Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A cardinal rule of photography, one of the first things I drum into the students attending photojournalism class I have taught at Minnesota State University for the last 29 years is the need to get close to their subjects.
And on that count, I could find all sorts of things to criticize about the attached photograph on the left. Too far away, odd composition, etc.
And like many of my students, I can find all kinds of excuses for not closing the gap. But honestly, there is a reason the peregrine falcons that have taken up residence for the last several years at the nesting site beneath the North Star Bridge that links Mankato and North Mankato via Highway 169.
The only way their nest can be reached is, if one can fly as adroitly as peregrines can, is by air or with the assistance of one of those booms used by MnDOT to inspect bridges.
But the other thing I tell students is that in the end, compositional considerations are trumped by the the significance of the image and the message it brings to viewers.
In this case, peregrine falcon watchers will be glad to know that the Mankato/North Mankato's pair of peregrines for the third time in as many years have successfully hatched offspring.
Peregrines are what many rank as the sports cars of the raptor world. Reaching diving speeds of nearly 200 mph, they knock their prey _ in urban areas that usually means pigeons _ right out of mid-air.
The only way to see the birds beneath the bridge is from the Mankato side and even at that, they are still three spans and probably 300 yards away.
The photograph was made with a 300mm lens with a 1.4X extender attached. That translates to about a 420 mm lens.
And even at that, as illustrated by the uncropped version of the image at right, the chicks still remained very small in the frame.
The camera was a D300 Nikon and the exposure was 1/40 @ f11 at 2000 ISO.
No tripod was used but between trucks rumbling overhead, I braced the camera against a girder to steady it.
That the photograph held together as well as it did when tightly cropped and at such a high ISO is an illustration of how much better digital technology has gotten in the last 8 years.
Still, it's safe to say the photograph won't win any prizes.

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