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Amethyst Sunbird

Amethyst sunbird, Curry's Post, South Africa
Amethyst Sunbird pauses briefly while feeding on nectar from flowers of Freylinia tropica shrub, Curry's Post, KZN, South Africa. © Scotch Macaskill

Camera Gear: Canon EOS 50D; Lens Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Focal length 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/500; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO 400; Exposure compensation: +2/3.

The Amethyst Sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina), previously called the Black Sunbird, is one of three sunbird species that regularly feed in our garden. The others are the Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa) and Southern Double-Collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus).

Photographing sunbirds requires patience and a fast-focusing telephoto lens. The Amethyst, however, presents an additional problem and that’s getting the exposure right.

The feathers on its black body seem to suck in light, so you have to over-expose to capture any detail, even in direct sunlight. But the crown and throat are iridescent, reflecting any light hitting these areas.

This means a pretty wide exposure range, forcing some compromises when trying to show both shadow and highlight detail, which is the case in the photo above.

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Contact Details: Scotch Macaskill, Dirt Road Traders, Currys Post Road, Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Tel: +27 (0)82 578 2329. Privacy: Your privacy is guaranteed. See our Privacy Policy for more. This site accepts advertising and other forms of compensation - see Disclosure and Advertising for details. Site updated: 2022. Copyright © 2002 - 2022 Scotch Macaskill