Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

For only the second time in my life I recently had the opportunity to photograph a clearwing hummingbird moth… right in my own backyard. It was almost 5 years ago to the day that I shared some photographs of a clearwing hummingbird moth that was visiting a butterfly bush adjacent to my pond.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3673 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.8 metres

Remarkably five years later that same butterfly bush had another clearwing hummingbird moth pay us a visit. It was late in the day and I had my E-M1X set-up to photograph bees and butterflies using Pro Capture H. As I was beginning to lose some light I had decided to remove my M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter. This gave me an extra stop of light which proved beneficial as you can see from the EXIF data for the images in this article.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3903 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.8 metres

The butterfly bush that is adjacent to my pond is in full bloom at the current time with well over 75 blossom heads on it. While scanning for bees and butterflies I happened to notice a small shape flitting about. Since it was much larger than a bee, but smaller than a hummingbird, I immediately knew my visitor was a clearwing hummingbird moth.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3813 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.6 metres

When faced with a rare photographic opportunity the first bit of business is to remain calm and focused. As soon as I was able I fired off a few back-to-back Pro Capture H runs. The clearwing hummingbird moth wasn’t in an ideal position with its back to me, but I grabbed some quick images to ensure that I didn’t waste this opportunity.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4324 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.6 metres

Luckily the clearwing hummingbird moth buzzed around my butterfly bush for 6 or 7 minutes… although it often changed sides so I ended up running back and forth like a crazy person.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 355 mm, efov 710 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3988 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.3 metres

My standard Pro Capture H settings worked well (Pre Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter set to 15, 60 frames per second). My E-M1X consistently nailed auto-focus rapidly as the clearwing hummingbird moth flitted back and forth. Once I thought I had a decent number of photographs, I slowed down my pace and tried to position myself for some better shooting angles such as front quarter views, profiles and some head-on shots.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3568 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.6 metres

These different angles provided some additional interest to the selection of images captured.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3667 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.6 metres

Using a single AF point worked well as I could grab focus on the clearwing hummingbird moth quickly, while avoiding blossoms and leaves.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3625 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.8 metres

Situations like this when a subject is constantly on the move can be very challenging. Being very familiar and comfortable with one’s camera gear is important as there’s no time to fiddle with settings, or second guess one’s decisions on how to capture images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3723 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.8 metres

Using Pro Capture H did have a trade-off in terms of work volume in post. I ended up with hundreds more images than I needed, with many photographs being close to identical. At the end of the day I’d rather have more photographs than I need, rather than not enough.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4134 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.8 metres

I monitored my pond area and this particular butterfly bush regularly for a couple of days after this opportunity to see if the clearwing hummingbird moth would return. No such luck!

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3280 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.8 metres

I guess if Mother Nature only gives me an opportunity to photograph a clearwing hummingbird moth once every five years… I’ll have to make sure I’m ready in 2026. 🙂

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4043 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.5 metres

One never knows where and when a photographic opportunity will present itself. Sometimes some of the most interesting ones are right in your own backyard.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4096 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.6 metres

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted. This is the 1,051st article published on this website since its original inception.

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8 thoughts on “Clearwing Hummingbird Moth”

  1. Hello, Thomas! I use to read your articles, really interesting all of them. I am from Galicia, in Spain.
    For this kind of butterfly, here we distinguish it from the hummingbird moths, we call it bumblebee moth (or sphinx). I don’t know its name in English, but we have a very similar species, with transparent windows in their wings as this.
    I have the luck of seeing them frequently in my parent’s garden.

  2. I always get the itchies when shooting insects. Glad to see that someone can stay focused on their craft unlike me. Great photos.

  3. Lovely photos and from interesting angles! The text also shows how gardening the right way can really benefit the natural environment and give one more exciting opportunities for nature photography. Even when we are at home, we are part of nature.

    I also appreciate your ” attitude to life in general” posts that you mix in from time to time.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      My wife is an avid gardener and she does a great job with her choice of plants etc. She does some research and she chooses some plants specifically because they attract various species of birds and insects. We also have a few bird feeders and we keep our pond running 12 months of the year so the birds always have fresh water. We both enjoy having a lot of bird life in the backyard all year round.

      We are still discussing what to do with my philosophic ‘life’ posts. I know that a number of readers enjoy them, but I also appreciate that other readers may not want an overabundance of that kind of content. So, we are investigating other options.

      Tom

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