Frustrations in Bird Photography – Power lines

Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk with annoying power linesDark morph Ferruginous Hawk with annoying power lines

Bird photography isn’t easy. Long hours in the field are necessary, plenty of time spent culling images plus the investment of energy and time learning all about your gear and developing techniques and then… there are the frustrations of being a bird photographer.

One of those frustrations for me when photographing raptors is power lines. Raptors here in the west often perch on power lines so they are high up and can spot their prey below and also long distances away. The power poles themselves aren’t all that appealing looking so I am usually looking for lift off shots of for the birds to fly past or in front of me.

The dark morph Ferruginous Hawk above had just left off from a power pole when I photographed it. A great pose with uplifted wings, trailing talons, nice background, lovely eye contact and because the bird was screaming the bird looked even more powerful than normal.

But the power lines crossed right through the wings of the raptor ruining what could have been a terrific shot.

Dark Morph Ferruginous HawkDark Morph Ferruginous Hawk

In the very next frame the hawk was still screaming, I had a nice wing position, great eye contact and the hawk didn’t have any of the power lines crossing its body. The power lines were both awfully close though and I don’t really have a great feeling when it comes to cloning things out of my images so this frame was very frustrating for me to see on my screen.

Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk in flightDark morph Ferruginous Hawk in flight

Three frames later I was able to get a frame where the power lines were far enough away from the bird (above and below) that I could crop the frame and didn’t need to clone at all. Great pose, light on the underside of the wings, nice wing position and the bird was still screaming.

I am very happy to have this image of the Ferruginous Hawk screaming without the power lines plus this image will always remind me of the great company of two dear friends that I shared the day with as we drove around looking for raptors in northern Utah.

In the ten frames after the Ferruginous left the power pole and I had one image that I felt was a “keeper”. Frustrating?

Certainly, but I can promise I never get bored being a bird photographer despite those frustrations. I might even revel in them.


Additional posts you might enjoy:

About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Your pictures are beyond gorgeous! I love hawks. The red-shouldered living behind us sticks to fling through the woods. We don’t frequently see him. When i do, he is through the trees so quickly, I can’t catch him.

    Have you tried wireworm after using either the clone or healing tools? He has a little info on how to use it. I think they may have updated the program to work with CS6. I need to update and try again with this person’s suggestions.

  2. Well, your patience and determination paid off with the final shots Mia. I can relate to what you write here. I know everyone has their own limits at how much they would do cloning, but removing the lines in this case for me would be ok if you didn’t have other shots without them. The lines really don’t do anything to contribute to the environment or biology being shown of this great hawk in flight. Just an unfortunate circumstance of the conditions.

  3. Love that bird and photos!

  4. I also like that last frame; the light is great and the anatomy of the bird is gorgeous.

  5. Beautiful shots of an amazing bird. How nice to see a dark morph!

  6. Even with power lines, your shots are incredible! I’m glad your perseverance paid off; the third shot is awesome!!

  7. In my opinion, the third frame is the best anyway. Great shot!

  8. - hit the “post comment” button to early ;)

    At least your camera kept focus on the bird not on the power lines! I bet this would be more frustrating ;)
    Beautiful bird!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • I do that too Greg :-)

      It would have been more frustrating if my camera had focused on the power lines causing me to lose focus on the hawk. Thank you for commenting!

  9. At least your camera kept focus on the bird which would be more frustrating ;)
    Beautiful bird!

  10. Jane Chesebrough

    Well Mia, I am glad you wait out the frustration because these are fine shots and agree, it feels so good when you get the one that really rocks.

  11. I am so grateful for your perseverance and determination. Though I liked the screaming hawk ‘framed’ by the power lines – and would have been very, very happy to have taken any of these photos.

  12. Great photo and cropping! Always helps to have a good camera, which I don’t, so keep them coming Mia.

  13. Fabulous, with or without the power lines.

  14. Still very nice shot Mia! :)

  15. I agree that it can be very frustrating. There have been days when I have come home and deleted every image for one reason or another but nothing can take away the images I saw but was unable to capture. They still can bring a smile to my face.

    • Cheryl, I went out today and clicked the shutter once and that was only to be able to say I clicked the shutter button. It was frustrating that so few birds were around so.. I would rather have power lines in a few images than to come home without having taken any!

  16. All of the images are beautiful — but the third is outstanding without the power lines!

  17. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    I come to your photos to see the birds… your photos are so clear and full of information… a few power lines don’t bother me at all. With these three photos you get to see amazing feathering, body structure, color etc. and the way it all changes with each shot.

  18. Fantastic, gorgeous shots! Here’s a case where photoshop is not only Ok, it’s almost demanded…it’s practically a crime not to. The images are so good, so clear, not to rid them of the ugly distraction of those wires, is pointless.

  19. haa, the power lines, it s a funny title, less funny when it cut your picture in two :S
    however it s not hard to remove it on the second picture with a post traitement, but it s not necessary because the 3rd is already good like that
    power lines can be a shame when you see a rare specie landed on it, and you havent the choice :/
    have a nice dya mia ☼

  20. But, they are tremendous even when there power lines.

  21. It does give a great feeling of achievement though when you do manage it, doesn’t it?!!!!

Comments are closed