Bald Eagles - gestures and light

Today was a perfect day for going out to the Mississippi River and photograph Bald Eagles, though it was very windy and therefor bitterly cold. It was the first time this winter season that I was back at lock and dam #14, down south in LeClaire, Iowa. It is the location with the best access to the river and the open water below a dam and many other camera owners can be found there on a day like this. I took off late because I like the late afternoon light and the hour before sunset the best at this location. The eagles were very active today and we had plenty of opportunities to practice proper hand holding and panning technique with the long lens. I have used the Sigma 50-500 on a tripod quite often during the last month around our house but shooting with this lens handhold is a total different ball game. It took a little time to get back into full swing.

There are lots of Bald Eagle pictures on my hard drive already, so the question is, what can still be accomplished? I’m now looking for particular gestures of the birds in quality light and I also want to make images that don’t need to be zoomed in because the birds are too far away. With other words, there is plenty of room for improvements.

Turning the head

The first photo is as it came out of the camera, no crop and exposed for the highlights (head and neck), which makes also the blue sky a little darker. I like that. What makes this photo special for me is the gesture how the Bald Eagle turns its head to the side.

Going down

The second image is all about movement and great light. It is the moment when the eagle stopped soaring and made the turn to go straight down to the water for a fish. It is a photo I wanted to make since a long time. The picture isn’t zoomed in. I just decided for a 1:1 aspect ratio and cut some sky off on both sides. I think this supports the eagle’s gesture better than the original 3:2 aspect ratio and still leaves the band of clouds intact as an anchor point.


Flying by

The last photo doesn’t need much explanation. A shaft of late afternoon light hits the eagle perfectly and having the Illinois side of the Mississippi River in the frame makes for a nice environmental shot. What always amazes me is how the long lens compresses a distance. The trees on the other side of the river are half a mile away (~800 m)....