alanpeterson PRO+
alanpeterson

Northern Harrier at Sunset



A young Northern Harrier patrols the freshwater ponds at Arcata Marsh as the sun sets.

A young Northern Harrier patrols the freshwater ponds at Arcata Marsh as the sun sets.
Read less

Views

4877

Likes

Awards

Winner in North American wildlife Photo Challenge
Featured
Contest Finalist in Covers Photo Contest Vol 25
Peer Award
Superb Composition
ileanaandreagmezgavinoser gordylindgren FaustoMarsol liambradley_4025 BearMesaPhoto pamelabehlprince angieschulte +67
Absolute Masterpiece
JayneBug miketrainor lawrnwest RLP073 RobynC thecatsmeow jlappen +64
Top Choice
Jaspa photoflea RandyL jaychapman cecilialemos Tshepiso lewismiles +45
Superior Skill
sue-zon rachelhelenhudson MIsabel obiobi joankleynhans terilbrisendine gwestbro +32
Magnificent Capture
Stugiles50 ClaireMarieBall Oceanskyphotography FalconEddie michaelfmoore almartinez embas +23
Outstanding Creativity
pranjalbhuyan stephenfrost JTurk davechristopher rajatmajillya Thyshadow kc4pc +9
All Star
LilacMist lhartney yvonnechristinebannister Cherriegill49 Beaumar Bossy StevenWalker7270 +7
Genius
charlenecampbell-wood shelbylomas texaaronpueschel
Love it
nandicmb nickywarren

Emotions

Happy
kameraclips

Top ClassTM

Warm Colors Photo ContestTop 20 class
Warm Colors Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Earth Day 2020 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Covers Photo Contest Volume7Top 10 class
Animals In The Wild Photo ContestTop 10 class
artFix Exhibition ProjectTop 10 class
artFix Exhibition ProjectTop 10 class week 1
Animals In The Wild Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Anything Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class
Anything Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
The Swag ProjectTop 10 class
The Swag ProjectTop 10 class week 1
Wildlife On The Move Photo ContestTop 10 class
Wildlife On The Move Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Moody Portraits Photo ContestTop 20 class
Moody Portraits Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Shades Of Brown ProjectTop 10 class
Shades Of Brown ProjectTop 10 class week 1
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 6Top 20 class
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 6Top 10 class week 1
Our Amazing Planet Photo Contest xpozerTop 10 class
Anything Birds Photo ContestTop 10 class
Our Amazing Planet Photo Contest xpozerTop 10 class week 1
World Photography Day Photo Contest 2018Top 10 class
World Photography Day Photo Contest 2018Top 10 class week 2
World Photography Day Photo Contest 2018Top 10 class week 1
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 4Top 20 class
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 4Top 10 class week 3
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 4Top 10 class week 2
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 4Top 10 class week 1
Depth In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class
Depth In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Wildlife Photo Contest 2018Top 10 class
Wildlife Photo Contest 2018Top 10 class week 1
Fill The Frame Photo ContestTop 10 class
The Animal Eye Photo Contest vol1Top 20 class
The Animal Eye Photo Contest vol1Top 10 class week 1
The Talent AwardsTop 10 class
The Brown Color Photo ContestTop 10 class
The Brown Color Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
The Brown Color Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Our Natural Planet Photo ContestTop 10 class
Our Natural Planet Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 3Top 10 class
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 3Top 10 class week 2
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 3Top 10 class week 1
Amazing Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class
Amazing Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
World Photography Day Photo ContestTop 10 class
World Photography Day Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Wildlife Portraits Photo ContestTop 10 class
Wildlife Portraits Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Earth Day 2017 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Earth Day 2017 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
The Golden Hour Photo ContestTop 10 class
Earth Day 2017 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Social Exposure Photo Contest Vol 7Top 10 class
Social Exposure Photo Contest Vol 7Top 10 class week 1
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 2Top 10 class
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 2Top 10 class week 2
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 2Top 10 class week 1
Isolating The Subject Photo ContestTop 10 class
Wings in Motion Photo ContestTop 10 class
Powerful Photo ContestTop 10 class
Call Of The Wild Photo ContestTop 10 class
Powerful Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Call Of The Wild Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Powerful Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Monthly Pro Vol 28 Photo ContestTop 20 class
Monthly Pro Vol 28 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Monthly Pro Vol 27 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Simple And Beautiful Moments Photo ContestTop 20 class
Simple And Beautiful Moments Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Simple And Beautiful Moments Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Our Natural World Photo ContestTop 20 class
Clash Of The Premiums Photo ContestTop 10 class
Clash Of The Premiums Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 1Top 20 class
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 1Top 20 class week 2
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 1Top 20 class week 1
Colors and Mood Photo ContestTop 10 class
Colors and Mood Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
The Battle Of Professionals Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
The Battle Of Professionals Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Animal Kingdom Photo Contest Vol 1Top 20 class
Animal Kingdom Photo Contest Vol 1Top 20 class week 2
Earth Day 2016 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Earth Day 2016 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Animal Kingdom Photo Contest Vol 1Top 10 class week 1
Isolate And Simplify Photo ContestTop 30 class
Isolate And Simplify Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Open Wings Photo ContestTop 10 class
Open Wings Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Open Wings Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
In Flight Photo ContestTop 10 class
Image of the Year Photo Contest by SnapfishTop 20 class
Image of the Year Photo Contest by SnapfishTop 20 class week 3
Image of the Year Photo Contest by SnapfishTop 20 class week 2
Image of the Year Photo Contest by SnapfishTop 20 class week 1
Covers Photo Contest Vol 25Top 10 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 25Top 10 class week 1
Image Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 3Top 30 class
Image Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 3Top 30 class week 1
One Is Enough Photo ContestTop 20 class
One Is Enough Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1

Categories


11 Comments | Report
jamesgiles
 
jamesgiles October 16, 2015
Gorgeous lighting great image
texaaronpueschel PRO+
 
texaaronpueschel November 27, 2015
This one gets it. It is a winner. It is so gorgeous.
JDLifeshots
 
JDLifeshots November 30, 2015
Awesome capture! Congrats.
carrie00813 PRO+
 
carrie00813 December 03, 2015
Wow, amazing shot.
Inyan
 
Inyan December 05, 2015
Jealous...
skiin007
 
skiin007 December 20, 2015
Ditto with Indah below-Jealous!! Nice Shot!!
nandicmb
 
nandicmb February 22, 2016
Congratulations on your Contest Finalist win in Covers Photo Contest Vol 25!
18ricco PRO+
 
18ricco March 21, 2016
Great shot!!!! Amazing!!!!
Bannekh
 
Bannekh June 03, 2016
Great shot
davidlipsy
 
davidlipsy August 24, 2016
Beautiful... nice tight DOF. Great capture!!
alanpeterson PRO+
alanpeterson August 24, 2016
Thanks! I made an educated guess about where the harrier would swoop up above the tops of the reeds, and it came up there long enough for one clear shot.
Bren_Ruiz PRO
 
Bren_Ruiz November 22, 2017
Spectacular

Behind The Lens

Location
This photo was taken at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, a man-made marsh that uses natural processes to treat the wastewater from Arcata, California. In the three decades since the marsh was constructed, it has come to support a staggering level of biodiversity and is an excellent place to see wetland wildlife up close. I'm in the process of filming a documentary project about Arcata Marsh, and I carry a camera to shoot photos there when I'm scouting for wildlife to film.
Time
This was taken during the last 15 minutes before sunset. After the Peregrine Falcon I was observing during most of the afternoon took off to hunt out on Humboldt Bay, I decided to do one last loop around some freshwater and brackish ponds to see what kind of animal activity would happen at dusk. Right as I turned onto the trail, the harrier turned in my direction and started looking for songbirds and coots in a reed bed right along the path. While I sometimes stake out a wildlife hotspot during the best light of the day, it was just luck that I happened to have this encounter during the short window of golden-orange light before sundown.
Lighting
Only natural light is at play here. I usually look for wildlife in the mornings and evenings, both for the quality of light and because animals are more active toward the beginning and end of the day.
Equipment
I shot this with a Nikon D800 and Sigma 300-800mm zoom, handheld. When I'm out scouting for animal activity, I carry this combination around on a Joby sling strap.
Inspiration
I've been keeping tabs on this Northern Harrier since it first arrived in Arcata Marsh during the summer. Over the last few months, it's gone from an awkward hunter that was struggling to catch voles and was constantly being mobbed by crows and blackbirds to an adept hunter of birds and rodents that can defend its favorite hunting spots from rivals. As it flew toward me that one evening, it dipped below the top of a stand of reeds to look for prey around the edge of a pond. I decided to take a guess at where it would swoop upward to try to capture an extreme closeup before it noticed my presence. I focused my camera on the tops of the nearby cattails where I was expecting it to appear and waited. Just as I was about to give up and turn to look for it further down the pond, it flew up right where I had originally anticipated its appearance. After allowing the autofocus a split second to lock onto the harrier, I held down the shutter and got off one clean shot before it dove back below the reeds.
Editing
I adjusted the color balance and contrast curve slightly and cropped out a bit of dead space that was in the upper-left of the frame. I brushed in a slight burn on the harrier's pupil to bring out the contrast in its eye without crushing the blacks too much in the overall image.
In my camera bag
I shoot with a Nikon D800 and usually keep it paired with the Sigma 300-800mm zoom if I'm going to be around birds. Unless I'm shooting video, I usually don't bother with a tripod because shooting handheld allows for quicker movement while tracking a moving subject and the ability to sit or crouch behind partial cover more easily.
Feedback
I've found that the best way to get close to an animal is to figure out where it will be and wait silently for it to arrive. Observing the behavior of an animal and figuring out when and where it likes to feed goes a long way toward getting good wildlife action shots. Spending enough time with the animal to get a feeling for how it moves and how it reacts to a nearby photographer really helps while tracking it through a long lens. Waiting patiently by a feeding spot doesn't always get me the shot I want, but I almost always see something interesting if I put in an hour or two sitting quietly by an area with a lot of prey activity.

See more amazing photos, follow alanpeterson