The Grayest Swainson’s Hawk I’ve Seen

Yesterday this beautiful and unusually colored Swainson’s Hawk finally broke my string of bad luck on our Montana camping trip.


swainson's hawk 4510

 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon  EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

The bird was perched slightly below me and right on the edge of the road (the road edge is about 1 inch below the bottom of the frame) as I drove by on a gravel road in the Centennial Valley and it didn’t even flinch so I backed up a few feet and fired off a few shots. I think it’s a beautiful specimen and I like the setting, with the exception of the bright spot on the perch.

I’m no raptor expert but I’ve seen a lot of Swainson’s Hawks of all three color phases (morphs) and I’ve never seen one this gray. The light was low when I took the shot and perhaps that had something to do with it but it looked the same color to the naked eye.

I have no confidence in how this image looks because it was processed on my laptop. I guess I’ll find out when I get home.



Calling Chukar (and the frustrations of bright perches)

Photographically, perches can be as problematic as the bird.

I’ve complained in the past about the bright white Tintic Quartzite rocks on the north end of Antelope Island that Chukars in particular tend to perch on. Getting the exposure right on the bird tends to overexpose those rocks and make them even brighter than they actually are. But since birds tend to ignore my instructions about where to perch it’s something I have to live with.


chukar 3977 ron dudley1/2000, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this Chukar two days ago on the island. I really like the enthusiasm of the calling pose and the background colors and patterns from the sagebrush and shadows but the brightness of the perch is problematic for me. To the naked eye the rock was actually quite attractive since it was heavily splotched with green lichen but I had to overexpose it to get the bird right. In the unprocessed file it was significantly brighter than this but I brought it down as much as I dared during processing.

As I’ve said before, no image is perfect so we do live with trade-offs to one degree or another. For me the calling pose mitigates the issue with the brightness of the rock.