It is true, bird photography isn’t easy but it does often have its rewards. Earlier this month I watched a light morph juvenile Swainson’s Hawk ground foraging in the Centennial Valley of southwestern Montana and the light was quite lovely. Swainson’s Hawks eat grasshoppers and in my experience it isn’t unusual to see individuals or large flocks of them running and walking on the ground after their prey.
This juvenile Swainson’s Hawk was actively searching for prey on the ground at a distance and it was interesting to see it walk, stop and then walk some more while hunting grasshoppers.
I was hoping to get the young hawk lifting off from the ground in flight in the golden evening light, so I waited. I had the flight shots pictured in my mind, the golden light, the soft butterscotch and mocha tones of the bird against the tans and browns of the dried grasses. I could almost see the images on my computer screen at home.
And just before the young Swainson’s Hawk lifted off from the ground… a large cloud blocked out that great light. This isn’t the way I imagined or hoped the lift off images would look. At all. My shutter speed dropped like a rock from 1/1250 to 1/400, too slow to get everything frozen without motion blur. The light went from golden to flat.
I won’t say it broke my heart that the light went flat but I sure wasn’t happy that it did.
But being a bird photographer has its rewards beyond the most obvious which for me is being out in nature or better yet being a part of it. It means with patience and plenty of time in the field I do get it right. The light does stay great with some opportunities where everything falls into place. Subject… check. Great light… check.
Life is good.