Life in the balance
Catching a jay isn't easy. When feeding, jays regularly scan the sky for danger, and at the slightest hint of a threat will let out a loud rasping alarm call. So when a pair of sparrowhawks started to frequent a feeding station in front of Pål's hide in Dalen, Norway, he didn't imagine they would catch a jay. What they did do, though, was bring their young for hunting practice. Time after time their attempts failed, but as the youngsters practised striking, Pål was able to practise his shooting skills. 'In the wild, things often happen so fast that by the time you react, the moment is over,' says Pål. 'So I practised pressing the shutter just before an attack began.' On this occasion, he spotted the adult male sparrowhawk lurking nearby and kept focused on the jay until the anticipated strike. Here, the precision and fear expressed in a split second, barely registered by the human eye, manages to capture the height of the action, the moment when life truly hangs in the balance.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III + 300mm lens; 1/3200 sec at f2.8; ISO 2500.
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Pål Hermansen, Norway
A trained dentist and a homeopath, Pål has also written and illustrated more than 30 books. His pictures have been published and exhibited worldwide, and have garnered many prizes in major competitions such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year, World Press Photo and GDT (the Society of German Nature Photographers). His work has also been published in National Geographic, GEO and BBC Wildlife.