While most wildlife photo opportunities must be worked for, the opportunity to photograph this Red-shouldered hawk came call. As my wife and I were washing the dinner dishes I noticed the hawk perched along our east property line. (You can see where my attention was; obviously not on the dishes !) While the distance was too far (130 yards)for high-definition portrait work I hoped that something good could come from taking a few shots.
Retrieving the camera, the 600mm lens and the tripod I set it all up and opened the patio door hoping not scare the bird. Looking through the viewfinder I could see the mirage created by the escaping heat hitting the cold outside air, a sure recipe for blurred shots. Moving onto the deck I was met with more challenges as the wind was blowing briskly shaking not only the hawk and its perch but vibrating the deck as well. The only way to freeze the hawk was with a high shutter speed however considering the cropping necessary to make a nice composition with a decent size subject I decided to keep the ISO at 200. Selecting a comprise between ISO, f-stop and shutter I shot 64 images before the hawk departed for a new observation post. Of the images shot only a few remained after deleting the blurred shots making the final selection of the best overall image a fairly easy matter.
Keep in mind while photographing in the coming weeks that mirage is very prevalent on sunny days throughout late winter and early spring. With a cold earth and warm sunshine, shimmering heat waves will occur blurring many shots where the focus is correct, the subject still, and the camera/lens suitably supported. The longer the lens the more problem it creates and the greater the distance between the front lens element and the subject the more heat waves can be present. The only cure is to get as close as possible.
Also keep in mind when shooting out of a car window in cold weather that the escaping heat from inside the car will create mirage as well. While it is more comfortable to keep the auto warm, if you will be shooting out the window, for sharp images, turn off the heat.