Red-tailed Hawk Takeoff And Flight (six image series)

And the challenge of negotiating branches during the process.

 

1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Yesterday morning we found a pair of juvenile Red-tailed Hawks hanging around together in Box Elder County. They were very close to a busy road and just a little bit nervous. The two hawks were pretty tight with each other so I had to wonder if they were hatch year siblings. When the first one took off this bird eventually followed and I was curious about how it was going to negotiate all those branches and twigs.

 

 

1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

One strategy of course was to close its nictitating membranes several times during the takeoff process to help protect its eyes. That’s generally not a good thing for photography but it’s good for the hawk in these situations so I have no problem with it.

 

 

1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

It was a pretty tight fit amongst all those twigs. Most of them were behind the bird but there’s a few in front of the right wing primaries and a couple in front of the end of the tail so the bird was threading the needle.

 

 

1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

At this point the hawk began to break out into the open and was really scooping some air with its wings.

 

 

1/5000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

It began a slight turn to the right…

 

 

1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

and soon allowed me my favorite shot of the series. I like the elegant simplicity of this photo with the left wing perfectly vertical, the legs hanging down as a visual counterbalance and the mottled sky background. But for me the near-perfect head turn providing excellent eye contact is the crowning glory of the image. Without it the photo would have been significantly diminished.

It would have been nice if the rosy-tinged clouds in the background were a little better defined but I’ll take it anyway.

Ron

Notes:

  • For this series I left my teleconverter attached to my lens which meant I clipped several shots I otherwise might not have.
  • I very rarely add any saturation to my photos during processing but for these images I chose to add a slight amount (+7 on the slider in Photoshop).

 

 

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