Spotlight On Photography #1: ‘The Hummingbird Whisperer’

Meet Paul Garcia, a Castroville, TX semi-pro photographer, and an ArcSoft app user, who has a way with hummingbirds.

Paul Garcia a hummingbird about to feed right out of his hand

Paul Garcia with a hummingbird about to feed right out of his hand

Hummingbirds are, arguably, some of the world’s most fascinating birds. They have an incredibly rapid wing speed (a high of 100 beats per second), tiny size (most species measure between 3-5 inches with the smallest at 5 cm) and impressive aerodynamic design (they produce 75% of their weight during their wing downstroke). More than that, though, the hummingbird’s quite literally ‘fleeting’ beauty has captured our imaginations for thousands of years across the globe.

Here’s how it all began (in Paul’s words):

One day while I was hanging a refilled feeder, something pretty magical happened. A hummingbird suddenly appeared. I just froze and the bird came extremely close to the feeder, so close I could almost touch it.  I had a feeling if I was really patient, I could get them to eat right out of my hand.

Humming birds, hand feeding

Paul enjoys the special moment he’s been waiting for

How I did it

I took down all the other feeders I had set up in my yard and put just one feeder on my front door deck.Before long I had as many as ten hummingbirds coming around. That’s when I set up my camera. I put a flash unit on a tripod low enough so I could sit on a bench (I wanted to be comfortable in case it was a long wait). I also had my wife sit where I was going to sit to get the angle right and adjust the camera settings.  I then used a 25 foot remote camera trigger so that I could take the picture myself. In one hand I had the remote trigger in the other I held a small red glass bowl.

The power of 100 wing beats per second

Hummingbird wings beat about 100 times per second

In just a few minutes, the birds came around but they weren’t sure what to make of me. At first they just hovered in front of my face about a foot away, afraid to proceed and to see if I moved. I tried very hard not to move while still holding the red bowl close to my face.

Hummingbird at the feeder


As soon as they hovered, I hit the firing button on the camera. That would spook them a bit but their hunger overrode their fear.  All I needed was one brave soul to start feeding.  That took a little while. But then three came around, hovered and just stared at the feeder and at me. It was adorable and I tried not to laugh. I could hear one right behind my ear; it was so close I felt the wind from its wings.  Then one came within a few inches from my nose, so close I could feel the wind from its wings on my face, my heart was pounding and I tried so hard not to start laughing. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening!  I then just kept taking pictures after the first one landed and was comfortable the others joined in.  The total time it took sitting motionless on that bench was about an hour. That doesn’t sound long but it was an hour of a lifetime!  The birds would even touch my red shirt sleeves trying to get a drink, I almost lost it in laughter.

Tips to get great shots

hummingbird, still

A rare sight: a still hummingbird

You really can get quite close to the bird feeder and any hummingbird feeder should work. Another thing to keep in mind is lighting. I just moved my feeder to a sunnier part of the yard for better lighting. The better the lighting, the higher the shutter speed and the better the chance you can freeze those crazy fast wings in flight. The thing is not to make sudden movements. Most cameras can shoot video too and you can set your camera close to feeder, start your video and see what you can get. With hummingbirds you have to kind of love them first of all. Then experiment with lighting, stay very still, learn your camera limits, and have fun!

About Paul Garcia: Paul is a man who loves to explore the world around him. “There’s just so much to see, “ he says, “and it’s so amazing when you stop and take the time to notice the finer details.” It is Paul’s passion to share what he sees with his viewers in order to enthrall, delight and encourage them to achieve greater awareness for the world we live in. A semi-professional action sports photographer based in Castroville, TX, Paul’s greatest passion is photographing nature and animals.

About the ArcSoft Photographer Spotlight: ArcSoft is proud to share this first post in an ongoing spotlight featuring pro, semi-pro and amateur photographers who have talent, unique perspectives and special skills to share. As an imaging technology company, we are passionate about photography and we are equally passionate about promoting beautiful work created by inspired people. 

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