Fly Like An Eagle

As I was packing for my tour to Homer, Alaska to photograph eagles, I was a bit discouraged because the weather forecast was for rain and cold the whole week. Typical Alaska weather. I always tell my participants,” when going to Alaska prepare for rain every day and then if you get good weather it’s a bonus!”  I didn’t think we were going to get a bonus, but fortunately I was wrong!

Our first morning on the boat was just a predicted, cold and rainy. We saw lots and lots of eagles, and everyone was prepared for the weather, so we did manage to get some nice images.

First Morning

0030-20190317-DSC_0250.jpgImmature Bald Eagle with herring, Kachemak Bay, Alaska   1/2000 sec; f/5.6; ISO 2500; 150mm

 

_WAL2914.jpgRainy morning eagle, Kachemak Bay, Alaska     1/640 sec; f/7.1; ISO 4000; 380mm

 

_WAL2869.jpgMature and Immature Bald Eagles, Kachemak Bay, Alaska 1/640 sec; f/7.1; ISO 4000; 150mm

Since it was raining and cloudy that first morning, I found myself using high ISOs. For these images I used Neat Image Reduce Noise software to clean up my pictures. I am so impressed with how well this software does removing noise and keeping my subjects sharp. If you are not familiar with Neat Image read this blog entry.

We take a 3-hour break for lunch, and down time between boat trips. While we were on our break, the sun came out.  When we did the afternoon boat tour, it was a totally different day with blue skies and sunshine.  Just like in the morning the eagles were plentiful, usually around 50 eagles at a time within photo distance! I took so many great photos that afternoon that I have spent at least 12 hours editing my images and I am still on the first day!

First Afternoon

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The sun comes out and the eagles are flying! 1/2000 Sec; f/10; ISO 800: 190mm

 

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So many eagles! 1/2000 sec; f/10; ISO 1000; 40mm

 

0030-20190317-TEL_1253-Edit.jpgDon't try this at home! Eagles are amazing flyers!  1/2000 sec; f/10; ISO 1000; 170mm

 

The second morning was a bit overcast and drizzly when we left the harbor, and the beginning of the day was mixed, rain and clouds.

Second Morning

TEL_5048-Edit.jpgBald Eagle grabbing fish, Kachemak Bay, Alask  1/1600 sec; f/7.1; ISO 3200; 150mm

 

TEL_4860-Edit.jpgImmature Bald Eagle catching fish 1/1600 sec; f/6.3; ISO 3200; 150mm

 

Multiple eagles.jpgComposite of eagle diving for fish

 

But as the day progressed the weather got better. And once again, thousands of images were made that day! (and that’s just by me!)  I took some video of the participants taking pictures and it is so funny to hear the clicking of the shutters and the eagles would swoop in to take the bait fish our captain/guide was throwing.

 

Second Afternoon

TEL_6402-Edit.jpg1/1600; f/10; ISO 640; 180mm

TEL_6589.jpg1/2000 sec; f/10; ISO 400; 600mm

 

0030-190318-TEL_6815-Edit.jpg1/2000sec; f/10; ISO 640; 150mm

 

Our last morning was one of the clearest days I had ever seen in Alaska. We could clearly see Augustine Volcano 67 miles away! My favorite part of the day was laying on the beach while our captain threw bait fish just 3 feet in front of me and having eagles swoop down and take the fish.  I was photographing with a 24-85mm lens and using a shutter speed of 1/1250 sec and learned that is not fast enough to freeze eagle motion when they are that close.  Next year I’ll use a higher shutter speed!

Third Morning

0030-190319-TEL_9552-Edit.jpgBald Eagle with Augustine Volcano in background 1/1250; f/9; ISO 500; 190mm

 

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A little commotion on the beach 1/1250 sec; f/9; ISO 500; 66mm

 

WAL_1427.jpg1/1250; f/9; ISO 800; 85mm

 

WAL_1072-Edit.jpg1/1250; f/9; ISO 500; 66mm

 

TEL_0530.jpgWe saw a cooperative Sea Otter too! 1/800 sec; f/8; ISO 1250; 500mm

 

That afternoon we went sightseeing, led by two friends of mine that live in Homer, Ken and Diane Briggs. They took us up on the ridge above the spit to photograph the mountains and then to Anchor Point to see across the Cook Inlet to the snow-covered mountains that included Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt. It was quite a sight!

 

Third Afternoon

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View of Kenai Mountains and Homer Spit  17 veretical images stitched together 1/1250 sec; f/14; ISO 9000; 85mm

 

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Mt. Redoubt 1/1000 sec; f/7.1; ISO 64; 320mm

 

0030-190319-TEL_0820-Edit.jpgMt. Iliamna 1/1000 sec; f/7.1l ISO 64; 260mm

 

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We had a nice sunset! 11 vertical images stitched together 1/30 sec; f/7.1; ISO 64; 85mm

 

On the last day we did another road trip to Ninilchik and Nikolaevsk to photograph the Russian Orthodox churches found there. We were on the lookout for moose and did spot a couple but no real good photo opportunities.

Last Day

2019-03-27-22.37.33 ZS PMax.jpg5 images with focus stacking put together with Zerene Stacker 1/50 sec; f/8; ISO 64; 40mm

 

I took aver 13,000 images in my time in Homer.  It will take me much longer to edit them then it did to take them! I have thrown away thousands of images that I would have loved to have in my collection just a few weeks ago. Editing is so much harder than picture taking.

I was impressed how many birds sin flight images I took were sharp.  I really feel the Nikon with its “Group” focus mode does a much better job of keeping the birds sharp then I was ever able to do with my Canon cameras.  And I hear the Sony A9 is even better still.

I am posting several images here and if you want to see more go to this page on my website to see a little video of about 40 images and learn about next year’s trip.  Remember there are only 5 spots available on the boat, so sign up quickly if you want to have an amazing eagle experience!