Camera and photographer making the once in a lifetime photo

Red Tailed Hawk in New York City

Friday, July 22, 2011
I went out today to take photographs of people in New York City trying to beat the heat after a 103 degree day. When all of a sudden in the corner of my camera lens I noticed a Red Tailed Hawk in Riverside Park right outside the West 96th Street playground. I have seen Red Tailed Hawks flying around New York City, especially Central Park, but this one seemed to not mind a photographer taking his paparazzi shots. I was able walk right up to this hawk, snapping photos while standing 10 feet away.

It has been a long time since I did any wildlife photography. I mostly take photos of the urban jungle and it's occupants. I did have a Nikon 180mm 2.8 lens in my camera bag. But this experience reminded me that when birding, even such a large bird like a Red Tailed Hawk, does require at least a 300mm lens unless you want to crop half the photo.

10 feet away with a Nikon 180mm 2.8 lens set at f/3.2, 1/200 sec at ISO 400
Well, the Hawk flew away but tonight, 98th Street and Riverside Park was it's hunting ground. About 15 minutes later the Red Tailed Hawk returned looking for field mice, small birds and even squirrels.

  Deep crop. I stood about 12-15 feet away with my Nikon 180mm 2.8

I was able to walk up close to the rather large bird. Using my 180mm lens was good but a 300mm or 400mm lens would have compressed the background and increased my magnification to a much better level. A person cannot count on a bird being so use to people and photographers.

It was really dark and before the hunt was done, both my photography and the Red Tailed Hawks. Since I was hand holding a Nikon 180mm f/2.8 lens, I had to boost my ISO to 2000 in order to keep an adequate shutter speed. These are extreme crops, and I was really out of practice photographing critters that fly, scurry and scamper. I missed a shot of the Red Tailed Hawk pouncing on a squirrel right in front of me. And my shutter speed was never able to get over 1/200th of a second without increasing my ISO even higher so I missed the Hawks quick movements, flying right over my head and playing in the fountain. But I did remember how exhilarating it is to photograph wild nature.


{ jcnyc } at: August 17, 2011 at 12:16 AM said...

Nice pictures, I live in this area and have never had the opportunity to see this beautiful creature.

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