For the nature photographer, Kunito Imai, photographing hummingbirds had been his longtime dream. “They are tiny and shine like jewels. Several years ago, I had a chance to see hummingbirds at a zoo in Tokyo and that was so impressive”, tells Kunito


Research/ planning Kunito did to photograph hummingbirds

(in Kunito’s words)

“I knew they live only in the Americas. I made a research on the candidates and came across the name of Trinidad and Tobago, the country also known as the “Land of the Hummingbirds”.You can observe as many as 18 species there, and I thought it was the best place to realize my dream. So I visited the country in December 2016.” tells Kunito to LAA3
I stayed at the ASA Wright Nature Centre, the lodge famous and popular among birders worldwide. In the first morning, I already knew that I’d made a right choice. I saw a lot of hummingbirds flying and hovering around the lodge. They can be easily spotted all through the day.
As I had so much fun during my stay, I wanted to return to Central America as soon as possible. My second destination was Costa Rica, the country where you can observe a lot of bird species including various hummingbirds. I visited there in August 2017. I stayed at a lodge named Rancho Naturalista for one week. The staff and other guests were very kind and gave me a lot of tips and information. Thanks to that, I successfully made many good shots.

“If you’re interested in shooting hummingbirds, finding a good lodge is crucial. I recommend two lodges I mentioned above”, tella Kunito

Kunito tells LAA about some special traits of the hummingbirds that he came to know during the project.

What amazed me most was the fact that they love rain. I saw them enjoy bathing in the rain. That was unusually beautiful.7
And I saw hummingbirds fly backward from time to time. Later I learned that no other bird can do it.
Fortunately, they aren’t afraid of humans so much. I wouldn’t say they’re tamed, but it is rather easy to get a closer look. I even used my 65mm macro lens to shoot close-ups.4

Gears used?

  1. Canon

    5D Mark IV
    EF500mm F4L IS II USM
    EF100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II USM

  2. Sony

    A9 ILCE-9
    FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS SEL100400GM
    FE 1.4x Teleconverter SEL14TC

“I used my 400mm zoom lenses for most of the shots. Basically, 400mm is enough and proper for shooting hummingbirds. You can cope with an even wider range of situations if you carry a teleconverter with you. I don’t use a tripod because I find the set-up too time-consuming.” tells Kunito.

Kunito does not recommend external lights as they ruin natural colors of creatures. Though other photographers may disagree with his opinion, he believes that latest digital cameras are so good at high ISO images, which guarantees high shutter speeds. 5

Kunito plans to visit Ecuador or Peru next year to look for different kinds of hummingbirds. He is especially interested in the marvelous spatuletail, a hummingbird which has amazingly beautiful long tails.

Challenges faced by Kunito and how he came over them

I had some experience in photographing kingfishers in-flight at my local pond. Shooting hummingbirds in-flight is less difficult because they hover far more often than kingfishers. I set my A9 at Zone AF and AFC. That setting is quite useful to keep up with birds’ motions.
Hummingbirds are very territorial and tend to return to the same spot several times per hour. So when I found a particular bird, I stayed there and waited for it to come back.
They hover around a flower or a feeder for a few seconds.I set the shutter speed higher than 1/1000 to make the bird’s motion stabilized on the image. As I also needed to keep the depth of the field, I tried to set the aperture at f8 or f10.
I guess there is no shortcut to acquire the skills. You just need to observe the bird carefully, expect its next move and keep up with it. In trying to do so, you’ll get to learn how to operate your camera properly.


Here are some more photos of the beautiful little hummingbirds.

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About Kunito Imai

Kunito Imai lives in Tokyo and works for the local administration. He spends his free time photographing nature with passion. Even in the middle of the metropolis, he constantly searches for a bit of nature that can provide sufficient motifs for him to unleash his creativity.
Follow Kunito Imai on Facebook & Instagram to see the beautiful nature from his eyes.

Copyrights: All photos belong to Kunito Imai and used with permission.