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What It Takes to Film Hummingbirds in Slow Motion

Cool video from National Geographic!

Once, high-speed cameras were ungainly contraptions, difficult to operate and lug into the field. Now they can fit in a large pocket and are as essential to hummingbird biologists as binoculars are. The sheer magnitude of information captured by these cameras can be hard to fathom…

…The first attempt to analyze hummingbird flight is believed to have occurred in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Two German ornithologists secured a camera capable of recording 1,500 frames a second. “The regime was developing the first helicopters,” says Karl Schuchmann, former curator of birds at the Alexander Koenig Zoological Research Museum in Bonn. “They wanted to know how birds could hover on the spot.”

In the United States, Crawford Greenewalt had served science on the opposite side of the war effort. A dozen years after the German ornithologists published, Greenewalt picked up the thread of their investigation. His wife, Margaretta, had become interested in bird-watching, and from her Greenewalt caught what he called “hummingbird fever.” His hummingbird photographs were first published in the November 1960 issue of National Geographic.

Today, Anand Varma continues this legacy by filming hummingbirds like never before: with a 4K camera that is capable of capturing the bird at 3000 frames per second. This behind the scenes video gives a sneak peak into Varma’s process and passion. To read the entire July 2017 article on hummingbirds, click here


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