Hummingbirds in flight with Nikon 1

I’ve been burning the midnight oil recently with client work and I really needed a break. So, I spent a couple of hours on Saturday morning at Ruthven Park in Cayuga Ontario with the intention of capturing some images of hummingbirds in flight with my Nikon 1 gear.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-640

I took one of my trusty Nikon 1 V2’s along with the Nikon 1 CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 VR telephoto zoom lens which provides an equivalent field-of-view of 189-810 mm.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720

I knew from previous visits to Ruthven Park that the best opportunity to capture images of hummingbirds in flight was in the area around the bird banding building. I also had a better idea on the camera settings to use this time around.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720

I set my Nikon 1 V2 for Manual, then adjusted aperture to f/5.6 and shutter to 1/3200. I then used the auto-ISO 160-6400 setting. I set auto focus to AF-C, selected 15 fps, and chose subject tracking. I anticipated that these settings would allow me to capture some images with good detail on the body and wings of the birds and also allow the ISO to be kept at reasonable levels given that it was a nice, bright morning. While not all of the wing positions were 100% crisp I found that a slight blur added some feeling of movement to the images which I found pleasing.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-640

I positioned myself to create a shooting angle that would more than likely result with solid green backgrounds, or at least have some of the shrubs etc. that are in the area be far enough away that they would not be in focus in the images. As is my standard practice I shot hand-held and did not bother bringing a monopod or tripod with me.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720

A few folks have told me that August is the best month of the year in Southern Ontario to attempt to capture images of hummingbirds in flight as the young birds are all fledged and activity near feeders and flowers is at their peak.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-800

After spending two very enjoyable and relaxing hours photographing these remarkable little birds I headed back home, but not before capturing over 600 images.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-800

I really can’t imagine using another camera system to try to capture these types of images hand-held. My Nikon 1 V2 with the CX 70-300 lens attached only weighs about 1.8 lbs. (828 grams) which allows me to shoot with it hand-held virtually all day long.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-2000
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-2000

Focusing is fast and accurate and I’m hard pressed to think of another camera system that can do an AF-C run at 15 fps. New Nikon 1 models like the V3 are even faster at 20 fps.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1600
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-1600

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13 thoughts on “Hummingbirds in flight with Nikon 1”

  1. Thanks for the great tips, Thomas. Just what I needed. I have a couple of feeding stations set up and have hummers but no luck so far with a capture. The feeders are in the shade so that might be my problem. One question: do you leave VR turned off?

    1. Hi Linda,

      I would normally turn the VR off when shooting at a fast shutter speed…but to be honest I don’t remember if I had it turned off for those images. As far as your feeders go…it also helps to go the the Dollar Store and buy some bright red plastic flowers and affix them close to your feeder…it will attract the hummingbirds. Bright sunlight can make the liquid food spoil quickly…so in partial shade works well…unless you want to change the food every two days.

      Tom

  2. Tom – again amazing! The hummingbirds are somewhat hard to find here but I must try the Auto ISO since you have talked about it I have wanted to try. Full manual with auto ISO – I like it.

    I love that you walk through the settings for us. I really appreciate that!

    Fantastic work!

    Mike

  3. Wow, fantastic in flight photos, Tom. IQ is wonderful, IMHO. I love my CX 70-300 VR. It is on my V2 all the time. Well, on one of the two I have. Makes a great combo. Unfortunately, even though the new J5 may have a superior sensor, two negatives about newer models for me are the micro SD card slot and the absence of the great grip that graces the V2. I don’t really care for the way the Nikon 1 series is going with regard to hardware and design. Darn, I was hoping for more like the V1 and V2. Also, the V1 battery was great! I use the same in my D800 and D7100. And battery life was better too!

    Anyway, I am using my V1 and V2’s a lot and thank you for showing me what I should be able to get out of them. I really admire your work with the V2 and look forward to articles you write about shooting the Nikon 1 series cameras.

    Vern Rogers (fotabug)

    1. Hi Vern,

      Thank you for the positive comment about the images and for sharing your experiences with the Nikon 1 series – both are much appreciated! I am hopeful that some of the design quirks of the V3 will not be duplicated in the V4 and that Nikon returns to an integrated grip and EVF. I agree that Nikon’s choice to use micro-SD cards and different batteries in the latest Nikon 1 models is unfortunate as well. I would much rather see standard SD cards and the battery approach used with the V1. Time will tell with the V4.

      Tom

      1. Hi Tom,
        Do you find subject tracking the best way to capture birds in flight over say single point focus?Thanks.

        1. Hi Vincent,
          Yes, using subject tracking is my preferred approach, especially when shooting in AF-C at 15fps with my Nikon 1 V2. Using single point AF can work if the shutter speed is high enough e.g. 1/1250 and if the subject is flying parallel to the surface of the lens.
          Tom

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