010517-qct-baldeagle-photography

A bald eagle takes flight in front of the Orca Adventure Lodge in Cordova, Alaska on July 15, 2015. It is one of two eagles in the area and appeared to be scouting out a location for a new nest on the pier as it brought over sticks and other materials to the post. After setting a few sticks and loads of other material it stopped and perched on the post, observing its surroundings as if to evaluate the location. After a half hour or so it took off and perched on the other side of the historic cannery, near the lodge.

Andy Abeyta

The camera:

Always know your gear. There is nothing worse as a photographer than being thrown into a shoot with new equipment. Practice shooting seagulls, geese or other common birds to see what works for you and what does not.

• Aperture: For a subject in flight, an aperture of f/5.6 or smaller (f/8, f/11, etc.) is ideal. But don’t be afraid to experiment shooting with a more open aperture.

• Shutter: Minimum of 1/1000 of a second for a subject in flight, 1/2000 is better if light allows. Of course, a motion blur at a slower speed can always give an interesting result.

• ISO: Know your result. Know how far you can push your camera before you get more noise than you’re comfortable with. On some cameras, this is 1,600 ISO, and for others it will be closer to 12,800.

• Focus settings: Select an adaptive setting that will track focus with the subject’s movement, ideally one that will not jump to focus on objects in your background. See your camera’s owner manual for more details.

• Shutter drive: You’ll want to be able to shoot as many frames per second as your camera allows. However, shooting in small bursts is best to keep track of your subject in the frame.

The shot:

• Composition: This makes or breaks a shot. A shot in flight should leave room for the subject to fly. You do not want your subject flying into the edge of your frame. Crop if you need to.

• Interaction: While flight is great for a photo or two, mix it up. Look for an eagle to interact with others or its environment in any way you find interesting.

• Backgrounds: Pay close attention to your background. You may capture the perfect moment of your subject but your shot will be ruined if a tree branch, light post or other object distracts the viewer from your shot.

And, if nothing else, always capture the bird’s eyes in focus.

The photographer:

Be prepared. Study your subject and understand their habits, flight patterns and know where they are likely to land or fish. The more you understand any subject, the better you can photograph them.

Get comfortable. The more warm and comfortable you are, the more focused you can be.  Imagine a few great photos you’d like to get, and wait for those moments to happen. The less interesting you are to the eagle the more likely they are to just lose interest in you and go about their business.

Get accustomed to shooting with both eyes open. One eye should track the subject through your camera, while the other should anticipate the eagle’s route.

Most importantly, remain patient. Practice is great and all, but being in the right place at the right time is better.

Photographer's courtesy:

One of the most important things to remember is you are most likely not the only one trying to photograph wildlife near you. While most every photographer hopes they can get the best shot of the day, it is never acceptable to disturb wildlife or disrupt another photographer's shot.

Positioning is important for your shot, but be aware of how your movement may alarm wildlife. Set yourself up for the background you want and work with the light you have, but be aware of others.

If you find yourself wanting to move to a spot where no one else is, there may be a good reason for it. When in doubt, quietly and respectfully ask another photographer in the area where to shoot from. He or she will likely be glad you asked. Everyone wants more or less the same thing, so just be respectful and enjoy yourself.

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