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Harris Hawk

By woodlandlad
A shot of a Harris Hawk. This shot was taken at full zoom as I'm allergic to birds !!!

Exposure 1/500sec

Tags: Pets and captive animals Wildlife and nature Harris hawk bird

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NobbytheNobster 12 33 5 England
7 Apr 2010 10:08PM
excellent shot, well taken.
OliPackwood 12 5 5 United Kingdom
7 Apr 2010 10:24PM
Amazing shot, would be nice to see the whole body though. Smile

Brian_Scott 12 42 27 United Kingdom
7 Apr 2010 11:55PM
Looks more like a Harris Hawk to me
DRicherby 13 269 726 United Kingdom
8 Apr 2010 12:55AM
Not a golden eagle but a Harris hawk. Golden eagles are about twice as big.

You have the eye beautifully sharp and taking the photo from a distance has allowed you to get a blurred background. Unfortunately, though, your camera's meter has been fooled by the dark colour of the bird's back and the shot is a little over-exposed. This has blown out the highlights around the beak and also left the photo with no true blacks. The lack of blacks is easily fixed with a levels adjustment but lost highlights are lost forever.

I'm afraid I don't like the crop at all. I don't understand why you've included so much background and, at the same time, left out so much of the bird. In this pose, the bird's body is taller than it is wide, so portrait orientation makes much more sense and, at this level of zoom (or maybe a fraction less), you could have the whole bird in the frame. I tried playing around with different crops, putting the eye on the intersection of thirds but I'm afraid I couldn't find anything that I liked because there is so much of the bird missing. I think the best crop that could be taken from this would be a tight head shot but that won't work in this case because of the blown highlights.
8 Apr 2010 1:30AM
Thanks for the remarks. Bieng a beginner, I'm not sure what to do in future, should I maybe have lowered the aperture to decrease the blown highlights and then lighten up the darker colours in post processing?

I think I cropped the image in this way in order to focus on the fact the bird was looking in my direction, but I see what you mean about the orientation. I admit that I need to work on composition a little more !!

DRicherby 13 269 726 United Kingdom
8 Apr 2010 10:05AM
Yes, for a subject like this that has important detail in a pale area that can blow in strong light, you need to expose for the highlights (i.e., expose so that the brighter areas are correctly exposed) and then process to lighten the dark regions if necessary. Likewise, if there was important detail in a darker region, you'd want to expose for the shadows and process to darken the lighter regions, if necessary.

OK, how to correct the overexposure.

First off, unless you're in full manual mode, adjusting the aperture will have no effect on exposure, because the camera will say, `Ah, he's told me to use a narrower aperture so I'll use a slower shutter to compensate for that and get the same exposure.' Outside full manual mode, the best way to adjust exposure is to set the exposure compensation. A positive value of exposure compensation tells the camera to expose more than it thinks is necessary, by the given amount; a negative value tells it to expose less, which is what you want here. I would guess that about -2/3 of a stop would be about right for this shot.

It looks like you were shooting in fairly bright sunlight which can often cause blown highlights as the light makes pale subjects very bright. When shooting in such conditions, it's a good idea to check your camera's display after each photograph, to see if the highlight warning is flashing. If it is, and the highlights are blown in an area where they're going to be important, you need to dial in more exposure compensation and try again.

If you are in full manual mode, you can choose either to use a narrower aperture (higher f-number) or a faster shutter to correct the over-exposure. Which you should use depends on the type of photograph you're taking. Remember that aperture controls depth of field and shutter speed controls the camera's ability to freeze motion. Here, the hawk is essentially sitting still so, within reason, you could use any shutter speed and still get the same photograph — there's no motion to freeze or blur so any shutter speed will do. Using a narrower aperture at the same shutter speed would correct the exposure but would also give you more depth of field. That would decrease the blur on the background and could make it quite distracting. So, in this case, it would be better to correct the over-exposure by using the same aperture at a faster shutter speed (or even a wider aperture at an even faster shutter speed, to make the background more blurred).

If you're shooting static or slow-moving objects, it's usually best to choose the aperture that gives you the right depth of field and use whatever shutter speed will give you the correct exposure. The semi-automatic mode in the camera that does this is usually called `aperture priority' by photographers (some camera manufacturers call it other things — Canon calls it `AV', for example). Here, you choose the aperture and the camera chooses the shutter speed that will give the correct exposure. If you're shooting faster moving objects, it's usually best to choose the shutter speed that will give you the right amount of motion blur (maybe none, maybe some, depending on your intentions with the shot) and use whatever aperture will give the right exposure. The semi-auto mode for this is `shutter priority' (Canon calls it `TV') — you pick the shutter speed and the camera picks the aperture that will give the right exposure. In both cases, the `right' amount of depth of field or motion blur is a matter for your artistic judgment; the `right' exposure is whatever the camera thinks is right, modified by whatever exposure compensation you've set.

As for composition, there's lots of advice on ePhotozine and the wider web. If you search for `composition' on this site's search function, there's lots of good advice in the `Techniques' section.
8 Apr 2010 4:51PM
Thanks for the tips and the lesson! I clearly have quite a lot to learn !!!

paulbroad Plus
14 131 1293 United Kingdom
9 Apr 2010 8:41AM
Several points, all made already. Hesd needs to be larger in the frame, I think it could be crisper, and you are about 1 stop over exposed. For rapid shooting, exposure compensation is best, dial in -1. If you have time, meter from just the birds head, note the reading and set manually.

If you have spot metering, use that, then use the exposue lock facility - usually shown as * - then expose. The latter is best of all for quick work which was probably needed here.


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