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A difficult bird to find... the northern goshawk

Discussion in 'Birds' started by hillrg, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. I finally found a Goshawk, although it was no picnic getting my camera there. Goshawks are forest dwellers, rarely leaving the forest canopy. There are not many residing on Vancouver Island and they are hard to find. The conditions were difficult, with many trees and branches, dull lighting and zillions of mosquitos. This female is hatching eggs (should be any day now). I ended up waiting 2 hours for her to sit up so I could get a clear view. Most of my shots were taken at ISO 800, but it brightened up for a few minutes and I managed some shots at ISO 500 which were much better.

    I had difficulty getting really sharp images. My gitzo tripod was at full extension, with the legs planted in deep salal and a soft forest duff, which is springy. The technique that seems to have worked best was to aim 1/2 frame low and lock the ball, then force the lens upwards to make the composition. The opposing forces up and down stabilized the image. This is where I would really like a well designed VR for the 500/4! Finally, I tried shooting bursts of 3-4 shots, but had better success with single shots, firing as I slowly breathed out, gently squeezing the shutter release and stoically ignoring the mosquitos :lol:

    This photo was taken with the D2X, 500/4 + TC14EII at ISO 500, f/5.6 1/80s in HSC mode and mirror lockup. I spot metered off the breast and closed down 0.7 EV. Due to the dark lighting conditions I applied no sharpening in NC, used neat image for noise reduction in photoshop and selective curves and finally selective sharpening to the beak and eyes.

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  2. Hi Rory

    Talk about dedication to get the shot, very impressive!!!! and you did just that, awesome capture. Cant say I have ever seen one. Like how you spot metered and lowered ev, makes allot of sense...........

    well done as always!!!
  3. saluki13


    Mar 27, 2005
    MA, USA

    All your effort really paid off in this shot. It is fantastic! I have never seen one so it was great to view this pic.
    Keep up the good work!
  4. saluki13


    Mar 27, 2005
    MA, USA

    All your effort really paid off in this shot. It is fantastic! I have never seen one so it was great to view this pic.
    Keep up the good work!
  5. wow Rory, what a great find, and on a nest, triple wow! This is one bird I've yet to get a decent look at. Can I come up and visit? :) 

    you'll have to document the fledglings childhood...we are now expecting weekly progress reports when they hatch ;-)
  6. Sounds like a very nice find Rory, nicely photographed also, I think its great that you share the technique you used for the tough conditions.

  7. Rory,

    Your hard work, dedication and great techniques certainly paid off here!!!! :)  :)  :)  Terrific shaot and super find - hope to see more of this female and her family.

    Thanks for sharing both the shot and your techniques in obtaining it.
  8. Thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure if I will make it back - it is a long way off the beaten track. We'll see.
  9. Janet - you would always be welcome 8) I would not need my bird guides then :!:
  10. Oh I didn't realize it was such a trek from home. Well, hopefully you'll get back at least once to check and see if there are fledglings and how many. That's actually valuable information and your local Audubon society might be interested.

    I'd love to take you up on your offer, one day I may show up ;-)
  11. This is great, Rory. With all the information around the shot, it is one of the best posts I have viewed on this board.
  12. K-loader


    May 31, 2005
    Maryland, USA
    Your dedication and hard work paid off Rory, that’s a fine capture, and all that much better with your description of the conditions.

    I can relate to what you were up against---I have been trying for ages to get decent shots of a pair of Red Shouldered hawks that have been nesting for the last five or six years in a heavily wooded area close to my house. The birds just don’t expose their selves and lighting is terrible on even the brightest days. I sat it out in a thickly wooded area close to their nest for an hour or so this past weekend. Unfortunately all I got for my effort a wood tick embedded in my leg.

  13. WOW that is great what perseverance and this is what makes a person good at photography or at anything for that point. Glad you were able to capture this elusive bird. SO can you tell me what you think about the HSC mode on the D2X
  14. Hi Mike

    I do not normally use HSC mode, but for this application it worked very well for two reasons:

    1. I knew I would be cropping afterwards because I could not get closer to the subject, which was stationary.

    2. I wanted to take a large number of repeats, hoping that one photo would be sharper than the rest. This allowed me to get more shots on a card.

    I took over 250 shots - I plan to keep 3 :lol:
  15. Hi Dan

    This is not good :(  Good luck - I would dearly love to see some shots. Just knowing where they are nesting is pretty exciting.
  16. Hey, Rory, superb, and a few questions please.

    1. Did you know where this nesting bird was beforehand or was this just a "happenstance" on a trip off the beaten path?

    2. Given that you were already using MLU, were you also using a remote, or just the shutter button release?

    3. Can you describe in a bit more detail your post process and how you decide which bits to do? Also how much time you would normally spend on images such as this?

    Thanks, and your tips were great the night you and Gloria stopped in.
  17. Hi Bill

    I knew about the location in advance. I did not use the remote due to the awkward location of the tripod, which would have tipped over if I was not holding it. I was in difficult terrain and had to get the camera to the one spot where I had a window through the branches. With a normal tripod setup mirror lockup and the remote would have been the way to go. Also, I do not have a gymbol mount, which would also make a difference I think.

    I tested this a while ago, using my 500 and TC20EII, and I got the best results with this method. It does not work when you have to hold the tripod or in gusty winds (or boats, thinking of you).

    Regarding the post process - here is what I did. I had over 250 shots of the Goshawk to choose from. I had set the in-camera sharpening to high to help image preview decisions. I previewed them in Nikon View, using the 100% feature to check the promising photos. I selected about 30 of the best by tagging in NV. I copied these to another directory and then selected the best three.

    I processed the three final selections in Nikon Capture - I still am not conversant enough with CS2 to use it for the raw conversion - and I did not have any highlight issues to deal with. In this case my primary concern was the dark lighting conditions and the associated noise issues, shooting at ISO 500 - 800.

    Because of the noise issues, I used Capture to turn off sharpening, adjusted the EV to +0.3, made a small DEE adjustment (I believe I used 12) and fixed the white balance, which was slightly cool. Because this was hopefully a serious keeper and I knew I had more work to do in photoshop I saved as a 16 bit TIF file.

    In photoshop I made a duplicate layer, where I ran neat image for the noise reduction. I then made this a reveal all mask layer and painted out the noise removal on the branches and feathers, except the beak and eyes. I knew I wanted to apply more sharpening here, and the noise would be a liability - plus neat image does some sharpening as well.

    But I wanted to do the sharpening last and I wanted to increase the gamma, contrast and saturation slightly just on the goshawk. I made another duplicate layer, converted to a reveal nothing mask, painted the goshawk back in and made a curve and saturation (+7) adjustment.

    I then cloned out one distracting branch.

    Finally I got around to the sharpening. I flattened the image and made a duplicate sharpening layer, and created a layer mask for the goshawk as described before. I applied a light sharpening (about 250, .3, 2) to the goshawk and then applied a specific sharpening to the eyes and beak using a sharpening action of my own design, that works well on eyes.

    I saved the TIF and then converted to 8 bits and saved the jpg. I then converted to sRGB and resized, using the sharper option for the web.

    This all took about 15 minutes and I only do this to "special" photos. I have spent up to two hours though... I have some custom keys set up in photoshop that really speed things up.

    Hope this helps.

  18. What dedication...

    You bird photographers are an amazing bunch. This is a really great picture. I am so glad I was able to see it. What a beautiful bird.
  19. Re: What dedication...

    Hi Terri

    What do you mean - amazing. We're crazy :oops: 
  20. What a nice shot. 250 shots all RAW I assume - you must have had a lot of cards with you!
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