Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eagle Tips

Dial it up (as we used to say at TOPGUN)

As many of you know I am a big fan of photographing eagles (might be that fighter pilot thing again.)  There are a huge number of tips and tricks when shooting eagles but I will give two of the simplest.  These two might seem a little bit flippant and MOTO (master of the obvious) but they are true.

My best tip is go where there are a large number of eagles.  The rock above has 19 eagles on it.  What is not shown are the other 30 rock outcroppings just like this one covered with birds or the trees full of birds.  When you surround yourelf with 500-1000 eagles you will have a much higher probability of getting the shots you want.  Photographing eagles in flight is not the easiest task so the more you shoot the better.  Tough to do as you wait for the lone bird to fly by again.

Tip number two often goes hand in hand with number one, go where this is a non-stop supply of eagle food.  I have no problem with feeding eagles to get images but there is a finite amount of frozen herring.  Food equals eagle action.  The birds will feed almost non stop.  I have seen eagles feed until there are fins sticking out their beaks.  With plenty of birds and food you increase your opportunity in a major way.  In the image above the fish are literally jumping out of the water into the waiting talons of the approaching eagle.  There is also something a little more raw and natural about a freshly ripped apart herring; half in the beak and half in the talons.  In the gory image above note there is another whole herring in the talons as well.

As I mentioned, feeding to attract eagles is not really any different than planting flowers to attract butterflies or using sugar water to bring in hummingbirds to an elaborate flash setup.  I do believe in full disclosure though and will discuss if an eagle was baited or not.  Most often it is pretty easy to tell if there is a fish in the frame (in the water or in the talons/beak.)  Recently caught live fish bleed and still look alive.  Frozen herring are slightly discolored, the tail contracts, and the eye is very dead.  For example, check out the gull below picking up a frozen herring.

A few more shots for giggles.

 Yep, the sky was that blue.

Love the dirty birds (juveniles)!
Notice the bright spot in the talons.  Normally a piece of it is here.

Fiat Lux!

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