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on Apr 18, 2011 in Wildlife Photography

Almost Killed Myself!

To be honest with you, I don’t even remember the last time I tried to photograph a soaring bird with the 600mm mounted to a tripod! I can tell you by my performance, it was a really long time ago. I was on the bend of the levee working the Ripairan Brush Rabbits with wildlife really just about everywhere going about their life as if I wasn’t there. The way I like it. I had a Coyote cruise right past me, never stopping or looking at me. I had a mink, my first wild one, jug past me as well. And overhead all morning were the raptors like this Swainson’s Hawk (listed species in CA).

Back to being rusty (putting it nicely). It’s not that I had a sharpness issue, panning the 600mm on the tripod even with the lens pointing to the sky wasn’t an issue, I’m not rusty there. Rather, it’s getting the subject in the viewfinder in the first place that I’m rusty! Panning at eyelevel is pretty simple but as soon as you point that lens skyward and you have to bend at the knees and careen your neck, life gets hard. Especially when you have to navigate the tripod legs. I missed a number of great opportunities until I finally got back in the flow of doing this. The worst thing was, I couldn’t raise the tripod like I would have wanted or really move much because I didn’t want to tip my hand to the bunnies that I was even there. I thought the raptors overhead (I had Red-tailed, Swainson’s, Blk-shdr Kit & Harriers) would have sent the bunnies looking for cover, but such was not the case. And when it comes to the final photo, I like the bottom photo much more then the top. Shooting straight up on a raptor, looks like a mobile you find in some nature store. There is no life to the flight, it’s just there. It’s the bottom photo I prefer where the bird has room to soar, the primaries have a bend to them from catching the wind and the head is cocked suggesting that flight is really easy. And before I head out with the rabbits again, I’ll be lookin for some way to practice my long lens / overhead technique. I hate missing photos because of pilot error!

Photos captured by D3x, 600VR w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film