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Bird of Prey


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Registered: December 2007
Posts: 1,451
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Went to a bird display this afternoon and shot this. I'm pretty pleased with it. I love shooting birds, they are very graceful in flight and they are not easy to capture. I had all sorts of trouble with getting the exposure right, I tried using auto with exposure compensation but the difference between the exposure for the sky and the exposure for the bird was too great. What I did in the end was to take a few shots on the ground and, when I had the exposure I wanted, set the camera to manual. Luckily the light wasn't changing much so I left the exposure at the same setting for the rest of the afternoon. The sky was overcast but bright, I have not made any tonal adjustment to the sky, this is more or less how it came out of the camera. The only work I did was to repair some broken tail feathers.
· Date: Sat May 1, 2010 · Views: 2918 · Tags: 1 · Filesize: 243.9kb · Dimensions: 600 x 900 ·
Keywords: Bird of Prey
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Registered: August 2008
Posts: 708
Sat May 1, 2010 1:55pm

Hi Geoff,
This is a great capture. Nice and sharp and (as you said) you nailed the difficult exposure with the light background. I like the diagonal composition of the extended wings too, with room for the bird to swing into the frame. It's got a great sense of fluidity and grace in the movement which gives the impression of graceful flight.
From the EXIF I see this was at 200mm, what lens did you use for this, and what would you estimate was the distance of the bird? I'm thinking of getting a telephoto lens for my 7D, but I'm not sure what telephoto to get to go bigger than my 24-105 L on the 7D crop body.
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Registered: December 2007
Posts: 1,451
Sat May 1, 2010 2:18pm

Hi Honez, thanks for the nice comments, the lens was the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L series. I didn't go for the image stablizer version as I didn't think it was worth the extra money. I think once you go beyond 200mm you get into a lot of money for a good quality lens, also you need to use it on a tripod the whole time. Despite what Kev keeps telling us, I rarely use a tripod for still photography. If I were to take up bird photography seriously, I would go for the 500mm fixed lens, which is four or five thousand euros, very big and heavy and only f4.

I couldn't really tell you how far away the bird was but, in the original frame which was landscape, the bird took up about half the height of the frame. So this crop is roughly about a quarter of the original frame.

One of the most impressive features of new DSLRs like the Canon 7D, to me, is the ability to get decent definition at higher ISO settings. This, together with a fast lens, has opened up a whole new world of action photography for me. I'm sure I just wouldn't have been able to capture detail like this on my old camera. I was only on 400 ISO here because I wanted as much detail as I could get and the day was quite bright, but I have been getting usable shots at 800 or even 1600 ISO. Speeds I would not have even considered a year ago.

Registered: February 2008
Posts: 2,722
Sat May 1, 2010 10:42pm

Mornin' Geoff.

Yeah, a really nice capture...and especially coz you didn't use a birding lens. As Honez says, the diagonal composition is very appealing, plus the balance across the bird is very even too.

I wonder what it might look like if you replace the overcast background with a nice blue sky? - just curious. I've never tried to shoot birds (in recent years) simply coz I don't have a long enough lens...ie: a 500mm or 600mm, which for Nikon start at around $8,600 each these days.

Some guys do use the 200-400mm zoom with a TCE x1.7 to give about 600mm at the longest.
Do you get many hawks, eagles, birds of prey, etc in the wild down on the Costas?


Registered: February 2010
Posts: 452
Sun May 2, 2010 11:44am

Shooting the bird in a flight is a photogrphy aerobatics to me. I can look at photos like this for long time - examining the eyes, the wings so on - the dream of the mankind to fly! I am an ameture and I haven't managed to take picture even similar like this till now but it is my purpose. Looking at my favotite photos I am trying to learn more for the subject and the photography as well.
But if I could take this picture I would follow the Kev's advice and would change the background with a nice blue sky.
I am admired of your capabilities for taking pictures like this.
Site Admin

Registered: December 2007
Posts: 1,451
Sun May 2, 2010 2:25pm

I had a look at dropping in a blue sky this morning but it doesn't really fit. To blend the two pictures together tonally I would have to darken the bird down and I definitely don't want to do that.

Yes Kev, there are actually quite a few wild birds of prey here and, as I live up a mountain, it is not uncommon to see one flying past my window. Not as close as this guy of course. While we were at the bird display, which is also on top of a mountain, a wild kestrel came by to investigate, we thought he might join in but he didn't.

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