Shooting Eagles on the 4th of July

July 14, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

It just doesn't get much better!  Just got back from a spectacular 4th of July in Alaska photographing eagles (thank you, Jackie Kramer)!  The eagles were flying above, below and beside me, it was just an unbelievable experience.

OG2_9023-EditOG2_9023-Edit OG1_6286-EditOG1_6286-Edit ConfidenceConfidenceEye-to-Eye with an eagle. It was a cloudy day with occasional light showers, the light was soft and diffused. The Anan Wildlife Observatory's top-level provided an eye-level view of eagles in flight, and the bottom level provided an eye-level view of black bears feasting on pink salmon. The observatory, located near a stream between two heavily forested mountain ridges, is 30 miles southeast of the town of Wrangell. On the Hunt - 1On the Hunt - 1Eye-to-Eye with an eagle. What gets my attention here after a close look at the eagle is the lush green colors and the hint of the on-coming Alaskan fall. It was a cloudy day with occasional light showers, the light was soft and diffused. The Anan Wildlife Observatory's top-level provided an eye-level view of eagles in flight, and the bottom level provided an eye-level view of black bears feasting on pink salmon. The observatory, located near a stream between two heavily forested mountain ridges, is 30 miles southeast of the town of Wrangell. OG1_6314-EditOG1_6314-Edit

My Notes:  Weather condition, mostly cloudy with a high and midlevel overcast with occasional light showers. The shooting location was near a stream between two heavily forested mountain ridges (the ridge in front of me came up about 70 degrees above the horizon, the ridge behind about 40 degrees). The ambient light, even during the middle of the day, was soft and diffused.

Camera equipment: Nikon D4s (used 80% of the time primarily because of its frames per second shooting speed) & Nikon D800E (used 20% of the time)

Lenses: AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm 1:4G ED (used 70% of the time) & Nikkor 70-200mm 1:2.8GII ED (used 30% of the time)

Backpack: thinkTANK StreetWalker HardDrive (a high quality, lightweight, good fitting camera backpack)

Tripod: Taken but not used, eagles were flying too close and too fast. 

Camera settings: RAW file format. ISO, shutter, and f-stop set manually; ISO from 1000 to 3200, shutter from 1/500 to 1/1250, f-stop from f/4.0 to f/4.5. I constantly checked/adjusted the settings for the fastest image capture possible given lighting conditions and image quality objectives. On the D4s, I shot at 11 frames per second (mostly in 2-second burst), using a continuous focus in Group AF mode which activated/tied the four surrounding AF points to a specific single AF point to help keep focus while keeping the single focus point (as much as possible) on the eagle's eye. I had a D4 prior to the D4s and was very pleased with the D4s performance in keeping the focus on the eagles as they flew across detailed backgrounds.


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