I’ve always had an interest in birds of prey and have photographed birds on multiple occasions in their natural environments. Usually this means hiding out with a large lens and photographing the birds from a distance or photographing scientists working directly with birds.
These situations can make great photos, but I’ve always wanted to photograph birds of prey in a way that illustrates some of the finer details of each animal.
In an attempt to photograph these animals in a literal “new light,” I met with staff at the Ogden Nature Center. The center has multiple animals, including birds of prey that are unreleaseable due to injuries or past human interactions.
Instead of photographing the animals in their enclosures, I created a temporary photo studio in a quiet corner of the visitor center.
The studio consisted of a black cloth background, two large studio lights with softboxes and portable flash as a backlight. I also used a white backdrop on some shoots, but the black ended up looking better.
Bryce King, the wildlife specialist at the nature center, and Michelle Groncki, a long-time volunteer, brought the birds in individually and stood in the studio with the birds perched on their gloves for several minutes at a time.
I used a 200mm lens on my camera in order to get tight shots while still giving the birds space.
Once everything was in place, the photo shoot was similar to taking pictures of a person in a studio. The bird handlers turned the birds and helped position them in the lights. Beyond that, I waited and shot multiple images as the birds looked around and moved slightly.