In this 16 Questions About One Photo interview, nature and wildlife photographer Patricia Ware shares the story behind a particularly striking photo of a bee and a hummingbird that you’ll find in her photostream. Learn how Patricia got this shot and her advice for capturing rare and quickly fleeting moments like these on camera.
1. Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How long have you been into photography?
My name is Patricia Ware and I’ve really gotten into photography since 2010. I was a teacher in southern California for over thirty years before I became passionate about photographing wildlife, primarily birds in flight. I like the challenge of taking action shots and getting birds in focus while they’re moving.
2. In one sentence, please describe what you captured in this shot.
In this shot, a bee is buzzing and harassing a Costa’s Hummingbird, while the Costa’s is trying to escape.
3. Why did you select this photo to talk to us about?
Photographs like this one are rare, since it’s extremely difficult to get both a bee and a hummingbird in focus in a single photograph as both are exceedingly fast and may fly at different depths of field. It’s the type of photo I’m always trying to get, one that tells a lively story.
4. What style of photography would you describe this as and do you typically take photographs in this style?
This is a wildlife photograph and an action shot. I almost always post birds in flight to my photostream.
5. When and where was this photo taken?
This photo was taken in the fall on October 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California at Kenneth Hahn Recreational Area. Since the day was overcast giving soft lighting, I was able to take the shot even though it was back lit. I placed myself at eye-level on a hill in the park where the hummingbirds feed. Remaining as still as I could, I hid behind a wooden sign post.
6. Was anyone with you when you took this photo?
No, though sometimes I bump into fellow Flickr photographers in the field, I typically bird alone.
7. What equipment (hardware and software) did you use?
My camera, a Canon EOS R5, has wonderful image quality with in-body image stabilization to help compensate for camera shake. My favorite feature is its automatic eye tracking of animals. When coupled with a Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM Lens, which also has image stabilization, it captures super sharp images and is lightweight and easy to handhold.
I use Lightroom to organize my photos and Photoshop to process them.
8. What drew you to take this photo?
Costa’s Hummingbirds are not common in Los Angeles during the fall, so I was excited to spot one. I saw it trying to get away from a bee that was pestering it. Hummingbirds fly between 20 and 60 miles per hour. You don’t have time to think when photographing birds in flight, you just aim and shoot.
9. How many attempts did it take to get this shot? How long did it take you to get one that you were satisfied with?
Though I didn’t have time to adjust my camera settings, I was able to get six or seven good shots of the moment before the two separated. Using the mechanical shutter, my camera takes 12 shots per second, and I set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO before I took the shot. I also pre-focused where I thought the bird would be.
10. Did you edit this photo?
Because I shoot in camera RAW, I tweaked the exposure, contrast, and other settings in Photoshop. I used the Neat Image plugin for noise reduction. I created two layers, one for the background and one for the bird. I applied more noise reduction to the background than the bird, where I want to bring out the detail. Additionally, I used Nik’s Tonal Contrast plugin to bring out even more detail. My final step was to use the standard high pass filter in Photoshop for sharpening. Sharpening brings out line and texture through contrast; however, it’s easy to get carried away and over sharpen. Sometimes less is more.
11. What encouraged you to share this photo on Flickr? Did you share it anywhere else?
Flickr is a wonderful community of photographers who are both encouraging and helpful. People letting me know whether or not they appreciate a photo as much as I do can be affirming. With this shot I was also hoping people might learn about how fierce little birds and bees can be. One of my contacts said that he would have bet on the Hummingbird before he saw this shot!
12. Did you learn anything in the process of taking, editing, or sharing this photo?
I am also looking for ways to improve my photography. I really appreciate it when people FlickrMail me suggestions. One time, for example, a contact of mine told me he could see sensor spots on my photos. Another wrote that I had banding in my Gaussian blur background. I appreciate this kind of feedback.
13. Do you remember what you had for breakfast the day you took this photo?
I go birding early in the morning. I probably took a coffee and a protein bar.
14. What would you like people to take away from this photo?
Go out and enjoy the beauty of nature. Sometimes you can see a more of a moment in time with a fast camera shot.
15. Is there any feedback that you’d like to get on this shot?
I appreciate it when I receive feedback on the technical quality of my shot: sharpness, exposure, noise, color, composition, background. I especially like it when people let me know if the shot captures something essential about the subject, if it tells a story, or if it evokes emotion.
16. How can people reading this support your work?
(Editor’s note: To see more of the photos from this shoot, check out Patricia’s album, Costa’s Hummingbirds.)