Snow hawk

Snow hawk (1/320 shutter)
Shutter: 1/320, Aperture: ƒ/8.0, ISO: 500, Lens: 70-200mm

I was driving around in the snow this past weekend and I spotted my hawk. I’ve seen him frequently, so I claim ownership, but I rarely have my lens with me, and the flexibility to stop and shoot. However on this trip, I saw him twice in one hour. I’m pretty sure this is the same hawk. I hopped out of the car to get some pics, and I played with the shutter speed and aperture to capture the snow differently. Click below for more photos and to compare the different shutter speeds and apertures.

click for larger
Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/5.0, ISO: 100, Lens: 70-200mm
Click to view on Flickr, you can zoom in!

I still had my rain sleeves in my car from when I shot GWAR over New Year’s Eve two weeks ago, so that was handy. The only problem is that it’s really hard to see what you’re getting on the preview screen through a layer of plastic. So I started varying my shutter speed (and adjusting the aperture to match). I wanted to make sure I got a decent exposure. That breast is just magnificent. (I hope I get to use that again in another blog post….)

Snow hawk flying away
Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/5.0, ISO: 100, Lens: 70-200mm

This was the first location I spotted the bird. I had to park and walk across a field to get closer. I didn’t want to startle him and have him fly off. I’ve found that the bald eagles I’ve encountered couldn’t care less if I approached them. They see me, and then ignore me. But hawks will only allow me to make so much noise before they decide to fly away because I’m scaring away their food. The closest encounter I had with a hawk, the guy refused to leave because he was still eating, but he gave me the eye and told me to keep my distance. Here is the best shot I got of him in flight. After he flew off, I wished I had taken more care to try and capture the falling snow. Ah well. I got in my car and continued with my errands.

Snow hawk (1/1000) zoomed in

Shutter: 1/1000, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 200, Lens: 70-200mm

What luck! I spotted him again about an hour later! I pulled over, and I still had my camera ready with the rain sleeve just chilling in the front seat. I approached slowly and tried to get pretty close. This time, I’d specifically try to capture the snow. I systematically adjusted my shutter (and aperture accordingly) all over the dial. As slow as 1/320 and as fast as 1/1000. I still had the challenges from the rain sleeve, but now I had more of a purpose. This image here was shot at 1/1000 and f/2.8. This is my closest, sharpest image. I really want you to be able to linger on the details, such as the snow on his head and his fussy face expression.

Snow Hawk (1/320 shutter)

Shutter: 1/320, Aperture: ƒ/8.0, ISO: 500

I slowed down the shutter and closed the aperture a bit to try and get the snow in motion. I don’t think I need to mention, but I took 175 shots. I zoomed in to each of them and made sure I only processed the sharpest images. By now I can pretty much confirm that it’s the same hawk with that distinctive beak. You can see the snow drizzling in front of the hawk. This tells a bit of a different story. I think it makes the hawk look a little more miserable. I did shoot some at 1/100, but it was too slow to get the streaks I wanted. Though it was overcast, it was mid-day.

Snow hawk (snow focus)
Shutter: 1/320, Aperture: ƒ/5.0, ISO: 200

Same shutter speed, but the aperture is now f/5.0. This time I got the snow right in focus and blurred the bird a little bit. I think it looks cool, but I also assume that the audience would rather have all the detail in the hawk. So if I had to pick between the two, I wouldn’t pick this one. I’m glad I was able to get the snow at different looks though. That was the challenge, and I got it. I would have thought that shutter speed would have had a bigger impact on the look, such as shooting a waterfall (slow) to make it look milky or (quick) to get the droplets.

Snow hawk zoomed out (1/1000 shutter)

Shutter: 1/1000, Aperture: ƒ/2.8, ISO: 200

After I played with getting the sharp detail, and the snow, I played a bit with the composition. I wanted to get the wires and trees and atmospheric snowfall. I loved having enough time with this hawk to shoot as long as I wanted and figure out what I wanted to get. After I got the requisite shots I wanted, I played with cropping a bit. There are millions of pictures of birds, how can mine be different?

Flying away
Shutter: 1/320, Aperture: ƒ/5.0, ISO: 200

Well I did it again. I made too much noise or made the hawk too crowded and he took off. This is my best shot of him flapping away. I like that you can still make out the stripes, even though he’s in motion.

same hawk I believe

I haven’t really gotten to play with the GPS function on my Canon 6D too much. But today it came in really handy. I like being able to pinpoint both locations on a map and get a feel for this hawk’s territory. I used it a month ago while shooting the Milky Way in the desert outside of Las Vegas, and it was a cool surprise seeing that a few others had geo-tagged a few photos just a few feet away from the random spot I had chosen in the desert.

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