Loaned Camera

There I am, sharp as a tack back by the car

There I am, sharp as a tack back by the car

Another post with guest photographer Patrick Murray.  I particularly like these images.  Why, you ask?  Well, I like the fact that while my husband had an incredible Red-tailed hawk flying right at him, he was focusing on me in the background.  🙂

But, for the budding photographer, there are several lessons here.  First, there is the “someone just handed me their camera and asked me to take pictures with it” lesson.  Had I planned better, I would have taken my husband’s camera, with which he is slightly more familiar.  Or, I would have at least turned off the back-button focusing setting on my camera, which was something my husband wasn’t used to (I am a huge fan of using back-button focusing instead of pressing the shutter button ½ way to find focus, but that’s another subject).

Yep, it's me again in focus in the background

Yep, it’s me again in focus in the background

I did think to put my camera in Aperture Priority mode (where you pick the aperture and ISO and let the camera pick the shutter speed) and set the aperture for what I thought would be a pretty good depth of field for someone who might not always focus exactly where I wanted him to.  However, I failed to change the focus point selection to a single focus point, which probably would have made it a little easier on my husband.

But then, he might have focused on the birds instead of me and I wouldn’t have gotten quite the same kick out of it.  🙂

I'm not really in focus in this one, but I have to laugh at me peeping around the corner!

I’m not really in focus in this one, but I have to laugh at me peeping around the corner!

I also set the camera in single-shooting mode when we started the raptor experience for my husband’s aunt and uncle.  This was appropriate because they were holding owls on their gloves who can’t fly.  These owls don’t move fast enough to justify continuous shooting mode.

But, this created a problem when we switched to flying the birds–he was getting finger cramps trying to press the shutter button fast enough.  Being in single-shot focusing mode also didn’t help.  Of course, since he wasn’t remembering to use the back button to focus anyway, using the continuous focusing mode wouldn’t really have helped in this case.  I guess that takes us to point 1.

Oh yes, there I am again

Oh yes, there I am again

I forgot I was enumerating the lessons, so let’s review.  If you’re handing your camera off to a novice and expecting them to do all the shooting of an up-close and person raptor experience:

  • Turn off back-button focusing if you normally use it
  • Set the focus point selection to a single focus point
  • Use an aperture setting that provides an appropriate depth of field (like f/8ish)
  • Select a high enough ISO setting that the shutter speeds won’t get too slow for the action shots
  • If the birds are perching, use single shooting mode
  • If the birds are flying, turn on high speed continuous shooting and continuous focusing
  • Try to stay out of the background
  • Be prepared to do a lot of editing.

Of course, if you’re not assisting in the raptor experience, you can take the photos yourself.

I just like this one--Elvi looks so happy

I just like this one–Elvi looks so happy

Raptor Experience

Artie always impresses his new friends

Artie always impresses his new friends

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about S.O.A.R.–Save Our American Raptors.  This is a fantastic, and very tiny, organization that cares for about a dozen or so unreleaseable birds of prey, making a life-long commitment to care for birds that may outlive the current organizers.

These birds stay fit and happy by participating in educational programs that help spread awareness of the importance of predators to our ecosystem and provide an up-close, one-of-a-kind experience for the human participants.

Unfortunately, not all of the birds can fly.  Some have eye injuries and wing injuries that make flight impossible for them.  The ones that can fly usually are human-imprints that cannot or will not return to the wild because they perceive humans as their parents.  Cayce, the black vulture, as a case-in-point, has been released to the wild three times only to return to her human parents.

Not a great shot, but Cayce is usually the star of the show, playing with the visitors and flying for them

Not a great shot, but Cayce is usually the star of the show, playing with the visitors and flying for them

S.O.A.R. offers an opportunity to have an intimate experience with their birds called “The Raptor Experience.”  This is actually how I first met Dale and John, the birds caretakers and directors in the organization.  About a year ago, I saw their poster at the Lookout Mountain Flight Park when we were taking hang gliding lessons.  Pat and I called and scheduled our experience and were amazed by the whole thing.

This participant enjoys meeting Buddy, an Eastern Screech Owl

This participant enjoys meeting Buddy, an Eastern Screech Owl

Since that time, I’ve been volunteering for S.O.A.R. whenever and however they need me.  When Dale called me over the holidays and asked if I could assist her with a Raptor Experience, I was thrilled to have the opportunity.

Two couples and a friend arrived at the S.O.A.R. location in a van driven by Dale.  Because the road back to S.O.A.R. is a bit tough on the suspension, Dale or John meets attendees at a nice, smooth parking lot a couple miles away and then shuttles them to the site.  Sometimes the ride up can be a bit of a thrill–slick mud made for some tricky maneuvering on this particular day, but Dale’s experience negotiating the road makes it a very safe ride.

Artie watches his new friend carefully, probably hoping he'll get petted (he did)

Artie watches his new friend carefully, probably hoping he’ll get petted (he did)

I helped get birds out, put them on gloves, and talked about them in a sort-of tag-team with Dale.  I realized that while I think I know a lot about the birds, I have much to learn.

The owls are always a favorite for visitors–perhaps because they’re the only raptors in the program who enjoy being petted.  If you scratch the back of Artie’s neck just right, he rolls his head back, his eyelids close and you could almost swear you hear him moan.

Jerry enjoys being petted, too.

Jerry enjoys being petted, too.

Like Jerry and Buddy, the Eastern Screech Owls, Artie, a Barred Owl, was hit by a car.  All 3 owls are unable to fly as a result of their injuries.  Most people are surprised when they hear the owls were hit by cars, but statistically, this is the most common way that owls are injured.

Maybe we should put up owl crossing signs?

 

Theo like to flap a lot--he's one of the human-imprints that can still fly

Theo like to flap a lot–he’s one of the human-imprints that can still fly

Atsa Yazi, the littlest eagle, is a small male Bald Eagle who was shot when he was only a year old, costing him his wing

Atsa Yazi, the littlest eagle, is a small male Bald Eagle who was shot when he was only a year old, costing him his wing