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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These different angles provided some additional interest to the selection of images captured.
Using a single AF point worked well as I could grab focus on the clearwing hummingbird moth quickly, while avoiding blossoms and leaves.
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.
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.
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!
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. 🙂
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.
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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