Cruddy Light, Cloudy Skies Plus a Red-tailed Hawk

/, Box Elder County, Red-tailed Hawks, Utah/Cruddy Light, Cloudy Skies Plus a Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk, midges and low lightRed-tailed Hawk, midges and low light – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 2500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Yesterday morning three different radar/satellite showed very few clouds north of Salt Lake City and since I had been cooped up for so long it seemed like heading north was a good thing to do to get out, photograph birds, see a little sunshine and relax in the field.

Wrong. The radar/satellite images were wrong, wrong, wrong. There were clouds, lots and lots of clouds.

I always try to be optimistic, positive and to do the best I can do with the light I have but I will tell you something… the light was so bad that even my eyes were struggling yesterday to see and identify birds, they just looked like dark, bird-shaped blobs.

I would have been totally skunked yesterday if I hadn’t spotted the top of this Red-tailed Hawk’s head and some wing movement where it was buried in a sagebrush next to a hillside. I quickly bumped my ISO up to 2500 just to get some shutter speed. When it flew to a second bush I could see more of its body than I could on the first bush but the light was so bad that I am not very happy with this photo but I wanted to share it anyway because when I got home and viewed it on my monitor I could see a cloud of midges around the bird. Those teeny little salt & pepper looking spots above and around the hawk are the midges.

Red-tailed Hawk landing on sage in low lightRed-tailed Hawk landing on sage in low light – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/320, ISO 2500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

When the Red-tailed Hawk took off from the second bush and flew south I was able to track it and photograph it as it landed on a third bush. There is quite a lot of motion blur shown here on the tail and the wing tips but even at ISO 2500 my shutter speed was slow. It was definitely frustrating but at least I was out photographing a bird. Right?

I’m pretty sure the Red-tailed Hawk was looking for nesting materials but I wouldn’t bet my totally imaginary farm on it. After the hawk took off from this sagebrush it flew up high and circled around the top of a cliff for a bit before it disappeared from my sight.

Cloudy skies over Box Elder County and the Great Salt LakeCloudy skies over Box Elder County and the Great Salt Lake – Nikon D810, f10, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 18mm, natural light

This is what the skies looked like most of the time I was looking for birds yesterday morning. This is not what the radar/satellite showed. At all.

On the up side I did hear a Long-billed Curlew yesterday but I didn’t see it in the absolutely cruddy light, I heard a Sora calling, saw and heard my first of the year Say’s Phoebe and to my delight I also saw my first of the year Turkey Vultures. I saw Tundra Swans flying overhead, one Golden Eagle, one immature Bald Eagle, several Northern Harriers and one Rough-legged Hawk. There were little birds too but in the gloom they were just little dark blobs that I couldn’t ID.

I am glad I went if for nothing else to get out of the house and to see the birds but I sure wish the light had been better.

Life is good.



  1. Pepe Forte March 29, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Like everyone else…I’m impressed with how well you employed the poor light to create some wonderful images. Thanks Mia.

  2. Laura Culley March 25, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    Yeah, but you captured beautiful images of this spectacular redtail! AND you got out and about, so the day was not a total loss!

  3. Patty Chadwick March 25, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    “Cruddy light”, BEAUTIFUL effect…..

  4. April Olson March 25, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Despite not having captured photos you wanted, it sounded like a nice day for being out and seeing first of the year birds.

  5. Lori March 25, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    I absolutely love these. The contrast is beautiful. Good for you for getting outside.

  6. Steve March 25, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    I like the contrast with the bird and sage, and the clouds seem so ominous. big thumbs up

  7. Bob mcpherson March 25, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Love the photo. Your positive attitude is your strongest asset

  8. Patty Chadwick March 25, 2018 at 9:48 am

    The “cruddy” light you were forced to deal with sure produced a beautiful, soft ambiance…these shots of rich, warm brown bird against silver sage,in silver light, are spectacular!!! No sympthathy here…just appreciation….

  9. Liz Cormack March 25, 2018 at 9:07 am

    I think these photos are great. Yes, low light but you still take amazing photos.

  10. Jorge H. Oliveira March 25, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Once again I have to thank you for showing what the D500 can do under such bad conditions. It manages high ISO quite well and that is a very useful information.
    And being able to see the midges on the first photo is amazing.
    Thanks for sharing.

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