A Cooper's Hawk Imaging Mystery

March 07, 2020

     When living in a wilderness you are exposed to its resident wild animals in a way that few people in America will ever experience.  You really are up close and personnel with wildlife that has little use for us humans.  They don't usually even care, they're just frightened of us.  But sometimes, just sometimes, something happens that cannot be explained away as serendipity.

     I have never been able explain these inexplicable and mysterious moments-in-time; and was told by an old American Indian quietly one night, "Don't question these moments you have with the animals, just accept them as gifts."  It can drive you crazy searching for answers that have no explanation.  He was correct, of course, but why did the Cooper's Hawk that had spent the entire winter hunting, sometimes very near, our feeding stations, suddenly give me the time I needed to photograph him in rare detail?

     We had seen him almost every day all winter; he probably had seen us even more with those amazing eyes.  At first I tried chasing him off, but he eats little birds, and we have a lot of them; and he is only one raptor, after all.  Taking his picture was an effort in futility; Wiley E. Coyote had it much easier.

     I knew that he would be leaving soon; mating season for raptors is upon us already.  I wanted more than the one photograph, taken from a distance, that was in my last Wind River Canyon Blog.  And one day last month, as he was just sitting there waiting after a breakfast victim, I grabbed the new mirrorless Canon M6 Mark 2 and quietly opened the kitchen door; and just walked outside into the deep snow here in the Wind River Canyon.

     Sure, he had seen me before, many times.  This time he just watched me as I walked slowly over towards him; his bright yellow eyes taking in my every footstep.  My wife always tells me the wild animal just "wanted his picture taken."  I suppose it's as good a theory as any other. Cooper's Hawk in The Wind River CanyonCooper's Hawk in The Wind River CanyonCooper's Hawk imaged in the Wind River Canyon in the state of Wyoming; Canon M6 Mark 2 camera in use.      Did you notice the blood on his beautiful beak?  Take another look, and zoom in if you can.  This my friends is a true hunter.  And I moved in even closer, walking as silently as I was taught.  His yellow eyes watching my every step, with vision I can only begin to understand.  Does this hawk understand?  Why the trust after all these months?  He trusted me for many minutes; I actually turned away and walked back inside as he continued staring.  I left him be.....

     Taking portraits of wild birds is a great challenge.  All things must go perfectly and one of those moments would be a big help.  The resolution of the new Canon M6 Mark 2 is remarkable.  The color portrait is stunning, but I also worked it up in monochrome since the dark and light streaks were too tempting:  Which portrait do you like? Color or black and white? Cooper's Hawk in WyomingCooper's Hawk portrait imaged in Wind River CanyonCooper's Hawk color portrait imaged in the Wind River Canyon in Wyoming. Cooper's Hawk in MonochromeCooper's Hawk Portrait in MonochromeCooper's Hawk portrait imaged in monochrome in the Wind River Canyon in Wyoming by Michael John Balog.       Raptors have been revered since ancient times and with good reason.  Noble, strong, swift, agile, and yes.....beautiful.  A good hunter was an asset to the community and there are few as magical as a raptor.  

     Equipment-Canon M6 Mark 2 camera, Canon 70-200mm F/4L with 1.4 extender III; no tripod used; hand held; silent electronic shutter used.  Shot RAW and first worked in Canon Digital Photo Professional 4, Topaz Labs AI Sharpen and Lightroom.

     Safely visit my website to see hummingbirds, Bighorn Sheep, raptors and many more pictures of the amazing and abundant Wyoming wildlife from the Wind River Canyon----HogbatsPhotography.com

     Thank you for reading my Wind River Canyon Blog.  I am Michael John Balog and I live in the Wind River Canyon.  All rights are reserved and all content is protected by copyright.  








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