This was my first visit to the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover. Timeline Events had arranged for a mixed day of shooting with birds of prey , models and training. To help us we were accompanied by Mark Higgins and Bob Johnson.
The Hawk Conservancy Trust is just off the A303 and my day started with a cup of tea in the cafe while we waited for everyone to arrive. We were to be split into two groups and I was in the group that was shooting the birds of prey in the morning and the models and cars in the afternoon.
We all walked through part of the centre to the Griffon function room and there we had a brief lecture from our two trainers after a welcome from Neil. The E-type Jaguar wouldn’t be coming but instead the centre had moved one of their tractors to be used instead.
After another quick cup of tea we moved outside past the arena to see our first bird of prey.
Bald eagle – Orion
Orion was placed on a log and sat watching as we moved around taking pictures. I was able to get very close and took the advice to use spot metering on his white head.
This image of Orion shows his eyes’ nictitating membrane. As much as I like this image I’m afarid a less knowledgeable camera club judge might think the eye wasn’t in focus.
Here’s my chosen image from this session.
While we were photographing Orion I could hear planes overhead and I captured this image of the Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS) BAe 146 flying overhead on its way around Boscombe Down…
.. and here’s a closer crop on its next pass.
Harris’ Hawk- Josie
Next we moved to be by the seats of the arena to wait for Josie. This was to be my first opportunity to try and capture a bird flying past. Josie was trained to fly to a post and then come back.
Our advice was to shoot with a speed of at least 1/1000 second. The sun was still very bright which helped with such a relatively fast speed. I found it very difficult to get a frame with all the bird in. I have deleted lots of out of focus images of parts oJosie as well as lots of images of sharply focussed grass!
This one was shot at ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/1000 second with my lens at 400 mm.
and this one ISO 100, f4.0, 1/1000 with my lens at 135 mm.
I was challenged to try panning with the speed set to 1/40 second. This clearly will take a lot more practice as I didn’t achieve any satisfactory shots!
Here’s a shot of some of the group as Josie arrived from the post.
I stopped the experiments with slow speeds and reverted back to 1/1000.
Josie’s time outside was over and it was time for her to return for a rest.
Barn owl – Delta
After Josie had thrilled us with her high speed antics we moved across the field to a hut on the boundary. Here we met Delta who was a Barn Owl. The plan was to put her in the window of the hut and then we could capture images of her framed by the window.
The wind was blowing through the window and Delta much preferred to be head on to the wind. With some more coaching Delta did oblige to give me this shot.
My mistake was to have changed my lens and I have had to crop more than I would have liked for this image. Next visit I will carry my rucksack with me so I can change lens and not be stuck with a bad choice. Delta was moved outside to sit on a wheel.
With a bit more encouragement she was moved to the smaller window.
This shot is looking back to the arena benches. The log that Orion sat on is there in the field and my bag is on the front row of the benches.
Great Grey owl – Ennis
After picking up our bags we walked back through the enclosures to the Silver Birch Glade Arena to meet Ennis. The arena had a large pond behind which were more enclosures. The pond had blue rope crisscrossing the surface. All of which added up to an interesting problem to capture images of the bird without a cluttered background.
Ennis didn’t have a jessies on his legs so images of him sat on branches should be OK.
He was lured to fly and land in the grass by the pond with titbits of food.
Ennis then flew back and forth across the pond and it was up to us to try and capture images as he came at us head on!
My technique needs a lot more practice as I did get lots of out focus images of Ennis or parts of him as he zoomed over my head. Or, I had too much clutter in the background.
After his flying display he stopped on one of the poles and watched us.
We then all moved back to the main arena and were joined by the other group. We were back there to see a practice session of parts of the World of Birds of Prey display.