Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pic of the Day

     Common Nighthawk: Tallgrass Prairie Preserve; Pawhuska, Okalahoma – The prairie is an astonishing place in the spring. Fresh bluestem grasses sprout, wildflowers burst upon the rolling hills, and birds invade the grasslands to breed. Nighthawks are among the myriad of birds that move upon the prairie in spring to establish territories and court.
They are most active in the early morning and late evening hours, but on the day I shot this image, the birds were still. A heavy fog had settled over the prairie keeping the birds from hawking insects.
As I drove along the loop road through the preserve I noticed this nighthawk lazily perched on a fence post. I pulled off the road, got out of the van, and with my camera on a tripod slowly moved toward the bird. As I stalked the nighthawk it would occasionally open its sleepy eye and check my approach. When the nighthawk closed its eye, I moved a little closer. My slow stalk allowed me to move within sixteen feet or so of the bird, yet remain outside its fright radius. I wanted to get close enough to show detail, especially the fog that had condensed on the bird’s breast feathers. Getting close also compressed the fog into a clean, out-of-focus background that places emphasis on the subject.
After shooing dozens upon dozens of images, I slowly backed away, leaving the Nighthawk to its slumber. It was undaunted by the experience and I was exuberant over the images.
Nikon D200, Nikkor 500mm f/4, Digital Capture, ISO 200

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