This morning was quite special for me. Not only did I observe my first peregrine falcon in flight… I was able to capture a good selection of images of it with my Nikon 1 V3/1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 birding kit.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
I had heard about peregrine falcons nesting in the area for a number of years. Being curious I had visited a half-dozen times in the past, but only actually saw a peregrine on two earlier occasions. Both times the bird was perched at a high level and out of range for photography. This morning’s sighting started out more promising as I captured an image of a peregrine bringing back a bird it had caught.
As the peregrine flew past the lift bridge it accidentally dropped its catch into the waterway below. It quickly swooped down in an attempt to retrieve it. This brought over a dozen of us scurrying to the other side of the bridge, hoping to photograph the peregrine falcon in flight.
The peregrine made a number of oval passes over the waterway. It flew down to the surface of the water a few times.
Try as it may, it was unable to lift its catch out of the water.
Unfortunately for the peregrine its prey bird had quickly become waterlogged and was too heavy for it to retrieve.
As the peregrine wheeled around it gave us some good opportunities to photograph it in flight. Since my Nikon 1 V3 is sometimes challenged acquiring focus in dark shade, I did my best to time my AF-C (continuous auto-focus) bursts when the peregrine was in good light.
I did manage to capture a few images when the peregrine falcon in flight was highlighted against a dark background. This lighting added a bit of drama.
I also tried to keep aware of the background, as there were various trees, cement columns and other structures which were distracting.
At times the best I could do was capture the peregrine falcon in flight against a somewhat monochromatic background under the bridge structure.
To achieve a more favourable shooting angle, most of the images in this article were captured while I was down on one knee. This helped to reveal some feather detail on the underside of the peregrine’s wings.
When photographing a subject bird ‘in the heat of the moment’ it can feel quite strange to purposely stop AF-C bursts mid-stream. It is important not to waste your buffer on images that you know are not worth capturing. For example when the target bird is flying at an obtuse angle to your shooting position.
Often a better selection of photographs is achieved by shooting short AF-C bursts at opportune intervals, rather than firing off a long, uninterrupted burst.
The peregrine made a number of flight passes which helped me time some of my short AF-C bursts against small patches of clear, blue sky as a background.
It was a real thrill to see a peregrine falcon in flight – and even a bigger thrill to capture some images of it! Overall this was a wonderful experience that yielded well over 3 dozen usable photographs.
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All of the photographs displayed in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process. All were heavily cropped.
I shot my Nikon 1 V3 in Manual mode using Continuous Auto-Focus with Subject Tracking, Auto-ISO 160-3200, with a frame rate of 10 frames per second.
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