There is one thing worse than not having your camera handy when something extraordinary happens, and that is when you are presented with an opportunity but have no clue how to operate the settings on your camera to take a good shot. Such is what happened to me on Friday, March 5 at John F. Kennedy Park in South Tucson.
Kennedy Park is a large, multi-use park with a lake, stage, and hiking trails. Near the amphitheatre I managed to flush an adult red-tailed hawk from its perch atop a utility pole. I noticed that it had not flown far, though, and surmised it landed on the next pole, farther away.
I carefully plotted how to sneak closer, where the 20X zoom on my Canon SX10 might still be able to register a decent image. The band shell of the concert area provided good cover, so, averting my gaze from the watchful Buteo, I strode to where it could no longer see me. I then came back along the stage, to one of the entrance/exit points.
I was quite proud of my stalking abilities, but got the start of my life when I looked out the “doorway.” In a tree not more than fifteen feet away, at virtually eye level, sat another hawk!
I thought my largely internal reaction was somehow going to manifest itself in my body language or audible inhalation and the hawk would immediately take flight. Such was not the case. It was clearly a fledgling, which no doubt accounted for its inexperience and tolerance. Still, I tried to keep hidden while struggling to get my camera working as silently as possible.
This was the unfortunate, typical result of not knowing what to do beyond point, zoom, and shoot on “Auto”: it would have been a perfectly good image of tree branches, had it not been for that silly red-tail in the way (sigh). How do you bird photographers do it?
The shade of the tree and the band shell didn’t help any, but I can’t blame the bird. Here it was early afternoon with the sun getting hotter by the minute. Eventually, I did manage a couple of respectable shots, which when cropped are in my own “tolerable” category.
Meanwhile, I got a good shot of mom (or dad), too, before they took off, guiding their offspring on another practice flight or hunting foray. I hope to do better the next time good fortune strikes, but at least I have the memories of this encounter no matter how poor the images are.