Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eagle River Redux - Part II

Last week we started a photo journey through our recent getaway in "Eagle River Redux - Part I" and left off with a pair of curious river otters checking out that strange camera wielding thing sitting on the dock - me.  They were so curious in fact that, while shooting with my wife's Sigma 150-500mm lens, they came in so close that I was no longer able to focus!  I thought this one was going to climb right up on the dock with me!  Eventually they decided there were probably more exciting things up river and continued on their way.

Day 2 Continued...

Life on the river is a paradox.  On the one hand, the absence of human "noise pollution" instills a deep sense of calm and relaxation.  On the other hand, the river is constantly teaming with activity in the wildlife that it helps to sustain.  The wake caused by the swimming river otters barely had time to subside when I spotted one of the bald eagles appear from down river on its way back to the nest.
As you can see the weather was still serving up "the blahs".  The overcast skies raised a few photographic challenges with high ISOs and indecision on my part over picking the right metering mode on my camera.  Generally I set my camera to matrix metering and forget it. Things just didn't seem to be working out for me, however, when trying to get the detail of these large, dark colored birds against a flat white/gray sky.  I tried switching over to center-weighted mode to put more emphasis on the bird and less on the sky.  Better, but the problem is these large, dark colored birds don't just stay in one spot.  No sooner did I flip the metering mode than the eagle would descend to the point that the background became the wooded banks or the dark river.  Back to matrix mode.  It would be so much simpler if the sun would just come out :).

The eagles weren't the only large birds cruising the river.  This great blue heron treated me with a fly by and one of my better bird shots of the day.  Thanks Mr. Heron.

Day 3

More clouds with sprinkles in between.  The ducks and eagles didn't seem to mind and I was inclined to still share some time on the dock in between the rain drops.  At one point, both of the adult eagles landed on what I referred to as "the staging tree". This is the tree immediately next door to their nest where they liked to trade off sitting responsibilities.  On this occasion it appeared there was a disagreement over either someone forgetting to bring home a fish or remembering who's turn it was to watch the nest.  In the end, my leg banded friend (for some reason I want to think this is the male, don't ask my why) flew off to the top of a nearby pine to keep an eye out for lunch.

I've taken probably hundreds of shots of the eagles sitting in the tops of the trees while waiting for something to happen.  Just when you think you know the pattern and drop your guard, nature happens.  With the camera in my lap, I saw the eagle spring off its perch and dive toward the river!  The shot that I've been longing to add to my collection forever is about to take place right in front of me and I'm asleep at the wheel!  Throwing the camera to my eye, it took just fractions of those precious seconds to find the bird in the viewfinder when I start firing off rapid bursts of the shutter release hoping for the best.  I'll share more on this specific event in a future post, but for now let's just say the eagle and I both came up empty on this attempt.

Well, almost empty.  The eagle grabbed a fist full of weeds and I captured one of my best in flight shots of my magnificent friend.

As a consolation prize of sorts, the eagle completed the cross-river trip and came to light on a nearby branch to pose for a nice portrait shot as we both contemplated where we went wrong. 

You win some and you lose some my friend.  In this case it would be difficult for me to say I lost. Beautiful! Thanks for the prize.

Stay tuned as there's still more to come from the Eagle River experience.

Until next time, keep click'n.



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