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Shooting Bald Eagles

Ketchikan, Alaska

Obviously the title refers to taking photographs of our National Bird. I thought it wise to get that disclaimer out right away before the Fish & Wildlife Department comes calling.  


Moving right along, this image was captured on Revillagigedo Island, Alaska in the Tongass National Forest.  the largest National Forest in the United States with over 17 million acres of land. It is home to many species of wildlife, including many rare and endangered ones. Fortunately for us, the Bald Eagle has made a recovery from it's endangered status, and numbers of the this raptor are increasing across its range.

The image above was taken during a tour of a temperate rain forest that started in Ketchikan, AK, a popular cruise ship port of call. Our tour bus headed south along the Tongass Highway and ended up at Herring Bay on the southeast coast of the island. (GPS 55.325997, -131.527593). I was a part of a group of 12 other people touring the fauna and flora of the temperate rain forests of Alaska. In other words, I was a tourist with a camera. 

As our group emerged from the trees we entered a small estuary. A salmon hatchery was nearby on the small creek that empties into Herring Bay.  I noticed a few Bald Eagles in the trees across the marsh. I was carrying a Nikon D610, and changed the lens to Nikon's superb f5.6 200 - 500 mm lens. In a matter of seconds an eagle glided buy and I snapped this image of it in flight (shot at f 6.3, 1/640 of a second at ISO 400). This image was the culmination of my practice of shooting pelicans in flight on the California coast, understanding of Nikon's Auto Focus system for 3D tracking of moving objects and an awareness of my surroundings....and a great big dosage of pure luck to have this eagle glide by when I had the right lens mounted on the camera.

Later I saw another Bald Eagle perched in a tree (on the left), and I cautiously approached it taking pictures every couple of steps. In this manner I was able to get within 25 yards of him before he became annoyed with me. My last image was the best of the series (shot at f 5.6, 1/250th of a second, ISO 500). I spot metered on his white head for the exposure.


I rejoined the tour group (it is actually possible to take pictures on a tour!) and shortly afterwards boarded a bus back to Ketchikan where I bought a souvenir hat and counted my lucky stars.

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