Hawk’s Eye View

While I was taking a lunch break yesterday, setting the table, I spotted a red-tailed hawk on a nearby tree. I grabbed my camera, thankfully, had my long 70-200mm lens already mounted. I  started shooting immediately before I started moving closer. I learned a long time back that getting a fair shot is better than no shot at all. I was fortunate this day, because I was able to get quite close before the hawk got fed up with me and flew away.

This shot, in particular, was my favorite. I got two shots that worked well with exposure bracketing. The hawk’s eye also had a nice catch light. (read more about catch light at DPS)  The halo around the hawk’s body was not added in post, but was part of the image as captured and IMO draws the eye to the subject.

Red-Tailed Hawk - Immature

HDR, Cropped image of a Juvenal Red-Tailed Hawk

We seem to have had quite a successful breading season here a the Russian River. This bird, like so many we have spotted here lately, is a Juvenal.

The processing done on this image is as follows:

  1. This is an high dynamic range (HDR) composite of two images. The third (over exposed) was too blurred to use. It was mid-day and the contrast was a little too much for a single shot, so I resorted to HDR processing
  2. I cropped the image down to about half the area of the original image. I say half the area, not half the linear dimension, which would be only 1/4 the area. (.5 X .5 = .25 😉
  3. I tried several crops, but liked this one the best. The hawk’s eye (note the title of the post) is at the intersection of one of the thirds. The branch that the hawk is standing on is at another of the thirds.
  4. I did a little selective sharpening around the hawk by creating a copy of the background layer, applying a high-pass filter to the lay, and setting its blending mode to soft light. I also applied a layer mask to the high-pass layer and used a gradient to mask out all but the area just around the bird.
  5. On top of that, I created a curves adjustment layer. I used auto and liked what I got, so I didn’t mess with it further.
  6. Lastly, I applied some vignetting to bring the focus to the hawk. I used an exposure adjustment layer, set to -2.5 stops, and a layer mask to apply the darkening effect only to the edges.
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