Shooting a Red-tailed Hawk


Every day that Ann and I go out birding, we hope for an unexpected surprise.  This happened to us a couple of days ago.

We had driven out to San Angelo State Park to do our usual drive around through the different areas.  For us, it is a slow process as we just creep along in our now new 2016 Ford Escape.  At about 5mph (or less), we can have time to scan the brush and mesquite for birds, and sometime critters.  We don’t usually have to worry about traffic, as unfortunately for the park, not many people are aware of the great nature opportunities that exist there.  On this particular day, we only saw three vehicles.

One of the last areas we visited was the Isabelle Harte Multi-use area.  A place laced with hiking and biking trails, a boat ramp, and a paved road meandering through.  There are a few picnic tables placed near where the shoreline would be if there was enough water to fill the lake.  Hence the tables and boat ramp are nowhere the water.

As we entered the area, we took a turn to take us down near those picnic areas.  As we looked to the left, Ann exclaimed, “Stop, there’s a hawk!!  I brought the car to a stop and looked to where she was pointing.  Sure enough, atop the bare branches of a tree was this lovely Red-tailed Hawk.   I took a few preliminary “insurance” shots from where we were stopped.  We were about 100 yards away there, but I wanted to make sure that I had at least one image before I ventured closer.

The hawk was just sitting calmly, minding it’s own business.  I decided to try to get to a closer position.  There was a picnic table and grill a few yards ahead, so I slowly moved forward and turned into the parking spot by the table.  At that point I was only about 40-50 yards away and had an excellent shooting position from the driver’s side window.  I was using my Canon EOS 7D Mark II with my Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens.

I focused in on him and got a few shots while he was perched.  We then sat and waited, as I knew that he wouldn’t stay long and I wanted to get some action shots.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I had the camera focus points set that I would be able to track it and shoot at 10 frames per second.  Everything went off as planned and I got several exposures as he lifted off and flew.  Here are five of those images that I got in that sequence.  They all have been cropped.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

We are glad to see the return of the hawk to the area.  It had been several months since we had an opportunity like this described.  A few minutes earlier we saw two Norther Harriers, hunting and harassing each other, presumably over property rights.

For you photographers who enjoy such information, the data for these shots are:  1/8000 sec. at f6.3, +1.3 stops because the light was at the hawk back, and the ISO was 2000.  I used spot metering and spot focusing.

I hope you enjoyed this story and the photographs.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

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17 thoughts on “Shooting a Red-tailed Hawk

    • Hi, David. You surprised me and I almost missed this comment. So great to hear from you again. I hope things are well with you up there. I assume that you are still photographing flowers, etc.? Thanks for writing. 🙂

  1. Nice spotting Ann.A fine-looking hawk, plus a great series of sharp photos. Thanks for posting the exposure settings, too, Bob. Around here it is hard to get close, they are usually high on a wire and fly away once you pull over.

  2. Not only are these pics incredible, but your description of a fleeting (or in this case, flying) moment hit home with me, because that’s what I try to capture in my landscape paintings. Thanks for sharing your experience as well as your photos.

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