The first and only time I got a decent shot of a hawk was on a cloudy Sunday afternoon about 7 or 8 years ago. My wife was all excited. She ran upstairs to tell me there was a hawk in the yard and I should grab my camera. I happened to have a roll of ISO 400 B&W film in my F3HP so I snatched the camera and my longest lens, went out and took the following series of shots.
This small Cooper’s hawk sat there on the branch unconcerned that there were humans prowling about. There was no time to get my tripod and no good place to set it up anyway so I shot handheld and hoped for the best.
The sound of the shutter from my first shot must have caught the hawk’s attention because the bird is looking right at me here. This photo is nearly identical to the first except for the hawk’s head. The tree branches are sharper here because I probably stopped the lens down a bit.
This image is my favorite. I worked my way behind the hawk and got much closer. I was on the edge of the slope leading down to the small creek braced against the trunk of a tree that leaned out over the edge. Whew! I managed to get a decent shot without a tripod and without falling into the creek.
I had a 200mm Nikkor lens and a Nikkor 2X tele-extender on my camera so the effective focal length was 400mm. I have no idea of shutter speeds or aperture because I didn’t take notes. The extra two stops from the ISO 400 film helped a lot.
This wasn’t the first time we had a hawk in the yard. Unlike the red-tailed hawks that have landed in the yard on occasion, the smaller Cooper’s hawk preys on small birds and isn’t spooked when people are around.
I missed a great shot of a red-tailed hawk one day because I had the wrong camera. I was in the yard with my tripod mounted 4 X 5 Speed Graphic on the other side of the yard when a red-tailed hawk landed in the middle of the yard with an unfortunate pigeon in his talons.
I’m grateful I had the right type of film in the right camera when the Cooper’s Hawk showed up to have it’s picture taken on that Sunday afternoon.