11 Tips & Techniques Raptor Photography Update 10/2021

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Raptor photography is an amazing hobby that will surely capture your heart and mind! This type of photography is very popular these days and many people are starting to do it. But, if you are serious about doing it, there are some important tips that you should know. So, keep reading to find out more!

Many people think that they do not have any talent for taking good photos but that is not true. Anyone can learn how to take great photos with a little practice. All you need is a little patience and you will surely succeed. In this section, we are going to share with you some important tips that will surely help you become a great photographer.

Birds Of Raptor That You Can Photography

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An Osprey coming in for a landing

Canon EOS 5D Mark III – Focal Length 600mm – Aperture ƒ/9 – Shutter Speed 1/1250s – ISO 320

There are many different types of birds of raptors, each with its own unique behavior. Learn their habits and pay attention to what they are doing, and you will be rewarded with some amazing images.

Goshawks are one of my favourites; they are very wary, but sometimes, if you are patient enough, they will allow you to get quite close. Also, they are territorial, so if you are in a gazetted area where they are allowed, they might just let you hang out with them for a bit.

Golden eagles are another good option, they are not as wary as Goshawks, and often they will come to your food.

If you are lucky enough to live near water, go out at dawn or dusk and look for ospreys. Ospreys are fish eaters, and they will often perch on a branch over the water, watching the school of fish beneath them.

How To Find Birds Of Raptor For Photography

Raptors are not easy to find and it takes experience to get close enough to them to be able to photograph them effectively.

The first thing you need to do is to locate and then gain the trust of the local wildlife rehabilitators or naturalists who deals with raptors. They will be able to tell you where the best places are to go to see these magnificent birds in their native habitats and also, they will be able to introduce you to other people who are willing to take you to those spots.

The next thing you need to do is to learn to recognize the signs that indicate a raptor is nearby. You can do this by paying attention to everything the rehabilitators and naturalists tell you and by keeping your eyes open for the obvious signs such as a bird of prey flying close to the ground or circling above a specific area. Once you have spotted a bird of prey, the next step is to try and get close enough to it so you can photograph it without it becoming aware of you. This is not easy and it takes practice but, if you are patient and keep trying, it will be a great memory that you can look back on for years to come.

Tips Raptor Photography

1. Understand Raptor Behavior

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Barn Owl in flight with prey, a freshly caught vole

Chichester, West Sussex – Sony ILCE-9 – Focal Length 600mm – Aperture ƒ/4 – Shutter Speed 1/1200s – ISO 1250

If you are going to be photographing raptors, it is essential you understand their feeding habits. You need to know where they go to get their food… and… you need to know what kind of food they like to eat. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do to improve your raptor photography.

For example, you should learn to anticipate when they will swoop down on their prey. This will give you a chance to capture the attack in all its glory.

Also, they are very skittish and will take off in a flash if they even suspect danger. They also have extremely acute eyesight and are able to detect movement as small as the width of a human hair in complete darkness. Therefore, you must be very careful when approaching or photographing them. It is imperative that you make no sudden movements and give them plenty of time to get used to your presence before taking any photographs.

2. Raptor Pose

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Flatanger, Norway – OLYMPUS E-M1MarkII – Focal Length 85mm – Aperture ƒ/3.5 – Shutter Speed 1/2000s – ISO 200

The raptor pose is a classic, and for good reason. It is a powerful image that communicates a sense of power and ferocity. It is difficult to get this shot right, but when you do it can be worth its weight in gold. There are a few things you need to think about when trying to capture this shot.
Firstly, the animal you are shooting needs to be in full flight. Secondly, you need to find a perch that gives you a clear view of the wings and the direction the raptor is facing.
Finally, you need to make sure the light is just right. The sun should be behind the raptor, illuminating his/her rump and the underside of the wing closest to you. Anything else and your photo will come out looking flat and unappealing.

3. Photographing Birds Of Prey At Nest Sites

Raptors are fascinating birds, and their nests are often dramatic locations for photographers. However, they are extremely territorial, and will attack humans who get too close to their nests. Always make sure you have the permission of the land owner before you set up your gear at a nest site. Also, bring along a local expert to help you if you are unsure of yourself.

4. Slow Approach Technique

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Czech republic – Snowy Owl – Canon EOS 7D Mark II – Focal Length 278mm – Aperture ƒ/8 – Shutter Speed 1/160s – ISO 100

The slow approach technique is an essential tool in the arsenal of any raptor photographer. It can be used for almost any situation where a raptor is present, and it is especially useful when photographing birds of prey that are wary of humans.

This technique is based on the fact that most birds, when they first see a human being, are extremely wary and will often take flight. However, after a few seconds, they will realize that the human being is not a threat and will return to their normal behavior.

By using this technique, you can get some great photos of birds that are feeding or preening or whatever else they are doing that makes them comfortable around you, without having to worry about them running away.

5.  Focus Point

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Sea Eagle with big wings flying over ice

NIKON D4S – Focal Length 460mm – Aperture ƒ/7.1 – Shutter Speed 1/1000s – ISO 250

Most of the pictures I took of birds raptor (mostly eagles and owls) were of their eyes. Why? Because the eyes are the most compelling part of the bird. It draws you into the photo, and makes you want to know more about the subject.
I am shooting with a Nikon D4S so this is Nikon terminology, I use Single Point AF Mode, because I am a control freak and don’t let the camera make the decisions for me. There is Dynamic Area AF Mode you might want to consider trying and see if it works for you, but don’t try it on a once-in-a-lifetime shot.

6. Photography Composition

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III – Focal Length 600mm – Aperture ƒ/7.1 – Shutter Speed 1/1250s – ISO 800

The first step to getting good is knowing what you’re trying to get good at. In the case of raptor photography, it’s knowing what makes a good photo.

Achieving this is very difficult, especially when there are other things to look at as well, thing you must do is to decide what is the main thing you want the viewer to look at. In the case of a raptor, that’s the bird. Everything else in the photo should be there to enhance the bird, not distract from it. And remember, you are competing with the rest of the animal kingdom for the viewer’s attention. If there are bugs or stones or other small, distracting elements in the photo, the viewer will be distracted from the raptor and will not see the photo as a whole.

7. Try To Get A Good Background

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 Snowy Owls

Canon EOS 80D – Focal Length 226mm – Aperture ƒ/8 – Shutter Speed 1/3200s – ISO 500

One of the main problems with getting good photos of raptors is that they always want to be where the action is. They will be at the front of the boat, in the middle of the boat, on the shoreline, and even flying above the boat if there is any kind of feeding opportunity.

As a general rule, you should try to get rid of as many distractions as you can when you are photographing wildlife, and one of the biggest is a good background. A good background for most wildlife shots is almost always some sort of plain or slightly undistinguished natural scenery like bushes, trees, rocks, grass, or scrub. This gives your photo a chance of being appreciated on its own merit, without having to compete with the visual attraction of a beautiful sky, a pretty flower, or some other delightful feature of the scene.

8.  Photography Angle Matters

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Rausu, Japan – Canon EOS 7D Mark II – Focal Length 200mm – Aperture ƒ/5 – Shutter Speed 1/800s – ISO 800

The key to creative raptor photography is to find a way to hide your presence from them, and then, capture them unaware of your existence. You do this by finding the best creative angle at which to shoot them, and by using the elements around you to your advantage. Here are a few ideas:

* Use the wind to your advantage. If you are in a forest, watch for birds to appear out of nowhere and then take a photo of them when they are startled by your presence.

* Use the light. If you are in a forest, look for the sun to come out from behind a cloud and bathe your subject in golden light.

* Use the snow. If you are in the mountains, wait for a light dusting of snow to fall before you go out to take a photo. The white powder will reflect the light and make your subject stand out.

9. Action Or Motion Versus Static

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A snowy owl in the wintery landscape of Alberta, Canada photographed in -35 degree temperatures

Rausu, Japan – Canon EOS-1DX – Focal Length 330mm – Aperture ƒ/5.6 – Shutter Speed 1/2590s – ISO 500

Raptor photography is an acquired taste. Some people love it, others hate it. What most people don’t realize is, there is a huge difference between action or motion versus static raptor photography.

Action or motion shots are where the animal is doing something dynamic that is clearly visible in the photo, whether it be running towards you, flying away from you, attacking something, or mating. These are the photos that get the most praise from the audience and win awards.

Static raptor photos are the ones that most people prefer. In these photos, the animal is usually standing or sitting very still, looking intently at something in the distance. The photo might have a little motion blur, but nothing dramatic. Usually, these photos are not even focused on the raptor; instead, they are focused on something else in the scene, like a person or vehicle.

There is a huge middle ground between these two extremes, and most photos fall into this category.

10. Anticipation

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NIKON D810 – Focal Length 400mm – Aperture ƒ/4 – Shutter Speed 1/2000s – ISO 640

Anticipation is one of the most important elements of good photography. You can add anticipation to your photos in a variety of ways, but the easiest (and often most effective) is simply by making your subject aware of your presence. A good way to do this is to sneak up close to your subject before you click the shutter.

In the case of raptors, this is especially true. They are very aware of their surroundings and will frequently scan the area looking for danger. If they spot what they are looking for (you!) they will take off in a flash.

By sneaking up close to your subject before you click the shutter, you give it the chance to notice you, and to take off if it so chooses. This adds an extra layer of excitement to the photo, as the bird will have to decide whether or not to take off… and… if it does, you will have a much better chance of getting the shot.

11. Improving Your Chances Of Success

How do you increase your chances of success when photographing raptors? There are many books that offer tips but, in truth, there is no sure fire way to be successful at this. However, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances.

The first thing is to make sure you are wearing clothing that will not make you a target. In other words, avoid brightly colored clothing and definitely don’t wear anything that stands out. Raptors are extremely wary of humans and, if they detect us, they will usually attack.

Secondly,  is to locate them. Once you locate them, be sure to give them lots of room. Do not approach any raptor within 20 yards of it. And never, ever run towards them. Instead, back away slowly and calmly while keeping an eye on the raptor. If the bird notices you at all, it will most likely just give you a passing glance. But if it does decide to attack, it will be much more aggressive. And you will be in much less danger if you are far enough away so the raptor has to come to you instead of chasing you down.

Conclusion

Raptor photography is a very interesting hobby. There are so many things that you can do to take better photos of these birds. If you are interested in this type of photography, you should visit some of the local nature reserves or national parks. These places will be able to give you a lot of information about this type of photography.

In this article, we are going to give you some tips that will help you to take better pictures of these types of birds. I hope that these tips will help you to get more bird photos like the ones in the article above.