Monday, February 18, 2013

Portrait of a Hawk

[Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Collier Co., FL. Feb 2013]

In nature photography, the subject, its surroundings and other elements are joyously [some would say frustratingly!] unpredictable -- lighting, background, foreground, etc -- are all in unplanned and random disarray. Rarely does the photographer get the "upper (creative) hand", as they would, for example, in the studio.

Sometimes, however, the field affords conditions that merit the level of an improvised studio; and, in this post, the fortuitous sighting of a Red-shouldered Hawk within "petting" distance from the boardwalk has most photographic elements in favor.

A Red-shouldered Hawk in its prime.

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a breeding species at Corkscrew and for the few minutes that it held a small group of onlookers in breathless awe, it was completely focused on surveying the swamp for any feeding opportunities -- undistracted by human activity.
A regal pose in profile. Large, liquid eyes highlight a raptor in meditative alertness of its surroundings.
A slight tilt of the head in response to probable visual stimuli; also visible are the sharp talons ready to subdue any prey item unfortunate enough to become its next meal. Red shoulders show prominently in this view.
A closer view throws the background out of focus -- the twig behind is the only distracting element. Not a tough job for Photoshop to eliminate it altogether; but this "imperfection" keeps the image faithfully real.
The fine detail of the plumage, the glint in the eye and the texture of its bill lend a 3D realism to the image akin to that "being there" feeling.

After this session, having seen and photographed many Red-shouldered Hawks before, this particular series, in my view, will set a standard that I believe will remain unsurpassed by my future endeavors.

 [All images shot with natural ambient lighting at ISO 1600 and 3200 at F5.6. Sigma 300/F4 lens with 1.4X extender].

3 comments:

  1. Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is unquestionably a "Crown Jewel." When you told me of the observation you had with the Red-shouldered Hawk, I thought of the encounter I had years earlier. The 17 February 2013 visit to the Swamp with you was extremely rewarding. The Brown Thrasher and Ovenbird you identified, while missed by Michael D. Griffith (on his first visit to the venue) with Baltimore Oriole and Indigo Bunting noted by him would make 46 species possible on that indeed chilly day. Thank you for your patience with me, Hemant, as I certainly delayed your advance along the boardwalk. And thanks for the lifer in the Brown Thrasher. Too bad the surf was unaccommodating at Captiva Island after that traffic nightmare, but the sighting of the Wilson's Snipe at Bailey Tract was rewarding as well. The behavior of the bird before it disappeared will not be forgotten.

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  2. The pleasure was all mine Bob. Hope to see you again at this superb venue in the near future.

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