Hartford, CT – Portrait of a Raptor

Having set up a mini-photo-studio for my raptor friend next to a railing that I had seen him perched on twice this afternoon, I left it untouched for almost an hour and followed this gorgeous bird around.  As I was getting ready to pack everything up, the young red tail hawk that I had been following around the graveyard left his perch in the tree 50 yards away, swooping towards the railing at a pace much MUCH faster than I could keep up with.  Running across towards the back entrance of the church, I knew exactly what was about to happen…

After spending the day wandering around in Hartford,

Connecticut, a city that I have visited many times but not one that I have really explored much, I found myself walking down Main Street in search of the Wadsworth Atheneum.  While walking, I happened across Center Church at the corner of Gold and Main Streets and was immediately enthralled with the reflected light on the steeple of this gorgeous 1807 church.  I decided to spend some time walking around and taking photos of the beautiful structure itself.  Once I turned onto Gold Street, I saw a gorgeous reflected golden mosaic of the beautiful church in the office building that had been creating such unique light.  I was sure this mosaic image was to be my photo of the day for my Project365 of 2012.  In order to take this photo and frame it with the trees that are in the foreground, I headed into the cemetery behind the church.  Was I ever in for a surprise.

Completely unprepared, I turned after taking the mosaic photo and saw this gorgeous juvenile red tail hawk perched on the railing of the back entrance to the church.  Armed with a Nikon D7000 and a 50mm f/1.4 lens, I unfortunately had to get somewhat close to get any decent photo of this gorgeous bird.  Surprisingly, it was unswayed with my approach, I assume because he was excited about the idea that maybe I would scare the squirrels out from under the cover of the stairs below.  No luck for him, and after a few minutes he took off, and so did I… (more below the photos)

Seeing opportunity for some incredible photos, I practically sprinted back to my camera bag and picked up the largest camera rig I have,  a Nikon D700 with MBD10 grip, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with a 1.7x Teleconverter, and booked it back to the ancient graveyard.  While I was raiding my gear bag, I also grabbed a tripod, monopod, and Justin Spring Clamp in hopes of putting an off-camera flash to use with my feathered friend.  When I returned I set up one flash on the Justin Clamp with my LTP soft box on it, clamped it to the top of a fully extended tripod.  I stepped back, fired off a few test shots, looked at my little set up, and the only thing that crossed my mind was that it looked like a great place to perch and stare at squirrels under the porch…  After lashing the justin clamp to the ball head of the tripod, I let it be for the next hour while I was off capturing some other amazing photographs…

As I was getting ready to pack everything up, the young red tail hawk that I had been following around the graveyard left his perch in the tree 50 yards away, swooping towards the railing at a pace much MUCH faster than I could keep up with.  Running across towards the back entrance of the church, I knew exactly what was about to happen, and sure enough it did.


Exactly as I had imagined, he landed right atop my SB900, and perched there for what seemed to be a good 3 or 4 minutes as I ran from one end of the cemetery to the other, and still had time to snap some photos of this majestic bird sitting on my speed light.  Partially disappointed that he missed his mark, and partially ecstatic that this little guy landed right on the flash, and stayed long enough to take a few photos, even one that shows the squirrels hiding under the porch.  Finally after a few minutes, he hopped off the flash… and right onto the railing that the flash was pointing at.  I had been following this guy around for an hour with a speed light on a monopod and tethered to my D700 via a SC-29 remote cable, so he was used to the flashing light by now, and sat pretty on the railing for another few minutes as I worked fast to try and create a portrait with a studio quality that was worthy of all of the setup and waiting.  Lit with a soft box that while generally small in stature, in this case it’s relatively HUGE in comparison to my subject, left me with a quality of side light that was impressively large in scale, and wrapped around the bird nicely considering that it was facing mostly away from the light after hopping from the direction of the light onto the railing.  By far one of my favorite portrait sessions EVER, and one that will be very hard to beat for a long time.  More posts from Hartford, CT tomorrow on day 12 of my Project365 blog, until then, I leave you with some larger versions of the final portraits of the beautiful young ret tail hawk.

Thanks for reading.

—D


 

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One Response to Hartford, CT – Portrait of a Raptor

  1. Pingback: Day #11 | dswalecphoto