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Stealth Attack

Stealth Attack
Photo Information
Copyright: Nigel Deacon (Merlin) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 445 W: 267 N: 455] (1713)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2012-02-11
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D300
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/1250 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2012-04-03 4:39
Viewed: 3279
Favorites: 2 [view]
Points: 50
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
The Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus is a small predator with great boldness, often taking prey (particularly pigeons) larger than themselves. When seen at close quarters, they always seem to be very "intense" - ever alert for danger and opportunity. Like most predatory birds, the female is significantly larger than the male and in this species the difference is very obvious. This is a female in her first winter.

The photograph: I had spent the day on the salt marshes of the east coast of Lincolnshire, chasing waders and snow buntings with limited success. There was snow on the ground (even on the beach) and the beach itself was frozen. Calm and clear, it was just a perfect winter's day. As the sun was falling to the horizon, I decided to make the long walk back to the car. I was carrying the camera fitted with a 300mm lens and 2x converter (from shooting waders from a tripod mounted camera) slung over my shoulder. As I walked along the edge of the marsh I spotted the sparrowhawk perched on some driftwood about 60m ahead of me. She was leaning forward and looked poised for flight, so I picked up the camera and trained it on the hawk. Very soon, she took flight and appeared to be flying straight toward me, accelerating hard in a low-level attack run at waist height, using the vegetation and a low dune to conceal her approach. I tried repeatedly to get the autofocus to lock on her, but it kept failing due to the f/5.6 aperture and the lack of contrast between the hawk and the background. I repeatedly lifted my finger from the shutter, tried to acquire focus lock, fired a few shots, lifted, tried again while trying to keep the hawk in frame and panning as smoothly as possible. I lost sight of the hawk as she ended her low-level attack run by scattering a flock of snow buntings in the distance. I never knew whether she succeeded. As you can see, she was intent on her target throughout the attack, and even when she passed within a few metres of me (standing in plain view) she did not acknowledge my existence.

I fired 14 exposures and, certain that they would all be useless, drove home annoyed with a missed opportunity. Later that evening, I found that I had ONE sharp frame - and this is it. Although the shutter speed was not high enough to freeze all motion in the hawk's rapidly beating wings, I think the slight motion blur is beneficial in conveying movement, rather than a detriment in this case. I hope you like the finished result as much as I do.

I have cropped the frame a little for posting at 800px, but for large prints I use a more open framing (nearly the entire original image), including more of the bird's habitat.

I promised a friend that I would post something a little different to my last ;-)

oldferret, Hussain58, Argus, Pitoncle, marius-secan, andrzej, maurydv, shabsslg, josediogo1958, anel, tuslaw, Alex99 has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To Alex99: Hand-held?Merlin 3 04-11 10:53
To Belgerdy: I totally hate this shot ..Merlin 5 04-03 12:05
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • nagraj Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1618 W: 106 N: 3208] (15166)
  • [2012-04-03 4:57]

Beautiful flight image of this sparrow hawk, fine panning done here, lovely colors. tfs.

Ciao Nigel. Fantasti superg bird in flyght against the blurred BG. Great pic MF.


Hi Nigel,

A very good effort considering all the circumstances. The wing movement IS needed to convey the sense of speed. Good colours and a oof background.

Thanks for sharing and a nice note.

regards Bill

amazing grey capture, TFS Ori

Hello Nigel,

Hope you are well. This is a very fine in-flight shot of this Sparrowhawk, perfect for field identification of the species for all of us. The bird appears relatively young, certainly not a juvenile. Hawks attack under cover and your photo's background blur reveals that there was enough cover.Your note as ever was very informative, very well written and these first hand experiences count, hold great importance for the survival of wildlife on the planet.These are majestic birds, thanks a lot for sharing a fine photo, bro....take care....warmest regards/Abid

The use of 1/1250 seems to be a great combination with the f/5.6 here,Nigel. We have fast enough stutter speed to freeze the flying bird and in the same time preserve the sense of motion motion, clearly visible in the Sparrowhawk wing. Great point of view Nigel. I am glad to see the complex background which brings some color balance rather to see a "boring" blue emptiness. Fantastic color gamut and fine moderate sharpness in my opinion! Bravo!
George Veltchev

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2012-04-03 7:02]

Hello Nigel,
This is a superb capture!
It's worth clicking away to get such a result. The late afternoon lighting was well used with just the right focusing resulting in excellent sharpness where it matters with a suitable blurred natural BG to get the emphasis on this femnale sparrowhawk. Nice natural colours and composition too.
Well done and thanks for sharing this,
Best regards,

  • Great 
  • zetu Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 967 W: 26 N: 3888] (16941)
  • [2012-04-03 7:04]

excellent in flight capture!

Bonjour Nigel,
Bonne coordination de la vitesse et de la profondeur de champ permettant d'apprécier le sujet dans une très belle attitude.
A bientôt sur TN pour de nouvelles aventures.

I totally hate this shot :)

Congratulations on a fantastic inflight shot. Indeed it chases pigeons, I have a stuffed specimen that flew against a window and was found there with a large pigeon laying next to it, the left two big smudges on the window...love makes blind


Hello Nigel,
This is realy a very nice shoot. A spendid photo taken from a perfect POV in flight, very difficult shoot.....Amazing clarity, contrast and focus.
Thanks for sharing!

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2012-04-03 8:18]

Hello Nigel,
Superb photo of this Eurasian Sparrowhawk in good sharpness and details. Nice natural colours. Taken from an ideal POV.

Hi Nigel
this is one of the most beautiful flight pictures of Sparrowhawk I have ever seen
starting with the bg, the slightly blurred wingtips, the incredible sharpness and the most beautiful eye
this is great stuff, and I know it as I tried to shoot Sprawks a thousand times, some pretty nice in the sky but never this kind of great image

  • Great 
  • Zeno Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 483 W: 0 N: 1345] (10867)
  • [2012-04-03 9:12]

Hi Nigel,

This is a superb shot! Incredible, an inflight shot like this is hard to make. My compliments.


great shot, the scene is wonderful!
regards Nigel

hello Nigel
Wauwh so good sharpness in flight
great details and super good naturel colours
thanks greeting lou

Hi Nigel,
Fantastic action shot,perfect timing,great sharpness and good contrast.

Ciao Nigel, great capture of lovely hawk in fantastic flying action, beautiful lighting BG, splendid sharpness, wonderful natural colors and fine details, very well done, my friend, ciao Silvio

Hallo Nigel,
a fantastic capture of the Eurasian Sparrowhawk in flight, very good sharpness and marvellous colours, spectacular posture of this bird of prey, superb visula impact.
Thanks for your workshop to my Robin post
Best regards

Hi Nigel,

An amazingly crisp BIF shot of this sparrowhawk. The details in the eye enhances it's quality.


  • Great 
  • kabel Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 61 W: 0 N: 95] (552)
  • [2012-04-03 21:02]

Hello, an excellent capture of the sparrowhawk in motion. Your notes were very useful in explaining how difficult a shot it was for you. Excellent exposure to be sure.
It is a very interesting and dynamic photograph. TFS,

Fantastic in flight photo from an impressive POV Nigel! The composition, the colours and the sharpness are excellent!

Hello Nigel
Amazing in flight capture.Great timing,sharp and clear,wonderful natural colors and details.A beauty!
Thank You,
Kind regards

  • Great 
  • anel Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 3053 W: 3 N: 8715] (40574)
  • [2012-04-04 4:25]

Bonjour Nigel,
What a shot! Most beautiful and natural shot you achieved here. Perfect focus on the flying bird and most lovely fine tints on the whole picture.Sometimes one of 14 is successful in this kind of shots :-) Love the yellow eye in this greyish surrounding. Très beau!
Kind regards

  • Great 
  • tuslaw Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2754 W: 282 N: 4931] (19883)
  • [2012-04-07 19:46]

WOW!!! Nigel...What a story!! and it climaxed with this fantastic shot.
I believe I would have jumped to the sky if I would have captured such a moment as this. How fortunate you were to be able to keep the bird in your viewfinder throughout this entire episode.
Excellent detail, beautiful colors and exposure is perfect. This is definitely a one in a million shot!!!

Hi Nigel.
I am impressed a lot with this stunning in-flight picture. Thanks very much for amazing note. It is so useful and interesting. It is really difficult situation and you managed to get an impressive shot. Bravo. By the way, is it possible to take handheld shots using your lens combo? My best regards.

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