Taking portraits of predatory bird beauties

By Jess Teideman | October 1, 2014

Leila Jeffreys’ latest portraits showcase the graceful prowess of Australian raptors

Contributor

Chris Bray

Chris Bray is an Australian Geographic photographer and keen adventurer who grew up sailing around the world. Chris runs photography courses around Australia and photo safaris around the world through his company Chris Bray Photography.

HAVING ALREADY PRODUCED an exhibit on the cheeky personalities of cockatoos in 2012, Leila Jeffreys turned her attention to capturing the beauty and power of Australia’s raptors.

The mini-studio used in her works with cockatoos and budgies was abandoned, as Leila was forced to think outside of the box to try and photograph the raptor species.

Teaming up with Paul Mander from Broadwings Raptor and Training centre in Queensland, Leila was able to devise a new studio – in a shed built by Paul in the centre grounds. Over the course of a couple of years Leila travelled there, and, slowly, collected an assembly of stunning portraits.

The system wasn’t the only thing to change, as Leila also introduced in new camera technology as well.

“This time I used a medium format camera called a Phase One. The size of the detail it captures is mind boggling and perfectly suited for the work I do because I print the portraits at human size and want every feather strand to be captured beautifully,” says Leila.

One thing that never changed was the array of different personalities that Leila met during her project.

“The vocal raptors were the smaller raptors like the kestrel,” she says. “The eagles were very calm. I think it also comes down to individual personalities too – as I had photographed different owls within the same species group and there were obvious differences in their behaviour… but, generally speaking, the females are always more feisty!”

A grey falcon(Falco hypoleucos) by the name of Ash quickly became Leila’s favourite while working on the project.

“Every time you meet a new bird they are extraordinary,” she says. “I think if I had to pick my favourite it would be the grey falcon,” she says.

Leila met and photographed Ash the grey falcon in July this year, and he was one of the last to be photographed in the series.

“Ash is the only grey falcon that I could ever hope to meet. He was rescued by two ornithologists who found him with a wing injury in the Kimberly, and is wonderfully looked after by Phil Pain from Eagle Heritage in Margaret River, WA. I think of him as a mascot for endangered birds of prey in Australia because there are estimated to be less than 1000 wild birds left, and anecdotally the wildlife carers I met think the grey falcon is just as rare as the red goshawk. In addition to that he was really relaxed and I knew I was very privileged to be able to spend time with him” she says.