How Not to Photograph Bald Eagles

In my previous blog article I stated that the “cardinal” rule of bird photography is to have the eyes sharp.  I forgot to mention that there is a secondary axiom that maintains that at least SOME part, ANY part, of the bird must be in focus.  Unfortunately, I have experience violating that second law “BIGLY”.

In 2002 my family and I spent a week in Alaska and we had the pleasure of taking a rafting trip down the Chilkat River as it flows through the Bald Eagle Preserve in Haines.  This sanctuary is home to the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world with between 200 and 400 taking up residence there year round.   The population swells to over 4,000 during the Fall Congregation.  It’s where most National Geographic photos of eagles are taken and I have very fond memories of that amazing evening, but no photographs that I am proud of.

The excursion started with a brief rain shower but by 9:00pm the precipitation ended and, being Alaska in early July, there was still about 90 minutes of daylight remaining.  The river was fairly calm – this wasn’t billed as “whitewater” rafting – and within the first few minutes several eagles were spotted.  Keep in mind this was 15 years ago and camera technology wasn’t what it is today.  I thought I could easily hand-hold my 2 megapixel Olympus digital camera with built in 20x zoom steady within a moving raft as five other people jockeyed for position, but boy was I wrong.   I couldn’t have done any worse had I been on a roller coaster.

Photographers will tell you that equipment doesn’t matter but don’t believe it for a minute.  If you don’t have the right gear for the situation, you’ll go home disappointed. Had I had the camera I own today, I’d likely have some bald eagle photos hanging on my walls instead of in a box in my basement marked “junk” and filled with Jpeg files on CD-ROM.  (Yes, I could have deleted those out of focus files but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  The memories are still there for me).

I plan to return to Haines as part of my world-wind bucket list tour someday.  The good news is that Canon is now offering free shipping on their marquee, top of the line, camera body – the 1DX-Mark II.  The price is only $5,999.00 which brings to mind what photographers fear most.   They have nightmares that after they die their spouses will sell all the camera equipment for what they were told it cost to purchase.  Somebody will be getting a good deal!

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2 thoughts on “How Not to Photograph Bald Eagles

  1. I have to say that I think your wife will know better. She leaves comments so I’m sure she will see this and tuck that info away. I’m sure if you go first she will want to keep one as a reminder of your passion.

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