Gossamer Wings

Stripe-tailed hummingbirds are camera shy. They will tease a photographer from a distance, but seldom come close enough for a good photo op, so we were thrilled to spend some quality time with this one in the Monteverde Cloud Forest in 2015. 

Staying at home has allowed me to review my images in the hopes of finding a few hidden gems. Seeing this photo of a Stripe-tailed seeming to float effortlessly, made me glad to have the time to look carefully. 

It's a good candidate for a composition in that it shows unusual action, but it does have couple of problems. Firstly, the tip of his beak is buried in the feeder and secondly, his head is looking away from the viewer a bit more than I would like. 

After a few more rounds of sorting through the remaining images 'bingo!', one appears that shows not only his beak but also is looking straight ahead. 

A good beginning.

The next stop is to find a supporting element, such as a flower, that would add some interest.

In my flowers library, I soon have an answer in this orange and yellow specimen that  invites a visitor with its numerous stamens while echoing the subject's color palette. But it's an invitation that looks like an obstacle course. If I were a tiny flying hummingbird, how would I approach this puzzle?

Let's try an experiment. What if the hummingbird flew straight into the flower, getting a dusting of its pollen in order to fulfill his pollination job? And, how about getting him to fly mostly in front of the stamens, so then are not so distracting?

This would allow me to show the translucency that is often seen when one of these little gems hovers.


But, how to best re-create the illusion of translucency without access to the real gossamer wings?

A little experiment is called for:

A sheet if white tissue paper will stand in for the wings. 

A strap with bright green lines will help me visualize the partially hidden stamens. 

The creases in the tissue paper are meant to simulate the folds in the wings. 

A discovery! The straps disappear rather quickly where the tissue paper is folded upwards, just a very short distance. They also appear blurry and slightly distorted.

The original composite

Did I succeed in getting the wings to look translucent?

Click here to subscribe to our Hummingbird Newsletter

Share this post

Leave a comment

Note, comments must be approved before they are published


  • Thank you Lynn, Celie, Helen for the encouraging comments. Really glad to hear you found them interesting.

    We have lots of decisions to make as we look at the possibility of in person shows.
    In the meantime, most images from these newsletters are available for sale. Just send us a note.

    • cindy walpole
  • The picture with the striped-tailed humming bird is spectacular. Will you consider adding it to your library of prints for sale?

    • Lynn Lakner
  • Thanks for letting me peek over your shoulder as you create these fantastic images. It’s a joy to note the decisions you make along the way. Thank you! and may you both be well. Happy Holidays!

    • celie
  • Wow! This is so interesting!
    Lots of hard work and “figurin’” goes into these images.

    • Helen Pine