Event: Birds of prey

An outing with my photographic society to take images of birds of prey in flight led to some challenges. It was rather late on a summer evening and already the light was beginning to fade. Coupled with birds that move pretty quick we had to think fast on our feet.  All good for learning technique!

As the handlers started to get the birds ready to fly, I had chance to take images showing the birds and their handlers interacting. The image below shows birds being unloaded from the van. They were very keen to get out.

unloading the birds

This was the first time that this young owl had been in this environment. I like this image because it shows the relationship between the handler and the nervous owl, and the photographers in the background are nicely blurred to keep attention on the main subject.

bird handler

Another image showing a handler with his bird. I had to work on this one to reduce the noise as the low light was making higher ISO necessary and noise was becoming obvious in many of the images.

that way!!

This is a fun shot but I really like it. The blurring of the birds wings shows the action as it prepares to take off, but the head is nicely focused and complemented by the gaze of the handler. The photo has depth, with the main subject nicely highlighted against the blurred trees in the background.

take off

I then tried taking images of the birds in flight against the darkening sky. Not many of these were successful, again due to the speed of the birds and the failing light, but this one has nicely caught the bird in flight while showing an impression of its handler in the foreground. I like the way that focus (or lack of it) draws your eye to the main subject of the picture.


The image below is perhaps my most successful shot of a bird in flight. It is a dynamic pose, made easier to catch by this being a particularly slow and lazy Snowy Owl! Again, the action is nicely highlighted against the background, and the positioning of the bird and the attitude of its wings work nicely according to the ‘rule of thirds’.

coming in to land

I particularly like this one as you can get a sense that this bird is pretty determined to have its meal, whether or not the handler gets to keep his fingers!


I found it hard to pick the best picture from the evening, but decided to find one that best summed up the event in one image. So here you have one shot that both captures an owl turning in flight and also a group of photographers jostling to capture it. The position of the bird works well in the corner of the frame, and the direction of the photographers and the fact that they are slightly out of focus leads your eye back to the bird as the main subject in the image. Finally, the good eye contact with the bird is the icing on the cake.

we got one!!

I really enjoyed the evening, and though the photography was quite challenging I certainly feel I learned a few things along the way!

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