Michael John Balog | A Red-tailed Hawk and a New Zoom Lens in Wyoming

A Red-tailed Hawk and a New Zoom Lens in Wyoming

March 10, 2018

     Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are neither rare nor endangered and are widespread from Alaska to Central America, yet, when was the last time you got a good glimpse of one?  Here in the Wind River Canyon they nest in the same crazy-high spot on the cliffs; unreachable for anyone without wings.  We've watched them rebuilding the same nest year after year, sometimes through a large astronomical telescope.  Raging spring blizzards have literally tore them from the cliffs, and they are back again this season for more of the same; seventy-five percent never make it past their first year!

     After the amazingly lucky incident with the Bobcat here in the canyon last month, I knew that it was time to acquire one of those new super-telephoto zooms.  Six months of research and guy-drooling led me to the one lens that was a cutting edge design, but affordable.  The big prime white lenses from Canon cost as much as a late-model car (example - 600mm f/4 = $12,999.00).  A week and a half ago I received a Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC G2----a real mouthful and a handful.  I settled for a certified refurbished that was just over 1K; a real bargain.

     With a half-century of experience, I can truly say that this new hyper-telephoto lens is a 21st century marvel; it is also a real commitment.  This is not a lens for the casual photographer, as online reviews show quite clearly.  It is very heavy compared to anything the weekender would need or want to carry around.  At 500 and 600 millimeter it is a magical beast that will wear-out the arms of anyone but a muscle-boy.  My shoulders were pleasingly sore after the first afternoon; I already feel my muscles getting stronger.

     I opened the boxes at my doctors office and went outside to test the lens for a few minutes on a dog and some buildings.  After some intense acupuncture I headed home to my cabin in the Wind River Canyon.  A male Red-tailed Hawk adult was on an electric pole and took flight when I exited the truck.  The underside of their wings are unusually beautiful and the photograph below is from that shoot; I had the new lens in my hands less than 10 minutes!  The zoom setting was maxed out at 600mm----1/1250, F/6.3 and ISO400. Red-tailed Hawk In-Flight, Wind River Canyon in the state of Wyoming.Red-tailed Hawk In-Flight, Wind River CanyonRed-tailed Hawk in-flight in the Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.       It's the time of the year when raptors are defending territories.  A Red-tailed Hawk has been terrorizing small game in my section of the canyon and rebuilding the nest up on the "cliffs near the clouds."  Needing to keep "an eye peeled" at all times isn't convenient but does reap rewards.  Doing most of my photography handheld means exercising my arms and shoulders with the Tamron.  Keep in mind that the lens gets longer like Pinocchio's nose when you zoom higher!

     Yesterday morning he was hunting voles near the cabin, so I quietly ran out a backdoor to a juniper that I knew from experience would hide me till I took my shots.  I slid left and let the camera do it's thing.  RAPTOR SECRET #2 ---- birds of prey always do "number 2" before they take flight!  The best frame is below and shows him in-flight.  For those tech-geeks, the vignettes were added by me in Lightroom and is not present in the RAW files.  Lens was set at 500mm, 1/1250, F/11, and ISO 400. Red-tailed Hawk In-Flight, Wind River Canyon in the state of Wyoming.Red-tailed Hawk In-Flight, Wind River CanyonRed-tailed Hawk in-flight in the Wind River Canyon, Wyoming, photographed with a Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens.      Taking wildlife pictures in Wyoming can be a challenge; everything you want to photograph is a mile away!  The new Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC G2 lens is terrific and a delight to use.  The features and sharpness are professional and will come in handy here in the Wind River Canyon.  And I can feel my biceps getting stronger every day!

     The Wind River Canyon Blog and all the photographs on HogbatsPhotography.com are produced by Michael John Balog and are protected by international copyright laws.  

     To see Wyoming Hummingbirds photographed in the Wind River Canyon just hit this link to visit my gallery of hummingbirds on my website----Hummingbirds----you will see things you've never seen before....I promise.

Thank you for your time.