Red-tailed Hawk, Landing In Front Of The Moon
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Sometimes in nature photography everything goes right. Those instants don’t happen very often. There are just so many variables that we photographers have to contend with — capricious subjects, lighting conditions and weather, backgrounds and foregrounds, technical issues, even equipment problems — that most of the time conditions are less than ideal and our images are flawed in one respect or another. At least that’s true in my case.
So, it’s grounds for rejoicing when everything is perfect. I had one of those perfect moments about a week ago. I observed a family of Red-tailed Hawks, consisting of a male, a female, and one fledgling, on their nesting tree, a large, dead Cottonwood. The adults were busy coming and going. I noticed that one of them, apparently the female, took off and landed repeatedly from the same perch. I decided to attempt to photograph her as she landed. I watched her circle the tree, I braced my camera on a fence gate, and waited. And, as she approached her perch, I fired a four-shot burst from my camera, capturing this sequence.
Catching a sequence such as this is perhaps a once every two year event for me. The nearly full moon in the background is the final bonus.
My camera can shoot a burst of 7 images per second. The entire sequence of four consecutive shots elapsed over 3/7 of a second. I like how these images reveal the hawk’s landing technique in which she is using her wings almost as a parachute to slow her descent. Something else is evident from these images: the hawk’s incredible coordination. She’s landing on a snag with a diameter of no more than an inch or two and she’s doing it with ease. I doubt whether any human parachutist could hit a target with such accuracy.
Here’s one more of her, taken a couple of seconds after she landed.
I don’t know whether she expected a round of applause but I sure felt like giving her one.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1600.