World’s Best Raptor Shoot 2013 Trip Report

By Perry Conway on Dec 04, 2013

Wow—the “World’s Best Raptor Shoot” just got even better! This year, we photographed 19 different species of hawks, owls, eagles and falcons, plus a caracara, with eight trained for flight shots. As an extra bonus, for the first time in 15 years, we had flying owls—a barn and an eastern screech-owl. Owls have an “attitude” all their own which makes the birds a real challenge for getting safe, predictable shots of them flying. Thanks to some wonderful trainers, it worked. From screech-owls and kestrels to bald and golden eagles, this shoot is set up so only one lens is needed—a 300mm. I shot the entire time with my Canon 100–400mm lens. Anything longer, like a 500mm, just gets in the way and slows you down. Every image in the slide show was taken with my 100–400mm.

Each of the four days of photography was divided into two separate shoots. We often began before sunrise with great horned owls silhouetted against the rising sun and we continued shooting until the light became too harsh. During the bad light of midday, we stopped for lunch and had time for downloading images—not taking pictures. The afternoon shoot usually began around 3 PM when the light starts getting good. Later, as the sun dropped behind the nearby mountains, we headed to one of the nearby restaurants for dinner.

I have studied, photographed and trained raptors for over 40 years. I can honestly say participants will get more outstanding images in four days of shooting on this trip than they would get in 40 years of field work. From close-ups, to aesthetically pleasing portraits, to flying falcons zooming around you at astonishing speeds—this shoot has it all.