A lot of people think I’m crazy because I get up at 5 or 6 am on Saturdays.
That hawk up there is the reason why.
I went down to the Don Valley very early in the morning last week, because I had just acquired a Neutral Density filter and I wanted to get some practice using it to do long exposures. (For the non-photographically inclined, a Neutral Density – or ND – filter is a piece of dark glass that you put over your lens to make your camera think it’s really dark out. That means you can use really slow shutter speeds. When you shoot water with a really slow shutter speed it starts to look smooth and silky. Very cool.) This is primarily a technique used in landscape photography, so I figured I would only need my wide-angle lenses. However, just as I was about to walk out the door I thought, “It’s the Don Valley. I really should take my telephoto, just in case.”
Halfway down into the valley, I had only seen a couple finches and a bunch of sparrows. Apparently it was a quiet day in the valley, and my telephoto lens (which is a big, heavy thing) was just going to stay in my bag, taking up space and making my shoulders ache. It made me feel a little silly, toting it around, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
I found a good spot where the water was running over the rocks, and I set up my camera on its tripod right down at the edge of the water. I had taken maybe three or four shots, and was just starting to get feel for the whole long exposure thing – six seconds in full daylight! – when I heard a fluttering noise.
A great big red-tailed hawk had landed on the other side of the river, only about 30 feet away from me. He looked at me, decided I was of no consequence, and proceeded to have his morning bath in the shallows.
So there I was, with the wrong lens, the wrong settings on my camera, and my tripod facing the wrong way. It couldn’t have taken me more than a minute to swap lenses and scramble the camera to the right settings and drag it around, but the whole time I was whispering, “Don’t fly away. Please, please, please don’t fly away.”
He didn’t, although he did get dive-bombed by a couple of really annoyed robins, which gave him a rather put-upon expression. After a few minutes, he hopped up onto a dead branch and began straightening out his feathers. That’s when I got this shot, just before he flew up to yet another branch, a little further away, where he settled in for some serious daytime relaxing.
And that is why I wake up early on the weekends.