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Nature's Best Photography: A hummingbird faces off with a pit viper

We will be featuring images from Nature’s Best Photography magazine over the next few days in PhotoBlog. The pictures are the winning entries from the magazine’s 2010 Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards. More than 20,000 pictures were submitted by photographers from 56 countries.

A print exhibition of winning images and other entries will be displayed from April 16 to Sept. 25, 2011, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Bence Mate / Natures Best Photography

Tiny, vibrantly colored hummingbirds are a favorite among wildlife lovers. Of 338 known species, roughly 50 types of these birds live or breed in the tropical lowlands and cloud forests of Costa Rica, where arboreal vipers also live amid the thick foliage.

Photographer Bence Máté said:
"I was photographing hummingbirds when I heard the sharp, alarming noise of the birds reacting to the presence of a predator. Sixty feet away from me this green-crowned brilliant was fearlessly attacking a small viper. The long shutter speed and shallow depth of field made it difficult to make an image with both animals sharp. This encounter was one of the most interesting ones I had ever seen, and I quickly set up two flashes to increase the light and shutter speed, using one flash fired from the background and another from the camera.”

Photographic information:
Camera: Nikon D700; 300mm ƒ/2.8 lens; 1/100 sec at ƒ/4; ISO 200; Canon 540EZ flash; Canon 550EX slave; Gitzo carbon tripod; Gitzo fluid head.

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