If we’re lucky from time to time we get the opportunity to capture an interesting bit of nature playing out before our eyes. I had one such opportunity on Saturday afternoon when I was able to photograph a blackbird chasing a hawk in flight.
I was sitting at my kitchen table having just returned from Grimsby harbour after trying to photograph some terns in flight with my Nikon 1 V2 and Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR. It was a very dull, grey, overcast day so I cut my session short and had returned home.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
I was casually looking at my tern images on the rear panel of my Nikon 1 V2 when I noticed a quick reflection on the top of my glass kitchen table of a hawk flying overhead. I jumped up from my chair and dashed out of the patio door onto the deck to try to get some images of the hawk in flight. Luckily I had not changed the settings on my camera so all I had to do was locate the hawk, acquire focus, and fire.
I took a very short, initial burst of hawk images and was watching the hawk when I noticed a red-winged blackbird diving down aggressively from above the hawk. I figured something interesting was about to happen so I re-acquired focus on the hawk just as the blackbird entered the frame and began chasing the hawk.
Since my Nikon 1 V2 was set for 15fps in AF-C with subject tracking I was able to capture a run of 25 images while keeping both birds in frame for just under 2 seconds. Within a moment the altercation was over and the blackbird and hawk flew off in different directions. I came back in from my deck wondering if my Nikon 1 gear had been able to capture anything usable.
I went upstairs to my office and opened my files with DxO OpticsPro 10 and as I expected the background sky was terrible – just a wash of dull grey. I had my V2 set for spot metering in the hope that I could at least get decent metering on the terns I had been trying to photograph earlier and I hoped that setting would help with my hawk images. So, I begin working with the RAW files.
I let OpticsPro 10 do its automatic adjustments, then took highlights down slightly (-10) and adjusted shadows a bit (+5). I moved Smart Lighting to ‘medium’, made some small adjustments to the Lens Softness settings, then applied PRIME noise reduction.
I then exported a DNG file into CS6. When the DNG files opened in CS6 they were quite dark as I had anticipated. I tweaked the contrast slightly, then was very aggressive with the shadow and white sliders which made a significant improvement to the files. I then took the files into the Nik Suite for some very minor, final adjustments.
Given the poor lighting conditions I wasn’t expecting great images. As it turned out I did some acceptable quality ones for this article. All of the images needed to be cropped and they are all about 33% of the original frames. All things considered I was quite pleased with how my Nikon 1 V2 performed with the CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 lens.
If you would like to see the entire run of 25 AF-C images you can view them all by clicking on the YouTube link.
Technical Note: All images in this article were taken hand-held using a Nikon 1 V2 with Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. The Nikon 1 V2 was set for 15fps in AF-C with subject tracking, VR was turned off. White balance was set to Auto. Auto 160-6400 ISO was used.
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