Black-chinned Hummingbird – It’s Often The “Little Things” That Make An Image

And in this case those little things include “pixie dust”.


1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbird twelve days ago as it was feeding on the nectar of wild Rocky Mountain Bee Plant. I have flashier images of more colorful hummers (Rufous Hummingbirds for example) doing the same thing but for me this one stands out for a variety of subtle reasons including the following:

  • Both subjects, bird and flower, are sharp in their entirety. The hummer is sharp from stem to stern including those incredibly fast-moving wings. And despite its depth and all those stamens and petals splaying out in every direction the entire flower cluster is sharp too (or close to it). I’ve found it challenging just to get most of the bird sharp in these situations but this time it was broadside to me so I had plenty of depth of field and my fast shutter speed froze the wings. It was a bonus to get all of the flower reasonably sharp.
  • The flower is in good condition and very attractive. Many flowers on the same plant are at different stages of development – some not open yet and others way past their prime. Thankfully this bird chose a beautiful specimen to extract nectar from. Many photographers use a perfect cut flower as part of a setup for hummingbirds but to me that seems more like studio photography than nature photography and I refuse to do it.
  • I love the dusting of pollen on the left wing. For me little things like that provide a dose of reality and give good nature photography a little extra zing. I often see pollen on the faces and bills of the feeding hummers I photograph but I don’t remember noticing it on their wings before. I’m surprised that at a wing speed of about 53 beats/second the pollen hadn’t been flung off the wing.

Normally I’m not a fan of cutesy little names applied to my images or those of anyone else but with a gun pointed at my head I’d reluctantly admit that every time I see pollen on a hummer I think of “pixie dust”.

Don’t tell anyone…




37 comments to Black-chinned Hummingbird – It’s Often The “Little Things” That Make An Image

  • Debbie

    Beautiful! I love the fairy dust!

  • Nicole

    absolutely stunning… hummers are my favorite… and I like owls too… and also egrets and herons… and, well, all raptors I suppose… and all songbirds and migrating birds and, sheesh… GORGEOUS PHOTO!!

  • Charlotte Norton

    Fantastic Ron!

  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, what a spectacular photo. We see these hummesr in our back yard and so enjoy seeing your photo. When I saw the dust the first thing that came to mind was Fairy Dust’. I also like “Pixie Dust”.

    And you are right, the hummer chose this beautiful flower just for you!!

  • Laura Culley

    Oh yes, the little joys! Aren’t they just spectacular? I noticed the fairy dust (or pixie dust works, too) right away. My eyes were drawn to it while they traveled up the wings and oh what a special treat. Hummers are just magic little critters. In terms of their flight abilities, the laws of physics simply don’t pertain to them. It’s that magical thing 😉

  • As a garden-groveller I do think of pollen as sticky (it can stain too). I am wondering whether the pixies are trying to catch a hummer (remember the old phrase ‘to catch a bird you need to put salt on their tail…’).
    Yet another stunning image. And how I would love to see it in person.

    • I keep forgetting that you don’t have hummingbirds in Australia, EC. I can imagine how much you’d enjoy seeing some of ours eyeball to eyeball.

  • Okay, I have to go all girl here and say OOOOH that’s adorable. 😀

  • Ann

    I worry about these flying gems when they migrate. A lot of our east Texas RTH migrate through Rockport.

  • Susan Stone

    This photo is an excellent example for me of how closely you study your photos and how casually I tend to observe them. It took reading about where the pollen was to actually see it in the photo. Bright colors aren’t everything in a photo. Hence, those of us who enjoy the LBJs, or Ansel Adams photographs. This photo is gorgeous, and is of my current favorite Hummer. It may be that the reason the pollen is still on the wing is that it tends to have sticky qualities – a necessity for pollination by flying critters.

    • Susan, processing is one of the reasons I study my photos as much as I do. While processing it just comes naturally to observe tiny details, especially when I’m working an image while it’s “blown up” to a much larger size.

  • Dick Harlow

    Oh WOW, haven’t heard the term “Pixie Dust” for some time, apt, very apt!!
    Great shot!! I like the analogy of pollen and feathers, and insect appendages/hair is like velcro! Otherwise how can the pollen baskets of bees stay full or the feathers of hummers keep pollen attached to them?

  • frank sheets

    I’m guessing you had to. be some 75 to 80 feet away with your set up in order to get the DOF to keep both the bird and flower in focus. If you planned that, I am really, really impressed! Whether planned or not, still an excellent capture. Cudos to you!

  • Marty K

    Don’t worry; “pixie dust” will be our little secret. 😉 Once again, I am enthralled by the perfection of one of your photographs — and by your skill as well as by your ethical approach to photography. “Feh” on those set-up photographers!

  • frank sheets

    Great capture Ron. Even at 1/5000 I am pleasantly surprised the wings are frozen. I’m guessing the wings were at the top of the hummers full reach and for the 1/zillon of a second they were at rest. Again, well done!

    • That could be part of why they’re sharp, Frank. If they’d been coming down they’d probably have been softer but part of that would have likely been due to depth of field too.

  • Zaphir Shamma

    What a fantastic photo Ron…top shelf!

  • I’m glad you pointed out the “pixie dust”–I don’t think I would have noticed such a subtle thing–and I LOVE the name ! Hummingbirds are as close to being “pixies” as anything I know…….

  • Marina schultz

    I don’t understand how you get a shutter speed of 5000 and I can’t ever get enough light past 2000 all my hummers have blur and yours is tack sharp!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Marina, since I believe you and I are shooting with the same lens I’m not sure why unless I’m shooting in brighter light than you, using higher ISO’s than you or different apertures. Or a combination of those factors…

  • You put yourself in a position for these wonderful images, allowing luck (“thankfully this bird chose a beautiful specimen”) to complement your skills as a photography! Thanks for the commentary as well.

    • Nancy, IMO luck always plays a significant role in bird photography when you’re not shooting setups. Setups throw most of the luck factor (and at least part of the skill factor) out the window.

      Thank you for appreciating the commentary.

  • LS Clemens


  • Judy Gusick

    “Pixie Dust” fits in this case. 🙂 Wonderful capture, Ron. The hummers are endlessly fascinating. I certainly don’t think of pollen as sticky!

    • Judy, I don’t think of it as being particularly sticky either. Flower pistils are often sticky but I’m unaware of pollen being the same. Maybe it stuck there because of the combination of how fine it is and the texture of the wing feathers.