not surprisingly, is patience. Often when I saw the birds cavorting near the feeder, I would run inside for the camera and return expecting a quick photograph. It isn't surprising that the hummingbirds were off patrolling another part of their realm by that time. With no photo opportunity I would turn my attention to another section of my garden.
This past weekend I finally achieved my goal. I spotted a small female perched in the branches of the Ponderosa pine tree that holds our primary feeder. This time I quietly backpedaled to the house and softly approached after quickly retrieving the camera.
Anxious to see the results, I loaded the photos on my computer and was thrilled and amazed to find a few spectacular images. No longer reliant on National Geographic or Audubon magazines, there were hummingbirds from my garden now in my photo library.
Over the course of two days I was able to take a number of pictures of hummingbirds in the trees, at the feeder, and resting on the wire fence. I used a standard Canon digital camera with a zoom feature, nothing fancy. Any birds beyond about six or eight feet away tended to be out of focus or too fuzzy once I enlarged the image. And the images need to be enlarged to see the birds; they are pretty tiny after all.
Patience in gardening is something I've written about before. I plant grapes and asparagus knowing it will be three years before I can harvest anything. I plant bareroot fruit trees knowing that many more years will pass before they fill with fruit. I have plans for what I expect my garden to be in five years, and beyond. To me gardening is about the process and the journey.
Planting bird-friendly flowers and hanging seed and liquid feeders offer birds food opportunities, but it doesn't guarantee their imminent arrival. With time they will come. We sit near the garden and enjoy their aerial dances and plumage displays. Each year we see one or two new species that we hadn't seen before.
Now I'm ready to record their populations for posterity. If a hummingbird can be captured in a photo, so too can the finches, doves, jays, and the many others that give us enjoyment. I've snapped a few bird photos before but with little purpose. The possibility of success gives the effort new life. It's not always easy, but great rewards seldom are.
Hummingbirds are a favorite part of my garden, now more so. We wake with their trilling and always look when we see the flash of their flight. The simple notion of them staying still long enough to catch with a camera has awakened other gardening and photographic desires. It's amazing what a great feeling such a small creature can instill.