Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is a raptor sanctuary in eastern Pennsylvania, USA, founded in 1934 to protect the many species of birds of prey that migrate past in spring and fall. Its location along the Kittatinny Ridge of the Appalachian Mountain chain is an important flyway for these birds, offering favorable winds and thermal air currents that help propel them on their way. Hawk Mountain staff carefully identify and count raptors and other migrant birds as they pass by two lookouts, providing important information to scientists studying these magnificent flyers.
In addition to the birds, Hawk Mountain has spectacular scenery year-round and is one of my favorite places to photograph any time of the year. I visited in early fall this year, arriving before dawn hoping to get some good shots of the sun as it rises over the Kempton Valley, just beginning to show some fall colors.
I made the 1-mile hike to the North Lookout in the dark, stepping on, over, and around the many rocks along the way, hoping not to surprise any bears, and then set up my tripod at the rocky outcrop. As the sun had just cleared the horizon, much of the valley was still dark, so for this shot, I bracketed three exposures and merged them together in Lightroom to make this HDR image. I used the smallest aperture possible, f/22, and a wide 24mm focal length to produce the brilliant Sunstar. Once the sun fully rose, I packed up my gear to look for other good photos around the ridge top before returning to the lookout to watch migrating raptors with the growing crowd of bird lovers. With them, I was treated to the spectacle of seven bald eagles flying by together, soaring and swooping as they made their way down the ridge. It had been a great day at Hawk Mountain!
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor