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October 1, 2016 @ 3:30 pm - 6:30 pm EDT

Animals in Action: Falcons in Flight

One of the most fun and rewarding parts of nature photography for us is getting to meet the heroes of wildlife conservation, the people who are working to save, protect and restore wild animals around the planet. Dan and Jill O’Brien are two of those people, and this year we have the opportunity to visit their ranch set among the beautiful South Dakota grasslands. During this workshop you will get an introduction to “BIF” photography, aka “Birds in Flight”. Dan O’Brien is a legend in the world of falconry, literally having written the book, correction books on falconry. They have graciously given us an opportunity to photograph their falcon in action, with the stunning scenery of the ranch as a backdrop!

BIF photography is an incredibly challenging pursuit, requiring a lot of technique and knowledge to get it right. You have to really know not just your gear and your settings, but also the animal you are working with. Every bird has different flight characteristics and body language, knowing their style of flight, how they perch, land, and hunt all go into making great shots of birds. In this class you will learn the techniques for panning and following the action, suggested settings, auto-focus tips and fast action photography skills. By working with a falconer and their bird, we are able to practice these concepts in a more controlled fashion, so you can take your skills out into the wild. We will also learn the natural history of falcons and other birds of prey, and what to expect in terms of their flight and other behaviors. Because falcons are “burst” animals, meaning they expend a massive amount of energy in a short time going after their prey, there will be time between flights for the bird to rest. During those rests, we will have opportunities to learn more about falconry and to photograph falconry tools such as jesses, gloves, and hoods. You will also be able to photograph the stunning scenery of the ranch, their herd of buffalo and any other wildlife we encounter, you never know what you might come across out there!

Whether you are new to photographing birds in flight or just want to refine your skills, this is a great way to help you with your BIF abilities. A huge thanks to Dan and Jill with Wild Idea for inviting us in, this is going to a be a very special Shootout opportunity!

Type: Outdoor Workshop

Activity Level:  Low to Moderate

Things to Know:  The Peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on the planet. In its hunting dive, the stoop, it can reach speeds of over 200 mph.   You can check out Dan’s novels on falconry at these links:  The Rites of Autumn: A Falconer’s Journey Across the American West  and Equinox: Life, Love, and Birds of Prey

What to Bring:  A camera with a lens in the 300mm range or longer is recommended. Shorter range lenses are also good to bring for portraits of the bird on glove, falconry gear, and the scenery of the ranch.


Black Hills State University
1200 University Blvd
Spearfish, SD 57799 United States


Dick Kettlewell