This bird passed out thoughtlessly, so Jane takes me somewhere where we’re guaranteed to find hummingbirds: inside the house, where 46 pictures of hummingbirds hang on the walls.
The exhibition opened last month, the work of Jane and other members of a group she has dubbed the Capital Hummingbird Photographers, a collection of like-minded, mostly amateur nature photographers.
“We are more than friends. We’re a small community,” says Jane, whose day job is at the State Department. “We always bump into each other.”
They intersect at places like Huntley Meadows, with its walks through bird-rich wetlands, and at Green Spring Gardens.
“Some of us plan to travel together,” she says.
It’s to destinations like Costa Rica, where dozens of different species of hummingbirds buzz and flicker through the air. The exhibit at Green Spring Gardens includes stunning photos of exotic birds from Costa Rica and Ecuador – the purple-eared hummingbird, purple swordsman, long-tailed sylph – but just as many were taken at a glance house stone from 1784. Around these parts it is the ruby-throated hummingbird that holds court, although the occasional rufous hummingbird also falls.
The photos allow you to scrutinize these sublime creatures: the rainbow of colors, the tiny hatched feathers, the needle-like beak.
Why do some photographers love hummingbirds so much?
“Their small size and changing colors immediately draw you in,” says Jane. “There is the added dimension of the beauty of flowers.”
Photographers expect more than just a photo of a bird. The best photos include scavenging flora to complement the feathered fauna.
As we walk through the garden, Jane points out some burning poker plants. They look like, well, hot pokers. These are the flowers where photographers want to catch hummers.
In most of the photos, the birds are frozen with outstretched wings, like tiny versions of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. In others, the birds are perched.
“They’re cute when they’re resting,” says Jane. “They have all kinds of cute, puppy-like facial expressions.”
Among the 20 photographers who worked in the exhibition, four – Jane, Parameswaran Ponudurai, Barbara Saffir and Kathrin Swoboda – whose photos graced my annual squirrel photography contest, so you know the quality is high.
How to take a good hummingbird photo?
“You have to have the speed,” says Jane. She usually sets her shutter speed to 1/1250th of a second to freeze the rapid movement of their wings.
But it’s not all about equipment or technique. You need to know the birds, what plants they prefer, how often they return to drink.
“I think they’re resilient,” says Jane. “They have a huge migration from Central America and South America. They are so small, so vulnerable, and yet they are able to bring this migration up and down every year.
The exhibit is in place through October 16 at 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria. Free entry.
Pictures of a different kind can be found in the Second Story Books window at 2000 P St. NW. The black and white photos are of Dupont Circle in 1971, taken by Charles Sacksan Army psychiatrist who had just returned to the United States from a tour in Vietnam.
Charles decided not to live in the barracks at Fort Belvoir, opting to lodge near the Circle, which was the center of the district’s counterculture.
“I went to the circle almost every weekend. There was a lot going on there,” said Charles, now 83 and living in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
There were political demonstrations. Music. People party in the fountain. People playing chess. Play soccer. Spinning Hare Krishna.
“Everything was intriguing, exciting and interesting to me,” Charles said. “It was just such an amazing moment. Just thinking about it, I feel nostalgia.
Charles said he hopes the showcase – there’s also a photo box inside the store – will help people “understand the evolution of DC, what it was like, how wonderful it was “.