Focus on Hummingbird Photography

Lisa Snider

On Saturday, January 19, 2013, the Calvert Photography Club met for its monthly meeting. Newly-elected President Jeff Smallwood opened the meeting by welcoming any visitors to our club, and introducing the new Board of Directors for 2013: Vice President Megan Snider, Treasurer Bonnie Bryant, and Secretary Lisa Snider. Also working closely with the Board are Robbin Haigler, Event Coordinator, and Spencer Johnson, the Library Coordinator. Additional committee chairs may be added during the year to assist, as our club continues to grow.

Jeff presentsJeff extended a special thank you to Past President Guy Stephens for a job well done. Guy will continue to work closely with the club in his role of Immediate Past President.

For any visitors who were with us, Jeff gave this brief club overview: the club meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month, and plans one field trip on the 1st Saturday of the month. These field trips sometimes provide a unique access opportunity. We use FLICKR to share our images and for critique opportunities. In order to stay up-to-date on club activities, you must submit your e-mail address to our Yahoo distribution list, as this is how we communicate between meetings. 

There are three different delivery options for e-mail from the club – you may receive messages as they are sent, receive a Daily Digest, or only receive Special Notices, which are sent by the moderators/board members of our club. If you feel you are receiving too many e-mails from the club, changing your delivery option will help.

In planning for the 2013 club year, the new Board of Directors met last week. Using the results of the recent club survey, several issues were discussed. One issue was how to improve and expand the “on-line” critique process. Members indicated that the current process is cumbersome, and submissions are hard to make. The Board is looking into streamlining this process.

Also discussed was the monthly photo/sharing assignment. While this has evolved into the meeting critique session, club members indicated that they miss bringing in their monthly photo assignment, which we previously put out on the table for everyone to walk around and see. This exercise will be re-incorporated into our monthly meetings.

In our recent survey, club members were asked if they would be interested in a second monthly meeting, to be held on a weeknight. The meeting would be more targeted in nature – appealing to different shooters in the club. Two examples would be a “Dedicated Critique Session,” “Lightroom/Photoshop hands-on” demonstrations – topics that do not lend themselves to a group presentation. The feedback for this proposal was positive, so the Board will be looking into putting this together.

The club’s budget was also discussed, and the Board decided that to the extent that we have “extra” funds available (after our monthly meeting space rental, web site hosting costs, etc.), we will look into purchasing photo equipment (such as monitor calibration software), which we would loan out to those in the club who are interested.   

Workshops were discussed for 2013, and it was decided that since last year’s Beginner’s Photography Bootcamp was such a success, it will be repeated in September again this year (exact date to be determined). Club members also expressed an interest in Intermediate and Advanced Topic workshops. Planning will begin in 2013 for one of these workshops, but the execution of one most likely won’t be until 2014.

Many club members also expressed an interest in hands-on activities during the meetings. As the club has grown tremendously in size, this may be hard to execute. Nevertheless, the Board is pursuing the idea. The second monthly meeting may be the perfect place for such activities. Another idea is to hold a “Show and Tell” Saturday meeting, whereby club members voluntarily bring in photo equipment that they have, and talk about how and when they use it. 

Several club members have also come forward and volunteered their time and service to the club. A big thank you to those who have volunteered – Jeff will be contacting you to discuss how you can help.  If there are any others who are willing to help, please e-mail Jeff directly. There is much work to be done with a club that is the size of ours, and volunteers are always needed. 

In other news, Immediate Past President Guy Stephens will host a “Mobile Phone Photography Class” at the Calvert Library in February.
The class is free, and will be about 1 ½ hours in length. Those who are interested should register through the library.

The Solomon’s Island Winter exhibit is currently up, and it won’t be long before it will be time to start thinking about spring. Now is the time to review your photo library to see what spring images of Calvert County you may have, so that when Jeff sends out his e-mail soliciting images, you will have photo(s) ready to submit for possible display. 

In other business, Treasurer Bonnie Bryant advised that the club currently has 66 paid members, and an account balance of $320.38. Bonnie maintains a list which interested new members should sign. In addition, an attendance sign-in sheet is circulated at every meeting, and Bonnie maintains the monthly snack sign-up sheet.  We are always in need of volunteers to bring a snack for the group – Bonnie will supply the paper products, and will send an e-mail reminder to you the week the snack is due.

Finally, in accordance with the recent change in our by-laws, 2013 club dues are to be paid in accordance with the calendar year. Therefore, club dues should now be paid. The 2013 rates are as follows: individual member - $25.00 per year; family membership - $35.00 per year, and Junior member - $15.00 per year. Please make your payment (cash or check) to Bonnie as soon as possible.

We closed out the business portion of our meeting with Spencer providing an update on our lending Library. Spencer advised that the list of books available to borrow continues to grow, with recent donations by club members. Be sure to login to the members’ only section of the web site to view the titles, which are available for loan for a period of 2 months. Spencer brought several titles to the meeting, along with a sign-out sheet. Due to library space limitations in Spencer’s home, older versions of software and other books may be offered to club members as “Free to a Good Home.” Several were brought in today. Also brought in was a small collection of Popular Photography magazines from the 1970s. Anyone who was interested was encouraged to take the magazines home, which would make a fun read (look how far photography has come since the 1970’s!)

Finally, in connection with our partnership with both Peach Pit and O’Reilly Presses, free books are available to our club members in exchange for writing a review of the book for our club’s blog.

To mix up the meeting format a bit for the new year, Jeff began the next segment of our meeting with our critique session. Six images were submitted by our club members depicting this month’s shooting assignment, “Flash Photography.” Each image was allotted 3 minutes to be critiqued, with the following critique team members in attendance: Jim, Shaara, and Jeff. Other club members were also invited to share their thoughts and ideas. Each offered what they liked about the image, as well as offering constructive criticism, where appropriate. This is always an interesting segment, as club members often think of creative ways to interpret the shooting assignment for the month.

The club next enjoyed a 5-minute slideshow presentation by club member Teddie Watts, who recently took a trip to Antarctica. To enhance her presentation, Teddie also brought in prints of some of her photographs to share. Her slideshow featured wondrous winter scenes, including fabulous shots of walrus and penguins, set to an enchanting song. Thank you, Teddie, for sharing your travel adventures with the club.

T.O. presentsAfter a break to stretch, mingle, and enjoy today’s snack, the meeting resumed with today’s program, presented by T.O. Galloway, entitled “Hummingbird Photography.”  T.O. began his presentation by saying that he has been photographing the hummingbirds he sees around his home for the past 10 or 12 years. These birds don’t visit his home by accident, however. He very deliberately attracts the birds to feed there, and is then ready to photograph them.

In order to accomplish this, several key things have to be done. You need to know your subject – or how to attract it, you need the proper equipment (such as feeders and food), as well as the proper photography equipment for capture, and you need to know how to set the equipment up.

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is native to our area; they breed in North America and go to Central America in the winter. The males arrive first, to establish their territory; the females come later to mate,
and build their nest. Once you set up your feeders, try not to move them. If you do have to move them, move them gradually, so the birds can find their new location.

The female birds lay 2 eggs, which hatch in mid-June. After 4 weeks, the birds are mature, and fly on their own. The first or second week of July is the best time to photograph the birds, who love red or orange flowers (but not roses). It’s important to keep their food fresh – if it is 85 degrees or more, their food, composed of sugar water, should be changed every 2 to 3 days. To make their food, boil and cool 4 cups of water, to which you add 1 cup of sugar.

Hummingbirds like to feed in the late evening, to build up their food reserves until morning, when they feed again. Therefore, late evening and early morning are the best times to shoot your photographs of the birds.

T.O. went on to explain the equipment that he owns and how he sets it up to capture the birds in flight and feeding, and augmented his explanation with pictures of his set up. For those who are interested, he was kind enough to send an e-mail to our Yahoo distribution list outlining the mounts and clamps that he uses, with links to purchase them on the B&H web site. 

Thank you, T.O., for your amazing presentation. It is clear you are very passionate about your hobby, and your photographic results are amazing!

Upcoming events were discussed next. For those who are interested in seeing the club’s planned activities all on one page, please visit This .page will be updated, as the May and beyond activities are scheduled.

The club’s next field trip is set for Saturday, February 2, to
photograph the sunset in the Solomon’s Island beach, bridge and marina area. Watch for an e-mail from Robbin with all the information for this trip. 

Our next photo assignment is “ice,” and our next meeting will be Saturday, February 16, featuring a simple home studio setup presentation by Guy. The field trip for March is to “Old Town Alexandria.”

Jeff closed the meeting with a question and answer segment, which was a suggestion from Alan. This week’s question was “How did Japan come to dominate the camera industry?”

Answer – The outcome of World War II was instrumental in determining this. Prior to World War II, the Germans were the industry leaders, but with their defeat came the collapse of their photography industry. The Japanese were perfectionists by nature, and were making some camera equipment prior to World War II. After World War II, they increased their production and sales, and came to dominate the camera industry.

In closing my blog post, I like to end with a quote, and here it is:  “You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.” 
― Joan Miró

Here’s to making memorable pictures . . .

Reflecting on the past year and looking towards the New Year

Karl Barth

Much to the disappointment of the Mayans, 2013 arrived and is well underway. I hope everyone is having a safe and happy start to the New Year. The annual tradition for most folks is to make New Year resolutions. Have you made any photography related resolutions? If so, have you already broken them or you sticking with those resolutions?

As I reflect on the past year, I remember deciding to set goals rather than resolutions for the upcoming year. Goals, at least to me, seem to have more value than a resolution. When you set and reach a particular goal you get some satisfaction in knowing you worked hard to achieve it. With resolutions you have intentions but don’t necessarily following through with them.

My goal for last year was to get out and take more pictures; after all if you want to be a better photographer, you will only get better by taking more pictures right? I read several articles talking about 52 week or 365 day projects. That means you either take a picture every week or every day. I decided to try the 365 day project but stopped after 4 days because it was really hard getting motivated to take a picture of something every day.

After giving up on the 365 day project, I started looking into joining a photography club. I looked into the various area clubs but the ones I saw looked intimidating to me. Thanks to the power of social media I found the Calvert Photography Club and the rest is history. I’ve enjoyed the monthly meetings along with photo trips. Along with the way I’ve taken more pictures and I feel I’m getting better. I’ve learned a lot more about photography thanks to the main topics along with the critique assignments.

One of Karl’s shots from the 365 project

As we get more in 2013 I’m excited for the year ahead. I’ve started a 365 day project again. This time however I’m going to stick with it. You can check out my progress on Flickr. Thanks to fellow club member Robbin Haigler she provided a site, that gives suggested assignments for each month. I’ve had to use that site on several occasions for ideas.

If you’ve set a resolution or goal I hope you stick with it. If you are not sure about photo projects check out for some ideas or inspiration. Mostly importantly take lots of pictures!

Experience with Using Off Camera Flash

Karl Barth

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!  Hope you enjoyed the holidays and of course took a lot of pictures.  At the December photography meeting Club President, Guy Stephens talked about and demonstrated off camera flash.  He showed the various techniques and tools available like diffusers, soft boxes, and umbrellas.

Off camera flashA week before the meeting, I did a Christmas shoot for a friend of mine.  She wanted Christmas pictures done of her two kids who were 9 years old and 5 months old.  She didn’t want anything fancy but she wanted pictures done in front of a tree along with some props such as wrapped presents.  Needless to say this was a great opportunity.  I was really excited about it but also a little nervous.

My main concern about the shoot was lighting.  How much lighting would there be?  If there wasn’t going to be enough light what alternatives did I have?  I didn’t have any type of lighting equipment such as light stands or umbrella stands.  All I had were two camera mounting flashes.  Then I remembered my shoe mount flash (Bower SFD926N) for my Nikon camera had an option to run in slave mode.  Slave mode enables the flash to fire when the camera’s built-in flash or camera mounted flash would fire.  I could use that flash along with my Nikon SB-400 which is a smaller but more compact flash.

In setting up for the shoot, I had to determine where to put my Bower flash.  The Christmas tree was not near a window but there was a couch near the tree.  I decided to put my Bower flash on the arm of a couch and had the flash pointing towards the ceiling.  I was hoping it would provide additional light in addition to my Nikon compact flash which I also had pointing to the ceiling.  Since I didn’t have any diffusers for my flashes, I wanted to avoid pointing my flash directly at the kids because I felt it would affect the skin color.  Not to mention I didn’t want to make them go blind.

Off camera flashTo get a feel for what settings to use, I did several test shots.  I used manual mode of course then decided to use a shutter speed of 200/s, aperture of 7.1, and an ISO of 200.  I also shot the pictures in raw format.  I like to set the ISO to the lowest setting without risking any additional noise in the pictures.

In reviewing the pictures I was pretty pleased with how they turned out.  Some of the pictures came out darker than I wanted.  I should have used a lower aperture or used ISO 400 but that’s part of the learning experience.  Using both flashes worked out great.  I was able to achieve enough lighting of the kids along with the Christmas tree in the background.  For all of the pictures including the dark ones, I used Nik’s Color Efex Pro to adjust the pictures. 

Once I was done I gave my friend the pictures and she absolutely loved them.  She also posted the pictures on Facebook.  In reading the comments it’s really an honor and makes you feel good when you read all the wonderful positive comments about the pictures you took.  I was thankful that using both flashes worked out.