Peregrine Falcon with prey ~ Low light

Where is the light when you want it? Yesterday it was hiding behind the clouds and lake fog when I spotted this immature Peregrine Falcon at a close distance, on prey and sticky. The frustrations of being a bird photographer were glaringly apparent to me yesterday morning. Curses!

Peregrine Falcon on top of prey Peregrine Falcon with prey  – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/160, ISO 640, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 357mm, natural light, not baited or set up

I was the closest I have ever been to a wild Peregrine Falcon yesterday but I felt my heart sink knowing that the light was not going to be in my favor. There were no visible openings in the clouds. And it there it was on prey too!

Since moving to Utah and being faced with more low light situations than I ever had in Florida, I have had plenty of practice learning the techniques required for when the light just will not cooperate. So I just attempted to do my best with the light that I had.

I had 27 minutes with this Peregrine Falcon so I played with many different settings, changed my ISO for faster shutter speeds, adjusted my exposure compensation and my aperture trying to get sharp, interesting images of this young falcon.

I watched and photographed the falcon tearing into the Northern Shoveler beneath it, there were feathers flying everywhere and unfortunately there just wasn’t enough light to capture that action even at ISO 1600, all I got were blurry feathers floating softly towards the ground.

I also observed the falcon’s crop growing larger and larger as it ate.

Peregrine Falcon removing intestines of its prey Peregrine Falcon removing intestines of its prey – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or set up

I could barely detect a catch light in the falcon’s eyes because the rays of the cold looking barely touched the eyes but despite the low light of the barely visible sun I kept right on shooting and hoping I’d get a few images of this beautiful bird worth saving.

I did get those images but; oh, what I would have given for the sweet light just after dawn. Perhaps another time.



  1. Bob Zeller January 7, 2012 at 6:15 am

    From your results, one would never know that you had such problems. Wonderful images, Mia, as usual.

    • Mia McPherson January 8, 2012 at 7:47 am

      Thank you for your very kind words Bob, I can only hope to come across this behavior in much better light.

  2. Julie Brown January 2, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Mia, you are so adept at getting the sweet light (because you work for it!) but I will have to agree with the others-these are are very good images. I am envious, of course. 🙂 The shutter speed on the top one is amazing. You shot these hand-held? The detail is very good.

    • Mia McPherson January 3, 2012 at 6:54 am

      Julie, thanks for your comments on these images. I missed some shots of a Peregrine yesterday because it took off too soon. I’ll keep trying though. My lens was resting on my Noodle so even with slow shutter speeds I was able to get sharp shots.

  3. Larry Jordan January 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    I know how you feel about not getting the light you want and need Mia, but I’m afraid you won’t get much sympathy from me and many other photographers that would love to have images this good in perfect conditions. Just the fact that you came upon the falcon during dinner would be enough to excite me to the point of not being able to hold the camera still at 1/160 of a second for that first photo! Plus you got to spend nearly half an hour with this gorgeous creature? That, Mia, is priceless!

    • Mia McPherson January 1, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      Larry, you are making me smile. Believe me I had “buck fever” when we first came up on the falcon with the food, my first shots were a blurry mess, then I took a deep breath, calmed down and got serious. You are right, it was priceless to spend that time with this Peregrine!

  4. Mike Masin December 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Incredible captures, especially with insufficient light. Documenting the crop in the 2nd shot makes it that much better. Thanks Mia!

    • Mia McPherson December 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      Thank you Mike, it was a lot of fun watching the falcon consume the duck even in the low light. They are amazing birds and I hope I get another chance with them on prey only with better light!

  5. Laurence B December 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Ha! I don’t see any problems here Mia, you make me feel like I’m miles and miles away from grasping photography. Anyway, these are some great images. Gruesome as it is, the viscera add a nice bit of color and connection to the photo.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Mia McPherson December 30, 2011 at 8:04 am

      Laurence, Thank you for your very kind comments on these photos. I agree with you about how the viscera adds color to the images. It was wonderful to observe and photograph this Peregrine Falcon feasting on the duck.

  6. Scott Simmons December 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I know the frustration, but it looks like you got yourself a couple good keepers. Nice work!

    • Mia McPherson December 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm


      Thanks, it was frustrating but I’m pleased with some of the images I captured. Maybe next time I will have better light.

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