Anatomy of a photo #66: White-tailed Kite in flight

One thing that surprised me when I first captured detailed pictures of a Kite was their red eyes

I really like my birds of prey, so one day, as I was driving down the road and saw two White-tailed Kites flying fairly low over a field, I pulled over and found myself a good spot to try taking photographs from. As photographers, we must take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself, and then stack the deck as much in our own favor as we can.

While a car can often work as an impromptu blind from which to take photographs of birds and wildlife, it does have its limitations- i.e. staying near or on roads or in places where you can actually drive it. In the case of this kite, it was best to leave the car. The place where I could safely park it was not where I had the optimum views of the two hunting birds.

So I stealthily left my car, crossed the road under the cover of a cut in the hillside, and scrambled up through some brush. I found myself partially under the cover of some bushes, but not so much so that my camera movement would be restricted and my lens blocked by vegetation. I was next to a fence. Crossing it would have gotten me even closer to the kites, but would have exposed me more to their view, so I stayed put, and decided to leave the rest to them, as they seemed to be flying a regular, coursing pattern, and I judged that they would fly fairly close to where I was.

And they did. In fact they did several passes, providing me with many opportunities for shots, of which this is just one.

The lighting was fairly ideal on this day. Late afternoon sun, which put the angle from which the light was coming fairly low. This helped light the underside of the kite, and gave a nice warm temperature to the lighting. The kites themselves were also helpful by not flying too high, allowing for more side on images. This was helped partially by the fact that I was at the peak of a small hill, and as the kites flew up the hill, maintaing a fairly constant height above ground, they rose they were only above me as they came close to me.

I used a very fast shutter speed to catch all of the action, faster than I really needed, but it was very effective- 1/2000th of a second. Aperture was wide open- f/f.6, as I was maximizing for shutter speed and not depth of field. For all of the images the camera was hand held, as I did not trust myself to be able to follow their quick movements while confined to a tripod.

ISO 400, 300mm lens with 1.4x converter, f/5.6, 1/2000 shutter speed

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, birds, nature photography, SLR, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Anatomy of a photo #66: White-tailed Kite in flight

  1. stunning picture…what a talented photographer..keep it up…

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