Stupid Mistakes Frustrate Amateur Photographer

Red-Tailed Hawk on a pole . . . could also be a slovak.  Hard to tell them apart.
Red-Tailed Hawk on a pole . . . could also be a slovak. Hard to tell them apart.

I’m used to photographing hawks . . . or thought I was.   This is a tale of how stupid mistakes make you lose important shots.  The above hawk was photographed on county line on March 30th.

It’s been a while since I’d photographed any hawks.  A big departure from my usual efforts, which normally means every other post is about a hawk (just search my blog, if you dare).

By the way, for those interested in better versions of these photos, click on any of them to go to the SmugMug album.  There you can read pretty much the same narrative as here.

Hawk on the wing
Hawk on the wing

For one, I’ve been working odd hours, and coming home after dark.  For another, it’s been windy here. And I mean windy as in 20mph+ with higher gusts.  Hawks don’t perch too much in high winds.

These are not bad shots, are they?  Well . . .
These are not bad shots, are they? Well . . .
. . . what you are seeing are the salvaged shots.
. . . what you are seeing are the salvaged shots.

It might not seem like it to some, but these are not up to my usual quality. There is a softness to them.  And where is the launch from the pole?

OK, I do like this one . . .
OK, I do like this one . . .

But let me tell you, I screwed up big time.  I mean, I know I am an amateur.  I revel in pointing it out.  It allows me to show half-way decent photos without people expecting them to be perfect, or awe-inspiring.  It allows me to pass as someone with more talent than I actually have.

And then . . . reality strikes.  You see, before these shots (all these shots), I had been shooting bracketed shots.  I was trying my hand at night-time photography (explained in a future post), and using bracketing to see the effect of exposure compensation.  I also had the camera on a tripod, was using manual focus, and had the VR  off.

The big mistake?  I did not reset the camera once I was done.  I did not get the launch because I hastily realized the camera was not focusing, and threw it into single focus (VR still off, and still bracketing).  The result? 2/3 of the pictures were shot at +/- 2.0EV compensation.  They were either blown out, or so dark that they were not worth salvaging.

Sure, some are OK . . .
Sure, some are OK . . .
. . . but not as good as I am used to.
. . . but not as good as I am used to.
Whereas I normally have literally tens of shots to choose from, most of what I had were BBBs - - - Blurry Brown Blobs against the blue sky.
Whereas I normally have literally tens of shots to choose from, most of what I had were BBBs - - - Blurry Brown Blobs against the blue sky.

The only reason I have these shots is because this guy kept rising, and rising, and rising, doing so by circling almost right above me.

Ha . . . that's why it was doing that . . .
Ha . . . that's why it was doing that . . .

. . . to meet another hawk. These guys were flying way up there. These are already crops. In the full size photo these guys are nothing more than brown specks.

The interesting thing is that you can go back to the earlier shots, and you will note the hawk looking up
The interesting thing is that you can go back to the earlier shots, and you will note the hawk looking up
Obviously he had spotted the other hawk, and that is why it circled above as opposed to flying off.
Obviously he had spotted the other hawk, and that is why it circled above as opposed to flying off.

The very next day I was driving back home on Powers Blvd. when I jerked the wheel over, stopped the car and jumped out, camera in hand.  The same camera, with the bracketing on, VR off, and single focus (I had not looked at the photos from the previous day).

I jumped out and started snapping away at . . .

. . . something I had never seen before.  Two hawks perched side-by-side
. . . something I had never seen before. Two hawks perched side-by-side
Notice these two are not that great for focus.  Also, the camera was set on Matrix Metering (as opposed to my usual Center Weighted), so most of these were not exposed very well to begin with, in addition to the over-and-under bracketing.
Notice these two photographs are not that great for focus. Also, the camera was set on Matrix Metering (as opposed to my usual Center Weighted), so most of these were not exposed very well to begin with, in addition to the over-and-under bracketing.
So, sure, I got a few good shots, like this photo of the one hawk "jumping" when the other moved to scratch its head.
So, sure, I got a few good shots, like this photo of the one hawk "jumping" when the other moved to scratch its head.
But here is the thing . . .
But here is the thing . . .
I missed the first hawk launching because it was shot at +2.0EV (way too dark, and slow) . .
I missed the first hawk launching because it was shot at +2.0EV (way too dark, and slow) . .
 . . And I missed the other one flying off because it was shot at -2.0EV (way too bright, losing all detail). Also, as I was moving the camera to track the birds, most of the shots were blurred. These are all I salvaged.
. . and I missed the other one flying off because it was shot at -2.0EV (way too bright, losing all detail). Also, as I was moving the camera to track the birds, most of the shots were blurred. These are all I salvaged.

I don’t know how long it will be before I have another opportunity like that one.  Sure, it might happen again, but imagine my disappointment when I downloaded the photos.  I was expecting extraordinary, and I got MUBB (Messed Up Beyond Belief . . . I was foing to say FUBB, but some readers are likely too innocent to hear such language.  Ah, What the heck!!  They were FUdged Beyond Belief!)

Twenty minutes after photographing the couple on Powers, I stopped for this hawk on County Line Road.
Twenty minutes after photographing the couple on Powers, I stopped for this hawk on County Line Road.
These two pictures are OK, but . . . .
These two pictures are OK, but . . . .
Again, I ruined the best part of the launch, and all I got was this blurry photo of it.
Again, I ruined the best part of the launch, and all I got was this blurry photo of it.
So, imagine very nice in-flight photo opportunities, but only 1-out-of-three are usable.  Very frustrating.
So, imagine very nice in-flight photo opportunities, but only 1-out-of-three are usable. Very frustrating.
These are not too bad . . .
These are not too bad . . .
When I processed these, I noticed this guy too was looking up.
When I processed these, I noticed this guy too was looking up.
And he too circled to gain altitude.
And he too circled to gain altitude.

It might have been going up to meet another hawk, but I stopped shooting after this next shot.  I figure I would include both the crop and the original photo it came from.  On the one hand, it’s not fantastic, but on the other, it points to the fact that when the camera is set up right, the lens is property set, and the idiot photographer is not messing up, you can get a fair amount of detail.  The 200mm zoom is equivalent to a 6X magnification, and the crop is probably equivalent to a 4X or 5X digital zoom.

The crop from the next picture
The crop from the next picture
The original of the previous crop.
The original of the previous crop.

Well, that’s it.  I hope you enjoyed me sharing my failures as a photographer.  They say you learn from your mistakes.  I feel like I should have learned a lot . . . but somehow I don’t feel any more enlightened.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for reading my stuff and looking at my photos.

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