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Beyond the Farm: Raechel Lee and seeing life at 1000 beats per minute

hummingbird on a branch

The PWR Newsletter crew had a chance this spring to talk to Raechel Lee about her hummingbird photographs, which she shares regularly through her Instagram account @1000xperminute.

1) Tell us how you started this project.

I actually didn't set out to do this as a project -- it evolved into one. A couple of summers ago, when I first noticed that there were hummingbirds in our neighborhood, I thought it'd be fun to try to take pictures of them, but I didn't own a camera, so I borrowed one from a friend. Since I also didn't know anything about photography, and hummingbirds aren't the most cooperative subjects, I had to take a LOT of pictures (writing this out, I don't know what led me to believe I could photograph them successfully -- a bout of uncharacteristic optimism, I guess). That necessity for numerous and frequent photos is a big part of what set this project on its course. Other parts include ongoing fascination with these birds, and the kindness of others: friends who helped me decide on a camera when I was finally ready to get my own; everyone who's shared sightings, photography tips, and bird knowledge (shout out to colleagues who've made my day on many occasions by telling me about their avian encounters, and particularly to the amazing Russ Carpenter and Jenne Stonaker, who always generously give the gift of their nature expertise); and my partner, who is the biggest enabler of this project as well as my birding companion. 

2) What's your process?  How do you make these magic moments happen?

Luck remains a big part of it, but here's what I do to increase my chances: look for hummingbird-attracting plants, listen for the birds, find their favorite perches, and try to make myself as unobtrusive as possible. There's a lot of waiting, too.

3) Do you have a favorite experience in this birding adventure?

Too many! But a recent one is my first sighting of a Calliope hummingbird, the smallest in the US and Canada -- they're about three inches in length, and migrate more than 5000 miles each year. Watching the moms feed their young is always a highlight.

To see more of Raechel's amazing photos, follow her on Instagram at 1000xperminute.

Raechel Lee with camera

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