Peregrine Falcon in Flight

This morning was quite special for me. Not only did I observe my first peregrine falcon in flight… I was able to capture a good selection of images of it with my Nikon 1 V3/1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 birding kit.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-280, 10 frames per second

I had heard about peregrine falcons nesting in the area for a number of years. Being curious I had visited a half-dozen times in the past, but only actually saw a peregrine on two earlier occasions. Both times the bird was perched at a high level and out of range for photography. This morning’s sighting started out more promising as I captured an image of a peregrine bringing back a bird it had caught.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-1400, 10 frames per second

As the peregrine flew past the lift bridge it accidentally dropped its catch into the waterway below. It quickly swooped down in an attempt to retrieve it. This brought over a dozen of us scurrying to the other side of the bridge, hoping to photograph theĀ  peregrine falcon in flight.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-560, 10 frames per second

The peregrine made a number of oval passes over the waterway. It flew down to the surface of the water a few times.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-560, 10 frames per second

Try as it may, it was unable to lift its catch out of the water.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-560, 10 frames per second

Unfortunately for the peregrine its prey bird had quickly become waterlogged and was too heavy for it to retrieve.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-640, 10 frames per second

As the peregrine wheeled around it gave us some good opportunities to photograph it in flight. Since my Nikon 1 V3 is sometimes challenged acquiring focus in dark shade, I did my best to time my AF-C (continuous auto-focus) bursts when the peregrine was in good light.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 272 mm, efov 734.4 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-280, 10 frames per second

I did manage to capture a few images when the peregrine falcon in flight was highlighted against a dark background. This lighting added a bit of drama.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-450, 10 frames per second

I also tried to keep aware of the background, as there were various trees, cement columns and other structures which were distracting.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-500, 10 frames per second

At times the best I could do was capture the peregrine falcon in flight against a somewhat monochromatic background under the bridge structure.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-200, 10 frames per second

To achieve a more favourable shooting angle, most of the images in this article were captured while I was down on one knee. This helped to reveal some feather detail on the underside of the peregrine’s wings.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, 10 frames per second

When photographing a subject bird ‘in the heat of the moment’ it can feel quite strange to purposely stop AF-C bursts mid-stream. It is important not to waste your buffer on images that you know are not worth capturing. For example when the target bird is flying at an obtuse angle to your shooting position.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-640, 10 frames per second

Often a better selection of photographs is achieved by shooting short AF-C bursts at opportune intervals, rather than firing off a long, uninterrupted burst.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-450, 10 frames per second
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 261 mm, efov 704.7 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-360, 10 frames per second

The peregrine made a number of flight passes which helped me time some of my short AF-C bursts against small patches of clear, blue sky as a background.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 261 mm, efov 704.7 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-320, 10 frames per second

It was a real thrill to see a peregrine falcon in flight – and even a bigger thrill to capture some images of it! Overall this was a wonderful experience that yielded well over 3 dozen usable photographs.

Technical Note:
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All of the photographs displayed in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process. All were heavily cropped.

I shot my Nikon 1 V3 in Manual mode using Continuous Auto-Focus with Subject Tracking, Auto-ISO 160-3200, with a frame rate of 10 frames per second.

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10 thoughts on “Peregrine Falcon in Flight”

    1. Hi Oggie,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the images!

      When I was leaving the house at about 5:30 AM, my little voice told me that I would need some extra reach… so I took the Nikon 1 V3 with the 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm with me. I’ve started calling my V3 “old faithful” as it is a piece of gear on which I can depend.

      At this point I don’t really know how the two systems would compare. I would need a long focal length M.Zuiko lens to do a fair comparison. In good light the V3 auto focusing performance is very solid. Also, my current skill set is more attuned to the Nikon 1 system. Those things, as well as a proper lens focal length match up, would need to be considered.

      Tom

    1. Thanks for your supportive comment Bill… much appreciated! For whatever reason I always seem to remain calm when photographing a subject… so no increase in heart rate. I think my brain clicks into ‘project mode’ and my only thoughts are about what I need to do to capture my images.
      Tom

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