Raptor Birds of Prey Facts, Tips For Getting Great Raptor Birds of Prey Pictures and Raptor Birds of Prey Conservation.
Raptor Birds of Prey Facts:
Birds of prey, or raptors derived from the Latin word rapere meaning to seize or take by force, fall into two basic groups. Nocturnal raptors namely owls and diurnal (daytime) raptors such as hawks, harriers, eagles, falcons, kites, caracarus, vultures, ospreys and condors. They have exceptionally good vision, a sharp, hooked beak, and powerful feet with curved, sharp talons. They hunt for food primarily while in flight using their keen senses, especially vision. Most raptor birds of prey hunt primarily for vertebrates and they use their talons to latch on to their prey and their large powerful beaks for tearing away flesh. In most cases, the females are considerably larger than the males so if you are following a mated pair that’s an easy way to distinguish the male from the female. As a predator raptor birds of prey are often at the top of the food chain and with that distinction comes concern surrounding conservation issues.
Raptor Birds of Prey Photography – Tips For Getting Great Birds of Prey Pictures.
- Most birds of prey are extremely skittish making them difficult to get close to. Thus if you come across them by car get a few shots from the vehicle before you attempt to open the door to get closer else you risk not getting any shots at all. If you’re on foot begin taking shots as soon as you have the opportunity and then advance a foot at a time, ideally from behind your tripod. slow and steady is a best practice in the case of birds of prey photography.
- Having a longer lens in your bag is a real bonus when it comes to bird photography. A 400mm lens or longer with the option to throw on a tele-converter is ideal although there are times when a 70-200mm will do just fine for some approachable species like owls.
- Don’t shy away from weather. I actually avoid sunny days for bird photography as it generally makes for boring blue sky backgrounds and blown out highlights. Look for overcast, cloudy skies and you’ll notice that your images have a lot more colour and contrast and your backgrounds more pleasing to the overall scene.
- For flight shots F/8 is my preferred f stop but not at the expense of shutter speed. Many species are most active just before and at dusk. As the light falls off you will want to compensate by bumping the ISO to keep the shutter speed above 1/800 but eventually you’ll drop back to f/4 (2.8 if I have it) Of course if you are taking portrait shots where the bird is perched you won’t need to be as concerned about shutter speed.
- I am an advocate of the tripod especially with the long lenses as it significantly improves the number of in focus shots that I have to choose from at the end of the day, not to mention hand holding a 600 mm lens for any length of time requires super human strength. However tracking a fast bird of prey in flight with the use of a tripod and gimbal head requires practice so I recommend heading to the beach and spending a few hours tracking and shooting gulls which are plentiful. In that way when the rare opportunity to photograph a bird of prey presents itself you’ll know what you’re doing. If you would like more detail on shooting with a gimbal head I have an informative video posted in my COOLwildlife video gallery.
- Focus, focus, focus on the eye is key to all wildlife photography and it is no different with birds of prey. Remember longer lenses have a very narrow depth of field so you’ll want to make sure you take dead aim to focus on the eye and use smaller aperture like f/8 where the light allows to give yourself a little more focus depth.
- Do a background check. Whether they are perched or flying you need to pay attention to the background in order to get winning photographs. Distracting branches, telephone poles, hydro wires, boring blue skies, etc. all detract from the main subject. Sure they can be removed in post edit but often times by moving just a few feet to the right or the left you can avoid them altogether and come up with a more appealing composition.
Raptor Birds of Prey Conservation: