Did I Waste My Afternoon?

“Group AF” turned out to be a poor choice of focusing modes, as it got confused by the branches in front of this hawk.

My “no bad light” philosophy was put to the test as I ventured into the Ojai Meadows Preserve around noon today. There were areas of cloud-diffused or tree-dappled sunlight that could have made good pictures, but the birds didn’t happen to be where the less-than-awful light was. I didn’t get any keepers, but I don’t think I wasted my time. For one thing, it’s never a waste of time to walk around a beautiful place for an hour. For another, photography is a practice. And the kind of photography I do requires freqent practice.

If the eye is in the picture, the eye should make the picture. Hard to do in a backlit situation like this. I tried to get around to the other, brightly lit side, but the bird was having none of it.

I’m proud that on most days I create a photograph I’d be proud to frame and sell. But not every day. That’s okay. Today I practiced quick manipulation of my exposure compensation dial, because I was photographing birds against a bright backlight (sky), but also against darker backgrounds. For a bird against the sky I would dial in +2 stops of exposure compensation and it still wasn’t enough in the midday glare. If I didn’t get the dial back to zero before the bird swooped in front of trees, the image would be overexposed.

So no, I didn’t waste my afternoon. As the old saying goes, “A bad day making photos is better than a good day looking at your computer and getting angry.”

I’ve got hundreds of pictures like this, but I keep taking them because I still get a thrill out of every hawk sighting.