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Posts Tagged ‘hawk’

When is a cluttered background so distracting that it draws attention away from the primary subject? When I have the luxury of time, I will normally attempt to compose my shots so that the background fades into the background as a creamy blur. As a wildlife photographer, though, I am often photographing live subjects that are likely to flee as soon as they become aware of my presence. Frequently I barely have time to bring the camera up to my eye and am forced to react rapidly and instinctively—I just don’t have time to think about the background.

Yesterday as I was walking along the Mount Vernon Trail in Alexandria, Virginia parallel to the Potomac River, I spotted a bird at the very top of a distant tree. Earlier in the day I had seen an osprey in a similar position, so I initially assumed it was another osprey. I had just zoomed in on the bird when it exploded out of the tree into the air. From the way that it was flying, I realized that it was probably an eagle or a hawk. I tracked the bird, which I believe is a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) as it flew behind some trees and eventually into the clear blue skies.

Here are my three favorite shots of the encounter. Two of them are cluttered and one has a plain blue background. Which one do you like most? I am not bothered by the branches in the first two shots and like the way that they help to give a sense of context to the action that is depicted. The third shot shows some of the wonderful details of the beautiful hawk, but it seems a bit more sterile to me. (For the record, the first shot is probably my favorite of the three images.)

Are cluttered backgrounds ok? Like so many factors in photography, the correct response appears to be that it depends on the specific circumstances.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-taile Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) seemed to be facing in the opposite direction when a sharp-eyed fellow photographer spotted it in a tree across a field. We were able to move quite a good distance across the field before the hawk became aware of our presence and took off.

Instead of flying up into the air, the hawk flew downwards initially and then flew behind the stand of trees, so I was unable to get any mid-flight shots with the sky as the background. However, I did manage to capture a sequence of shots as the hawk was getting ready to take off and also shortly after the takeoff.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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High in the trees on a bleak, overcast day, this Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) was keeping watch over Huntley Meadows Park last Friday. As I was getting ready to post this image, I realized that I photographed a hawk on exactly the same perch a little over a month earlier. I decided to reprise  that earlier photo to show you how much the foliage has changed. I suspect, however) that it is not the same hawk.

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

Res-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I was walking yesterday along Cameron Run, a tributary of the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, I was shocked to spot a hawk perched nearby in a small tree almost at eye level. I was on a paved bike trail that parallels the stream and there is a relatively steep embankment that slopes down to the water’s edge. The tree was located on that embankment.

When the hawk, which I think is a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) eventually flew away and landed atop a building, it screamed out repeatedly at some circling crows. It makes me wonder if the hawk had previously been hiding from harassing crows and that is why it permitted me to get relatively close without initially taking off.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been hearing the cries of Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus) frequently at my local marshland park, but I have had a lot of trouble spotting them. At this time in the autumn there are still lots of leaves on the trees that obscure my view. Gradually some of the leaves are starting to change colors and fall from the trees, but that process takes place a bit later here in Northern Virginia than in more northern areas of the United States.

As I was walking along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park on Saturday morning, I saw a brightly colored object at the top of a tree. Looking through my telephoto lens, I was thrilled to see that it was a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that was out on a limb, giving me an almost unobstructed line of sight for a shot. In most of my shots, the hawk was looking away, but I was thrilled to be able to get a few shots in which one of the hawk’s eyes is visible. The bright blue sky and the red leaves surrounding the hawk were a nice bonus.

Res-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I spent a good amount of time watching this hawk in a distant tree at Huntley Meadows Park (and, alas, missed the shot when it flew away). There is something simultaneously beautiful and fierce about hawks and eagles that never fails to attract me. Clouds covered the sky for the entire day and there just wasn’t a whole lot of light to work with. That’s why this image has an almost monochromatic look, which makes the yellow color of the talons and the eye stand out even more prominently.
I think this is a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo  lineatus), but would welcome a correction to my identification.
Update: A Facebook friend, who is a much more experience birder than I am, has suggested that this may be a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), while others say it is probably a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii ). Again I am proving to be identification-challenged.
Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I got excited yesterday morning when I spotted a hawk perched high in a tree at my favorite marshland park. The light was coming from a good direction and I was able to identify it as a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus).

Frequently the hawks I see will sit in the same position for a long, long time, but this one kept changing positions. Maybe the branch was not comfortable or maybe the wind was bothersome. Whatever the case, I was able to have a miniature portrait session with the hawk as I tried to capture its best side.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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