Thermal Rider

What makes this image expressive?

I love vultures and especially Turkey Vultures, maybe because it’s the one kind of vulture I’ve encountered the most and been able to observe in the wild. In my limited photographic experience whenever I take a photo of an animal I always try to make it as sharp as possible. But I have so many pictures of Turkey Vultures that I thought I would start to try shooting them with a slow shutter speed. I love the way they fly and soar through the thermals. I love shooting them because it makes me feel so free and happy and like I’m flying with them. I wanted to convey the beauty, speed and grace of this magnificent, under appreciated bird and hope it makes people see how beautiful they are.

Specific Feedback Requested

I would like feedback on anything, please.


Thank you so much for posting another bird image Vanessa. I started as a bird photographer back in 2001 and only moved into landscape after 2007. I love the sense of freedom you have expressed here and it is easy to feel your love for the subject.

As photographers it is easy for us to become fixated with perfection, but that is so ironic, as we ourselves are far from perfect, and much of what we do to the planet impacts so much else as well. We portray perfection while hiding our ugliness.

Ironically, here you have hidden the Vulture’s face skin and what some see as ugly, in an atmospheric abstract. Now, we feel the rush of wind, the lightness of being and a touch of envy that they get to do that. I’ve seen load so these birds on trips to the US, and I always marvel at them.

As it is, this is a great image. I think it could be worthwhile exploring this avenue further, perhaps going a little wider, maybe try to include the landscape with the panning. Whole avenues of Vulture World interactions.

Love it, and thanks again.


Thank you, so much, for your insightful comments. I so agree that so much of what people think is not beautiful really is. I personally love the red head of the Turkey Vulture, it’s a way of identifying individuals, but converted this to black and white as I thought it gave it a more abstract look and maybe ‘acceptable’ look to viewers who aren’t so fond of these birds. :slight_smile:
That’s a great idea to get a broader view. I would love to do something like that with a huge kettle of vultures! Maybe someday! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this! It’s much appreciated!

It’s a pleasure to do this, I am really enjoying the process.

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This is wonderful, Vanessa! Love the high key and the great sense of motion you have gotten. Also like the suggestions @Alister_Benn has made about giving the vulture a little more space to move. Can you tell us what settings you used to create this motion? Just curious. Very nicely done!

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Thanks so much @linda_mellor for your kind comment! As I was watching the vultures flying by I also had my camera out and made an on the fly decision to do a slow shutter speed with slight ICM and panning. I was fortunate enough to have this vulture circle back low to check me out as they usually do (I flatter myself into thinking that they want to be my friend) but this take was at a 1/13 , 300 mm (450 equivalent) , 100 ISO, f/16

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We are on the same wavelength for our bird images! Wow, 1/13 shutter speed, that’s awesome. It’s almost as if the turkey vulture is flying through mist…it’s head just entering. I really like this look. Great image, @Vanessa_Hill

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Thanks so much @Mark_Muller for looking and your feedback. I always appreciate it! I’m glad you think it works!

Hi Vanessa–A very different take on turkey vultures. I like the streaks coming from the back of the wings and provides a different sense of abstraction than what we are used to seeing. Well done…Jim

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Thanks so much, @Jim_Zablotny for your feedback on this. I’m glad you like it. Yeah, I was really glad with how the streaks turned out to emphasize the motion!