That I somehow managed to capture several semi-decent shots of this hawk was a huge thrill for me! First, the circumstances were a bit unusual and second, it’s the first time I’ve shot any wildlife since my eye troubles began last March.
I was driving home from the grocery store and had just pulled onto my road when a large shadow passed over my car. As soon as I could safely pull over I peered upward and saw a very large hawk glide across the road and into the woods, where it landed gracefully on a low branch of a tree. My car idled as I sat and watched the bird, cursing my bad luck that I didn’t have my camera with me. I immediately began to calculate how long it would take to drive to my house, run inside and grab my gear (which would require a lens change) and drive back? Would the hawk stay put or fly off after I left? I could tell the bird was starting to settle into a roost, so I decided to try to make a go for it. I didn’t hurry or panic, I simply drove home, got my gear and drove back. Much to my surprise, the hawk was still perched comfortably on the same branch!
It’s always a bit of a chance when you try to shoot birds in the woods. Wind can cause tree branches to move, making the results blurry and limbs and leaves often cast shadows that obscure some (or all) of the desired target. I stood in the middle of the street with tripod in hand, trying decide how close the bird would let me approach before showing alarm or flying off. I inched forward a step at a time until my advance was blocked by a stone wall at the shoulder of the road. The bird watched me the entire time, but held it’s position. I decided not to chance scaling the stone wall since I didn’t think I could do it without rousing the bird from it’s roost. I set my tripod down, made some adjustments to my camera and started shooting.
At first the bird was partially obscured by the shade of an overhead branch. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try to reposition myself or just wait and see if the bird might shift slightly on it’s own. I chose to wait, and within a few minutes the bird changed it’s position just enough so that the shadows were slightly lessened. Unbeknown to me (because I was so focused on shooting the hawk) two people were walking toward us on the road. Talk about bad timing! On one hand, that turned out to be good because the hawk moved into the light more and swiveled it’s head around to follow the walker’s approach. But on the other hand, as the walkers got closer to me one of them spoke out. “Deer?”
OK, does that make any sense? You see a crazy lady standing by the road side, head glued to a big honking camera on a tripod and you TALK to them? I mean, what else would I be trying to shoot if not wildlife and if so, wouldn’t it make more sense to be quiet? I guess not. I didn’t reply, but the walkers continued by, chattering loudly the entire way. Fortunately, the hawk was comfortable and it didn’t decide to take off. I stayed and shot as many frames as I could, then decided I should try to move closer. I reasoned that if the hawk flew off I wouldn’t be going home empty-handed, but if I could obtain a better (or different) vantage point then why not try? I got about halfway over the stone wall before the hawk had had enough. It launched into the air, flapped it’s massive wings a few times, then glided off to a tree beyond the reach of my lens. Giddy with excitement, I drove home. I still had several bags of groceries to unload and put away before I could download my pictures and see what I had. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased!
I think it takes an enormous amount of skill and good luck to shoot wildlife with any real success. (And a big honking lens) I’ll never have that kind of skill or the equipment to be that good, but I’m tickled pink when the sun, moon and stars all align, and I get lucky!