The focus of Jan’s trip to Ecuador was the astonishing sword-billed hummingbird, the only bird with a bill longer than its body (excluding its tail). Its 11-centimetre bill is designed to reach nectar at the base of equally long tube-shaped flowers – but Jan discovered that it can have another use. One particular bird had a regular circuit through the forest, which took in its favourite red angel trumpet flowers and the bird feeders near Jan’s lodge. To get to the bird feeders, it had to cross the path of a fiercely territorial collared inca hummingbird. Rather than being scared off, the sword-billed hummingbird used its bill to make a statement once or twice a day. To capture one of these intensive yet colourful stand offs, Jan set up multiple flashes to freeze the hummingbirds’ wing-beats, of which there are more than 60 every second.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + 300mm f2.8 lens; 1/250 sec at f16; ISO 400; Canon Speedlite 580EX flash + six Nikon Speedlight SB-26 flashes; Gitzo tripod + Wimberley head.
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Jan van der Greef, The Netherlands
Jan is internationally recognised in his profession as a life scientist, as well as being an award-winning nature photographer. He has always been interested in nature, especially birds, and has travelled to many remote, wild places. His photography focuses on connectivity, capturing the essence of nature and the emotional experience. He has recently published his first book.