Photo of the Week! Entry 9

Male kestral hunting in winter

A long range image of a male kestrel hunting in winter

Hunting Kestrel

There’s a fairly long story behind this one. I was talking to a wildlife photographer that I met on holiday, who suggested I try a big deer park, about 40 minutes away from my home, called Bradgate Park. He said it was big enough to do actual landscape photography in, and was somewhere he goes quite regularly.

So I drove over on one winter’s day, to find the ground thickly covered in snow. Unfortunately when I arrived I realised that I had forgotten my proper walking boots, and so had to go into the park with just trainers on. I was soaked through in moments of course, but the park was stunning, so I felt it was worth it.

Lots happened during the trip, which I won’t write about here, but in short I got very wet and cold, fell over lots of times, dented my tripod, and had an absolute whale of a time! As I was heading back to my car, I saw a fallen, dilapidated tree in a small dip in the ground. On the topmost branch of it, was this kestrel. I dropped to the ground to get my camera back out (by this point I had given up on the day and packed away. Rookie mistake!) but I was being followed by a pair of dog walkers, who just kept coming, and spooked it.

I chased it, and eventually found it nestled at the top of a tree. It was too far away for any decent photos, and there were branches in the way, so I just sat, waiting. After a good 30 minutes or so, it took flight, and I sprinted after. I found it again hovering only about 30 ft above the ground, apparently hunting, and this is the photo I took. Given the nature of the chase and everything else, I’m really pleased with it.

I went for a fairly classical “rule of thirds” composition, as is often the case with wildlife, I didn’t really have time to experiment with anything else. The light was fading, so I had to boost the ISO, sadly I can’t remember what I boosted it to, and I think I took this image before I began using Lightroom, so I can’t really look it up. If I remember rightly, I was using a Canon 600, and so I wouldn’t have taken the ISO beyond 800. I was using a 300 mm f4/5.6 lens, and was using aperture priority at f5.6. When shooting moving targets I generally use Canon’s AI Servo drive mode, which is able to intelligently keep the focus on the moving target, even if something else briefly gets in the way, and that is what I did with this image.

I have always meant to go back to Bradgate park, and sit for the day amongst the bracken to see if I can better my photo of the hawks there, but for some reason or another, I haven’t been back once.



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