Red Kite Fishing

Date:  Monday 6th June 2011

Location:  Buckinghamshire

The back story…

Inspired by a photo of a heron catching a coot chick seen on the Pentax User forum the previous week, I decided that I wanted to start a project and go out to try and photograph some herons feeding, hoping eventually to catch a similar event.

Even though the weather was not that kind that weekend, my wife and I still decided to go out and scout some locations and found a great spot on our 2nd attempt. We even bumped into a local gentleman out for a walk who had a great knowledge of the local wildlife and even pointed out their favourite perches and fishing locations!

Even though we had the kit with us, as it was lightly raining and overcast we decided to leave and come back another day, especially as by now we had seen a heron land on one of the previously pointed out perches.

The day of the shoot…

The very next day the weather forecast showed that we were actually expecting sunshine in the early evening so I packed up all the kit, picked up my wife from work and off we went to our new location. After a quick walk around the area and through the meadow (my wife loves her flower and butterfly photography so was looking around!) the sun burst out, so off I went to set up in front of the heron.

Once setup and shooting the heron staring at me, preening, stretching etc. another heron landed, so was very hopeful that I may get some action! After 15 minutes or so had past I took a few steps away from the camera as it was apparent that they were just resting and decided to just observe their behaviour for a while. Then I saw the kite.

Now at this point I must mention that having previously spent a lot of time on my red kite project a couple of months previously and having shot over 1,000 frames of them I tend not to point the camera at them as much as I used to, preferring just to observe them instead.


Having just spotted this kite over my left shoulder after I stepped away from the camera I initially thought nothing of it until I realised he was rapidly dropping altitude. ‘****!’ I said to myself and ran at the camera and quickly tried to get the kite in the frame as it was pointed at the heron!

As my previous target was almost stationary my camera was setup up using selective focus points only. The point selected was in the top right hand side of the centre group, the reason for this was that I was aiming to get the herons eyes in focus whilst keeping him in the traditional ‘rules of thirds.’

Instinctively, as I grabbed the camera I knew that the heron was in the frame with the lens set at 600mm and quickly pulled the zoom back to the 250mm setting knowing it would be easier to find the kite and hopefully easier to focus too. This is one unique lens that I was very lucky to acquire and is perfect for nature photography as the zoom range makes it very versatile.

Initially I forgot that the focus point was set to the top right and not even on continuous! As I tried to get the kite in the centre of the frame I fired off a couple of shots as it was flying lower over the lake and noticed it was focussing on the bushes behind.

The Approach

Nearly There!

‘****!’ I said to myself again as I quickly tried to recompose and refocus on the kite and luckily in the very next second I managed 3 shots in focus of the kite flying away with the fish clearly seen in it’s claws!


Fish in Talons!

Close Up!

The Getaway!

Later that evening…

As you can imagine the very first thing I did when I got home was to eagerly grab the laptop to check out the photos. Unfortunately the first 2 shots were out of focus as mentioned but the other 3 were fairly well focussed. As my settings were previously set for a heron basking in sunlight my shutter speeds were a lot lower with the darker background but the advantage of this is that the wings are blurred which gives a nice effect of movement in the shots.

Looking back at the events now in hindsight I realised that I had been very, very lucky. If I hadn’t stepped back from the camera at that moment I wouldn’t have even seen it happen right under my nose! Hopefully though it won’t be a once in a lifetime shot as now that I know how and where he does it, I will be going back on a regular basis. If luck is on my side I may have another story to tell one day!