About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Photographing a Harris Hawk with Nikon D800


Harris Hawks - Birds of Prey in Arizona


Harris Hawk, D7000, 70-200mm Nikkor, hand held.

Harris hawk pair, D800, 70-200mm, hand held

Harris hawk in flight, D800, 70-200mm Nikkor.

Harris hawk, D800, 70-200mm.


The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum offers a frequent opportunity to photograph a few birds of prey in free flight. It is fantastic, but far from a sure thing. The birds are flying free, so swoop and dive, land, and take-off all in a short time.  Cramped in with other viewers it is a struggle to move quickly to capture the moment.  Often the landings are only brief seconds and auto focus can easily shift to a perch rather than a bird.
I found that in flight the best way was to choose a 9 focus area option and let the lens lock on to the bird. Often the first frame was out of focus but then it locked on and we were good. Manual focus was out of the question, but for a couple of pre focus shots on perches. But, the birds (particularly a peregrine) flew through an arc of 180 degrees in a couple of seconds. I used both the D800 and and D7000, the latter to gain a couple of frames per second in firing rate. Here is one place I was wishing for a 10 fps D4.

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