I have become obsessed with photographing the Bald Eagle. Every opportunity I get this time of the year I am off to spend a day surrounded by these majestic creatures. How many photographs are enough ? I don't know what enough really is ... Seldom are two photos alike, especially of an in-flight bald eagle. The scenery changes, the lighting varies and some photos are better than others. I'm still getting used to capturing them in-flight with a 700mm lens. But, I'm getting better. On Friday and Saturday, I took over 800 photos. My arms are tired. And, some days are obviously better than other days.
I've created this thread to share my photographic experience over the next few weeks with the Bald Eagle. Hope you enjoy it ...
Thanks, pelle ... Hopefully, I don't duplicate these photos. I'm just picking and choosing !
I'm doing a better job locking in the focus. Too many times the subject is blurred and the background is in focus. And, using a teleconverter allows me to reach out farther but I'm giving up some sharpness. I'm not sure I want to keep using the 1.4x teleconverter except on still subjects.
Another beautiful series, as usual, Lith. What kind of a setting do you have to get so many in flight shots? I almost never get a change for a flying shot, except when I spook a perched Eagle, by getting too close. On Friday, I returned to the lake where I had the 15 minute conversation last week, only to find it frozen solid.
If I am shooting with Aperture priority, it is generally set at f/8. With adequate lighting the shutter speed will come in at a minimum of 1/800 sec to 1/1000 sec. On in-flight shots, my ISO is always set at 400. If I am shooting on Manual, I still prefer f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec to 1/1600 sec. Very few of my photos are ever overexposed. My biggest problem is fly-overs since you are shooting into the sky. The underside of the eagle is dark from the start. A lot of time, automatic settings just don't work. And, it's difficult to change settings when something is coming toward you.
In summary, it "ain't" easy. The first photo in this thread which is a still shot was taken with the ISO set at 200, aperture priority set at f/8 and shutter speed came in at 1/80 of a second, on a tripod.
Just found this thread and to say the least, it blows me away.
I have seen pictures of eagles shot in Alaska, Canada and in other distant places, but to think these are right here in the east, well, it makes me want to drive up there just to see them live. I would take my camera but I can't imagine getting a shot as nice as yours. I have enjoyed looking at each and every one and like everyone else, I look forward to future installments.
We truly are fortunate to have you as a contributor to this forum.
Oh Linth, great series. We usually have three eagles here in the winter (arriving in December, departing in March). I'm excited for their arrival this year to see if I can photograph them. Thanks for the tips!
Dave, you should go! It would be interesting to hear how it was to try and shoot pictures of larger birds.
Thank you, Dave, for the kind comments. You really do have to make the effort to visit. From now through the end of the year is the best time. Some days are better than others. When they are generating electricity, the eagles tend to become more active. Unfortunately, that's not on a schedule. Many eagles are visible but often out of camera range, even with a long lens. People travel from a lot farther than you. I often speak to repeat visitors from New York and Connecticut.
The owner of the Hydroelectric plant, Exelon Corp., is in the process of constructing a $4M viewing area. The viewing areas are pretty good right now. It's funny when a complete stranger stops by. They see all these 500mm-600mm lenses on tripods and wonder what's going on.
This photo isn't very good but it shows 2 men working on the spillway and there are 4 Bald Eagles sitting close by.
Mrs_Ed, hope your eagles arrive soon. The cold weather up north will be pushing more of them southward. Some of our birds our tagged. I heard someone mention the other day that a specific eagle had arrived from upstate New York. And, Dave will do well. He has the equipment and experience.
When the power generators are on, the water below the dam is "churning" and I assume the fish become more active at the surface level. I seem to recall someone saying that it also stuns some of the fish making them easy pickings for the eagles. However, a lot of eagles would sooner steal a fish from another eagle than catch their own.
Here's another photo off in the distance of 4 eagles sitting around ...
This photo I took on Saturday way across the water. There are 7 in this photo but more were sitting in that same area. My lens serves as my binoculars but a lot of "birders" bring spotting scopes rather than cameras.
Pelle, it is a good birding area. There is about a two mile path, heavily traveled, down along the river. Two miles down is one thing but two miles back is another thing. I suppose if you do it leisurely it wouldn't be too bad. One gentleman showed me a photo of a Cerulean Warbler that he took right at the parking lot entrance. What a beautiful bird. I spoke to another small group that came there specifically to possibly view a Peregrine Falcon that hangs out around the dam breast.
Your shots are spectacular! These beautiful birds are here at our lake year round and I never get tired (but my arms do too) of taking their pictures. Too bad you can't add their calls for those that aren't as fortunate as some of us.
I really think that photo with the guys on the spillway is outstanding. What a great reward for them to be working and watching the eagles at the same time.
This is a photo type that I get a lot of but in this one you can see how important the lighting is. With most, the underside is completely dark. What I need is a powerful flash that will brighten their underside. You can only slow down the shutter speed so far.
ducbucln, they do have their favorite perches. I stood at the same spot for over an hour watching the eagle in the second photo of this thread. I wanted to get a photo of him as he lifted off the branch. Well, after all that wait, there was a little activity out over the water, and as I looked away ... he took off. So much for patience ! Maybe next time.
I did find a photo with at least 10 Bald Eagles in it. There was one more to the right that I couldn't include.
Thanks, again, everyone ... I'm glad you enjoy looking at them. I've taken so many photos, some good, some not so good. On Sunday and yesterday, I took about 1800 photos. Many of the eagles are too far away but I still photograph them. Obviously, I'm still sorting through them.
Nothing special about this image but I liked the shadow on the wall ...
Lithicum, I have been watching your entire Bald Eagle show...
Simply gorgeous photos, all of them.
This last one is what has made me write.
Well anyway it is the closest to my story and that is How an Eagle looked directly at me.
I was very sad as it was the day we sent my mom on to her Journey.
We were driving and along the road a baran Birch Branch, was sitting a beautiful bald eagle much as yours...So I asked my DH to pull over. We got out and walked directly toward him. I was in complete awe and t that same moment He/she looked directly at me! i thought it as a sign mom was home and I would be ok...But your photo reminded me so much of that day, only my Eagle had a tilted head...and one that will forever be engrained in my memory as Eagle Eyed.
Thank You so much for sharing your Daily photo's of a splended and majestic bird.
I titled this photo, "Flying into the Storm". Many of my photos of the Bald Eagle are taken at great distance. I find some of these distant photos of the Bald Eagle, alone, and high in the sky, quite awe-inspiring. They project a certain inner peace and undaunted freedom.
dahlianut, I'm sure they do. I've tried unsuccessfully to find a place on the web that might identify where it came from by the color of the leg band. I'll try to find out more information the next time I visit the site. I'm sure the leg band also has a number on it but you almost have to photograph it sitting in a nearby tree to pick up the number.
Here is a close-up of one Bald Eagle with leg bands ...
For alot of birds here we just report band colour for tracking purposes or a siting of an unusual but don't hear back unless that bird is out of recorded range. Then they might contact you for more specifics on the siting. I don't know if they would respond if you asked for info on origin of band colour but its worth a shot to email? I think its important to report to support the studies but because we have so many migratory birds here alot are well documented. When I lived in the Arctic that was a different ball of wax. That is where I saw my bald eagles in person. Breathtaking although I still think the snowy owls were the most significant for me because they're habitat was so remote from human access where I was. Thanks so much again for sharing this linthicum. They are so beautiful.
Thanks, dahlianut. In the past, I have reported a number tag on a Canada Goose to a bird reporting site here in Maryland, at Patuxent Research Refuge. They told me that it originated from Ohio. I don't know if the colored band on the eagles is unique to a certain state or region. I think someone saw an eagle with a blue band and they said that it came down from New York.
Since looking closer at some of these photos I'm finding additional ones, I think. Here is one that looks as though there is something on his back with a wire showing ?
O that last shot is breathtaking! Look at the expression and posture you've captured! I really hope you consider putting some of your shots in the photo contest next year so all the members can see them.
Methodical, most, if not all, of the Bald Eagles are tagged while they are still in the nest, as eaglets. Someone who is skilled in doing this will climb up the tree and bring the eaglet down to be banded, blood tests, measurements, etc. and then taken back up. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge has an Eagle Cam that will probably start operating in December. Periodically, they have had problems with the web cam while the eagles are on the nest and have climbed up to make repairs. Here is a website to Blackwater that you may find of interest. You should make an effort to visit during the winter months. They have a nice visitor center, a number of walking trails and a nice wildlife drive of several miles. Many waterfowl congregate here during the winter months.
Linth, I haven't been around much lately but happened upon this eagle thread of yours - and I can't possibly come up with the proper adjectives. So I will just say that they took my breath away and make me want to get out and about again with my camera.
Hello, Murmur . Nice to hear from you. Getting out into nature is good for the body and the mind. I'm sure you have areas around you that you could visit and take photos out of the car window, if necessary.
As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I took a lot of photos this past weekend. I mean a lot. Many are distant shots but I still look through them for perhaps something a little unusual, like the shadow in an above photo. When one eagle catches a fish, activity tends to pick up. I took about 10 images of two immature Bald Eagles in a chase. You can see a nice-sized fish in the talons of the lead eagle.
dahlianut, obviously the immature Bald Eagles are less experienced but the adults drop them also. You wouldn't think so with those talons ...
Over the weekend, it was quite breezy and the eagles took advantage of the air currents. I would follow an eagle through my viewfinder and all of a sudden, a quick turn, and it would just disappear, only to have to find it again, and refocus. They glided swiftly through the skies with unparalleled splendor undaunted by the strong breeze.
I still remember sitting in my car at a stoplight and seeing a fish land on a sidewalk nearby...then an adult Eagle swoop down to retrieve it! Not sure if he was being harassed or just had slippery talons! Great pics!
A little change of pace. Off in the distance, a small flock of Double-crested Cormorants floating below an approaching adult Bald Eagle. The adjacent rocks provide individual perches for the many vultures, both Turkey and Black, and the Crows and Blackbirds among other species. Great Blue Herons are seen in large numbers. Last year, I counted over 50 while standing in one location.
Nice pictures. They are such majestic birds. I'm so glad to see these increasing in the wild again.
I was fortunate enough to see one up close at one time. I was on a camping trip in the mountains outside San Diego. I had gone out to look over the small pond that was nearby early in the morning. I was sitting on a small rise when I heard something in the tree near me. There sitting on a branch 20 feet away, and looking at me, was a Bald Eagle. It took me about 3 seconds to go through the "no, that can't be, but what else could it be, it has to be" thinking to realize that it really was. It turned as swooped off the tree to glide over the pond and land on a tree on the opposite shore. There were 2 trees, so that was what it was using for a landing. I told people about it and they didn't believe me. Two weeks later there was an article in the newspaper about one of the pairs of Bald Eagles that were released into the wild taking up residence in the mountains East of San Diego.
This one has a red leg band and a fish tucked away underneath ...
It's hard to pick up a band number while in flight. The best opportunity is if you can find them perched close by which some photographers have done. I'll inquire to determine if the red leg bands have a definitive origin.
Linthicum I'm so glad so many of the eagles you're photographying are banded. I think it means that no matter what the development plans in the area it's well documented as eagle habitat. That's just my thoughts because we're having trouble with wetlands here.
It's definitely eagle habitat. They feast on the shad that live in the waters below the dam. I found it interesting that the dam has two elevator lifts that lift the shad to the waters above the dam so that they may continue their migratory journey north. Adult shad migrate each Spring from the ocean to the fresh waters upstream where they spawn. An average adult female shad produces 300,000 eggs.
Here is another photo of three eagles fighting over a fish just caught by one of them ...
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, my thoughts, for a moment, turned to the historical background pertaining to the selection of the Bald Eagle as our national symbol. Had Ben Franklin had his way, it would have been the Wild Turkey. He characterized the Bald Eagle as, " a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched in some dead tree where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing hawk (Osprey) and, when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish and is bearing it to his nest for his young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes the fish. With all this injustice, he is never in good case." On the other hand, he saw the turkey as "a much more respectable bird and a true native of America." He conceded that the turkey was "a little vain and silly," but maintained that it was nevertheless a "bird of courage" that "would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on." Congress was not convinced, however, and the eagle remained our national symbol. Thank goodness ...
If the turkey had become our national symbol, would we still eat it on Thanksgiving Day ? It just wouldn't seem right to EAT our "National Symbol" on Thanksgiving Day, now, would it ?
Good ole' Ben Franklin must have gotten one too many shocks from his kite experiment !!!