Nature Photography Photo Critique
I'm Coming For You
by Millie Morgan
Category: Nature Photography
Lens: Telephoto: 50-200mm
Description: he was sitting on the birdhouse waitin on supper. i shot a few, then scared him up. see all >
he was sitting on the birdhouse waitin on supper. i shot a few, then scared him up. he came right at me, thought he was gonna take my camera or my scalp. you should see the next frame but it is out of focus (was ducking at the time i shot it)
Subject of photo
Composition & Perspective
Use of camera, exposure & speed
Color & Lighting
Depth of field
Raptors are incredibly interesting and efficient predators (but being a raptor biologist I may be a little biased). The red-tailed hawk is one of the more commonly seen and photographed raptors and, as raptors go, generally mild-mannered. You've caught this one with its wings in a good position and it's in focus. The birdhouse provides a break in the scene. I have to mention that "scaring up" animals to get them to do something, can be detrimental to the animal (using energy it needs to find food and stay warm, creating stress) and to the person doing the "scaring" - some animals and some raptors can be very aggressive (especially in times of stress and during the breeding season) and interpret such actions as threats. They can and do attack, sometimes causing injury or worse. So, be aware of that and be patient. You may have been able to get more useful photos if the bird had taken off 'naturally' and had you not felt the need to get out of the way.
The subject placement is centered, but the image can be cropped to a vertical relatively easily. The surrounding vegetation indicates the season, but doesn't add additional information necessary for understanding the photo, so it can be cropped out. The wings are clipped at the top of the frame, but not so much that it detracts overall. That is probably the result of needing to give the hawk "room" to fly into because it was unclear where it might go. A vertical framing would be more difficult to capture this hawk if it flew to the right or left rather than straight at you. With experience, you will have a better idea where a bird might fly to and how much room to give it so you can prevent this kind of subject clipping. Depth of field is nice, separating the subject from the background.
Focus on the subject looks good, particularly the head and eyes.
Exposure is good. Some post-processing to increase contrast (maybe lighten the background just a touch to increase the visibility of the hawk) would help the hawk stand out in the photo. Shutter speed is good to show some motion in the wings yet freeze the head and body to maintain focus.
Nice color and the time of day (mid morning?) with the sun low provides some nice shadow textures in the background and even lighting in open shade for the hawk. Backlighting on the hawk's feathers is captured well and is another point of separation from the background.
Your wider aperture selection is good, for both shutter speed to stop motion and to separate your subject from a somewhat cluttered background by narrowing the depth of field (roughly, the area of focus from the subject to background)
My general impression is this is a good, opportune photo of a hawk at a bird feeder/bird house situation. It's more than a simple 'portrait' of a hawk sitting on a pole. There's action taking place, shows behavior and what hawks do. I think the photo could be cropped to a vertical to give more focus on the hawk. Wildlife photography is enormously rewarding but, again, I need to stress the importance of patience and for all photographers to avoid "scaring up", causing animals to do something (by whatever means), or encroaching on their "personal space" so you can get a photo of it. Other than causing a potentially dangerous situation that could harm you or others, repeated stress events can keep an animal from adequately feeding or protecting itself which could result in death sometime in the future.
How to improve your photo
With wildlife, learning and understanding the behaviors of a given species will help you predict what is about to happen (based on body movements and position, alertness, and other signs) so you can frame your image better. It takes time, patience, and dedication, but the results are so much more impressive.
I don't know if you were using a tripod in this shot, but with long focal length lenses (as I'm sure you know), a steady platform (tripod or monopod, fencepost, rock, etc.) helps maintain a sharp image.
Selecting your framing orientation (horizontal or vertical) based on the prevalent orientation of your subject helps to emphasize and focus viewer attention on the subject. Not a concrete-set rule, only a guideline.
Get feedback on your photos from Pro Mike Shipman