Frustrations in Bird Photography – Power lines

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Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk with annoying power lines - One of the frustrations in bird photographyDark morph Ferruginous Hawk with annoying power lines – One of the frustrations in bird photography

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 plenty frustrations in bird photography.

One of those frustrations for me when photographing raptors is power lines. Raptors here in the west often perch on power poles 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 flight Dark 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.

Life is good.



  1. Pat Kashtock October 1, 2013 at 10:33 am

    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. Mark August 30, 2013 at 11:49 am

    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.

    • Mia McPherson August 31, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Thanks Mark, I am just glad I did get some images that I could work around the power lines without cloning.

  3. jerry liguori August 25, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Love that bird and photos!

    • Mia McPherson August 26, 2013 at 5:19 am

      Thanks Jerry, I love the images you got of this bird too

  4. M. Firpi August 25, 2013 at 7:16 am

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

  5. Kathie August 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm

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

  6. Tammy Karr August 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm

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

  7. Julie Brown August 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm

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

  8. Greg Gard August 23, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    – 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!

    • Mia McPherson August 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      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. Greg Gard August 23, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    At least your camera kept focus on the bird which would be more frustrating 😉
    Beautiful bird!

  10. Jane Chesebrough August 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    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. Elephant's Child August 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    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. Utahbooklover August 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson August 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      I’ll try Utahbooklover although today I got skunked on Antelope Isalnd.

  13. Frank (The Early Birder) UK August 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Fabulous, with or without the power lines.

    • Mia McPherson August 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks Frank! I had a great subject.

  14. Ricky August 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Still very nice shot Mia! 🙂

  15. Cheryl Valdez August 23, 2013 at 11:46 am

    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.

    • Mia McPherson August 23, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      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. Lynn Koch August 23, 2013 at 9:50 am

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

  17. Merrill Ann Gonzales August 23, 2013 at 9:14 am

    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.

    • Mia McPherson August 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Merrill, the Ferruginous Hawks are so handsome that I almost ignore the power lines! Thank you.

  18. patty chadwick August 23, 2013 at 8:33 am

    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.

    • Mia McPherson August 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Thank you Patty, I am very happy with the third image and even happier with the company I had that day.

  19. eric c11 August 23, 2013 at 6:00 am

    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 ☼

    • Mia McPherson August 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Eric, thanks! I don’t like to clone much so I’d leave the second image alone because as you mentioned the third one worked out!

  20. Bob Bushell August 23, 2013 at 4:31 am

    But, they are tremendous even when there power lines.

  21. Sonja Ross August 23, 2013 at 4:18 am

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

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