By Scott Smith
Last minute assignments, final exams, assemblies, workshops, and graduation are just a few of the things that are keeping us busy and stressed out as we make our way through this semester at Cameron University. I must admit that it has been especially busy for me lately. Although assignments and work are keeping me busy,
I have managed to find some time to relax and take in the beautiful Spring weather we are having to do some photography.
Photography is one of my favorite hobbies, but I rarely have time to go out to locations for pictures. I have had to adapt my hobby to include shooting photos at home.
I have found a subject for my photos that is not only challenging, but also relaxing: Hummingbirds!
Every Spring, hummingbirds make their return to North America and Canada from as far away as Central America and Mexico. In their annual migration, they can travel over 3000 miles. That is a long way for a two-and- a-half-inch long bird!
A good way to get the hummingbirds to visit you on their migration is by putting up a feeder. You can find hummingbird feeders at any local feed or hardware store such as Tractor Supply. I usually put up a feeder around mid-March sometime after the last hard freeze, although I have sometimes seen the birds earlier.
Hummingbirds love sugar water and making your own nectar is super simple using just table sugar and warm water. The ratio for hummingbird feed is four- parts water to one-part table sugar. For example, four cups of water and one cup of sugar. Just dissolve the sugar in warm water and pour into the feeder. Also, making your own feed mixture ensures that other chemicals are not included in your nectar. Do not use red dye to color the water as it may not be good for the tiny visitors. Hang the feeder on a hook in your garden or on the corner of your house. It won’t take long until the little hummers find your nectar. Hummingbirds have an excellent memory and will return year after year, provided you keep the food source available. Be sure to clean your feeder weekly with vinegar and water to stop mold and fungus from forming.
Once the hummingbirds return, the challenge is getting a good picture. Those little birds are fast, so it takes a lot of patience and a fast shutter speed to actually get some good shots. I park a lawn chair at least eight to ten feet away from the feeder. If you sit long enough, they will get used to you being there and will not perceive you as a threat.
I recommend a camera that you can do a manual setting for shutter speed. I usually set my shutter speed at 1/3200 or 1/4000 and use a zoom lens if possible. Using this setting will be fast enough to stop the wings of the hummingbird and your picture will be less likely to blur. When shooting in the late evening, take note that the pictures can turn out dark due to the fast shutter speed.
The next thing is, just be patient. If you have seen hummingbirds at your feeder, they will be back.
Sometimes, it takes 10-15 minutes in-between feedings for them to return, but they will return. Although they will feed throughout the day, I have found that early mornings and late afternoons are great times to catch the birds at the feeder.
If taking pictures isn’t your thing, just enjoy the hummingbirds for the beauty they provide.
As the semester draws to a close, try and find a way to relax. Whether it’s a hobby such as photography or something else entirely, finding time for yourself will not only make you feel better, it may even help you retain information when you return to your studies.