I still don’t have my ideal Golden Eagle flight photo but I’m getting significantly closer.
Readers might remember that the Golden Eagle may be my primary nemesis species. I’ve had quite a few opportunities with them but something always seems to go wrong, preventing me from getting that spectacular image I’ve visualized for so long. But three days ago I was able to get a shot that encouraged me and came fairly close to my ideal.
1/1250, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
There were three Golden Eagles hanging out together at the base of the Promontory Mountains but at first they were on the wrong side of my pickup so I had to quickly turn around for them (“creative” driving is one of the hallmarks of my photography…). One bird was perched on a rock fairly close to the road but that one took off a split-second before I got my pickup stopped and my lens trained on it. But then this eagle took off from atop the mountain in front of me and came my direction. It flew between me and the hill but the background was so close to the bird that few of those shots were tack sharp. This one was an exception.
This eagle is in full flight (instead of having recently taken off) and moving fast at a slightly downward angle. For me the flight posture strongly (and accurately) suggests high-speed flight. The head and body are sharp, there’s good light on the face and eye and that namesake golden nape stands out beautifully. And though it may not appeal to everyone I really like the blooming rabbitbrush in the background. For my taste the eagle is a little too centered in the frame but I had no more room on the left.
I was so encouraged to find three eagles together I went back to the area the next morning (it’s a 90 minute drive for me to get there and I have to get up early to be there at dawn) but I found neither hide nor feather of them.
That’s bird photography for you…
Yesterday I was once again impressed by how well using a vehicle as a mobile blind works when compared to shooting on foot.
1/6400, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
Late in the afternoon I visited a local park near my home to photograph Yellow-rumped Warblers. These birds use a mostly dead tree next to a pond as a launching platform to hawk insects flying over the pond and yesterday that tree was literally dripping with butterbutts. In order to photograph them I have to park on the edge of a road and shoot over a high wooden fence (a smaller, lower vehicle wouldn’t work in this location) and these birds are so acclimated to traffic on the road they pay no attention to me in my pickup even though I’m quite close to them.
But three times during the hour I was there someone came along on foot and walked very close to my pickup. Each time the birds reacted by either flying away or burying themselves in the far side of the tree and it would take them a few minutes to return to closer shooting distances. And as I was ready to leave I opened my door slightly as a test to see if the birds would react. Just as I expected – most of them vamoosed. If I had been trying to photograph these birds on foot I’d likely have been spittin’ into the wind.
I’ve been crowing about the advantages of shooting from a vehicle for years – long enough that Audubon Magazine got wind of it and published an article in their current issue about the techniques and equipment I use for doing so. Here’s a link to the online version of the article if you’re interested.
There’s also a link in the article to a more extensive and detailed blog post I’ve published on the subject.
Note: My shutter speed for this shot was incredibly fast. But I’ve learned from shooting in this location as these flitty little birds richochet in and out of dark and light places that I’m better off erring on the high side so I have enough shutter speed when they’re in shade. Two days ago the image that was potentially my favorite photo out of 900+ images was soft because I didn’t have enough shutter speed for the situation.