Photographing Hawks?

dan howitt

TPF Noob!
Jan 3, 2016
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Hey everyone can you help with teching me techniquez on photographing hawks when they're circling round way up high. Is there a best lense/lenses to meake them more seeable against the sky? Thanks dan howitt.
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Well ... taking pictures of high flying birds is usually not the best way.
You will need a reallllly long focal length lens.
Even if you get a long focal length lens you will encounter a high contrast situation as the underside of the bird will not be lit.
Big glass and lots of shooting in addition to high quality LIGHT!
Long focal length lens,good focus and tracking,higher shutter speeds and exposing accordingly to the underside of the bird like Exposing to the right or weight patient and see if the bird comes down a little or make a side turn kinda of like this.This one was with a Canon 70-200mm f4 IS
Image 10-4-15 at 9.25 PM.jpg
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Tks everyone. Real helpful! What a beautiful photo!! Thanks for sharing!! Amazed.
Best, dan howitt.
When metering the shot consider that the bird, if you're shooting upwards toward the bird and the sky, is likely going to be in shadow compared to the sky around it. Thus the meter (in most modes) is going to underexpose the bird; so you've got to tell the camera to overexpose a little (either manually yourself or through exposure compensation). Checking the histogram is important to avoid blowing the sky out totally; but you can get more underside detail to work with if you overexpose.

Of course you've got to watch the bird and light angles; depending on your position the bird could be illuminated as well if the sun is low so do keep that in mind; but in general the sky will nearly always be brighter than the bird.

Otherwise its a case of a long lens, good focusing and steady shooting. A tripod can help as it takes the weight off you and if you're using a heavier setup also a lot of the strain.
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get your self a 500-600mm lens. maybe even a teleconverter too.

your still gonna have to wait for that bird to swoop down and fly somewhat close to you if you want a really good photo.. when they are really far away you need to crop allot which can kill image quality.. and lenses do not always focus on things well if they are really far off in the distance.

even with a big lens with lots of zoom, getting close to the birds are a must for getting photos with great IQ and if you do not need to crop the photo that is ever better if you plan to make prints with it.

you could always pick up something like the nikon p9000 its a point and shoot with a ridiculous amount of zoom. image quality is not as good as what i get out of my camera but when i look at a photo from that camera and a photo with my camera and lens i can see a difference in image quality but some of those photos with that p9000 look pretty darn good and its got allot more zoom than i get with my 600mm lens and crop sensor body..

here is a photo of a hawk taken at 320mm.. and a photo of a turkey vulture that was taken from very far away with a 600mm lens and its was cropped like crazy. image is too small to really make prints with and the image quality is not as good. so you can see being close is much better.


For me step one is to lay down, cause if i point a camera right up over my head step one if fall down lol

LIke I did when I took this shot !!! IT is a horrible shot but it fits the question, that thing was just a dot in the viewfinder.

And at least a +1 EV compensation at f/8. As already mentioned, don't worry about blowing out the sky, it is the bird that counts.

Welcome aboard. Start to research areas near you that will let you get these birds at lower heights. Are there any wildlife centers, ponds etc that they frequent?
Nature photography will involve that you learn the habits of what you are shooting.

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