Saturday, February 4, 2012

Camera Critters: Winter Bald Eagle Photography-A Growing Pastime

Bald Eagle: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
When I was a lad, growing up in rural Pennsylvania, eagles sightings were the substance of  tales told by the older folks, most notorious of which was the legend of "Eagle Dave", who was supposedly whisked away by a pair of eagles and raised in their nest. I have forgotten how that one was supposed to have turned out, but suffice it to say that it was a fairy tale designed to keep an adventurous youth from straying too far from the farmstead.

The bald eagle was listed as endangered in 43 states under the Endangered Species Act until 1995, when its, status was upgraded to "threatened". It was removed from the endangered species list in 2007, but is fortunately still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

In recent years, eagle photography has become a favorite winter pastime of many nature photographers. Although there are exceptions, eagles are ordinarily quite shy birds, seen only at a distance. Favorite spots to photograph the birds in our area are Conowingo Dam (sometimes they are very close here) and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, I do see eagles at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Pennsylvania, but I only go there for a few mornings in spring and fall during the waterfowl migrations and do not know if eagles are commonly seen there in winter. Most I have seen there are also too far away for exceptional photographs. 
Blackwater Eagle

Some eagles are seen near home each year, but they are very, very, shy and it is difficult to get a camera and tripod deployed. Both of the photos featured today were taken at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, near Cambridge Maryland. Both are at extremely long range and taken with the 500mm F4 and 1.4 extender. The images are heavily cropped, which works reasonably well for internet use, but is lacking in feather detail for printing purposes. The first photo was taken with the Canon 7D, while the second was with the T3i. Some assume that the 7D and T3i utilize the same sensor (they have the same megapixel count), but I have heard from a reliable source that they are not identical sensors and working with these photos served to reinforce this. The 7D seems to have less noise and a more pleasing overall look to the images-- even after color correction in Photoshop. In a strange twist, I find the T3i to have a slightly more pleasing video image--at least under certain circumstances and that is using the same picture style in both cameras.

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Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

14 comments:

Matt M said...

Great pictures, Bald Eagles are a favorite of mine.

Carletta said...

AWESOME Willard!
I saw my first one in the wild this past Thanksgiving. Too far for a good photo but I snapped one for the record. :)
I love the little birds in my yard but to see eagles is just a breathtaking experience.
Thanks for sharing your camera thoughts.

heyBJK said...

Beautiful shots, Willard! Just gorgeous!

bailey-road.com said...

Wonderful captures!

eileeninmd said...

Great captures of the eagles. It seems like they have usual perch they like to sit on at Blackwater.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

These are amazing,even if they are cropped. Eagles evoke a sense of awe every time I see them. I had one circle over my yard today,needless to say I was thrilled.

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Excellent photographs of this magnificent bird.

Regards and best wishes

JimB said...

Nice images of a favorite bird. Well told story as well. You and Coy I'll have to join Joan and I for some lose up eagles this spring

Linda G. said...

Awesome pictures of the eagle! There was an eagle watch yesterday along the Allegheny River here in Warren. I understand this is an annual event. Yesterday was the second time they have held the eagle watch. I didn't attend the eagle watch. I was looking at a waterfall.

Aaron Smith said...

Great Photos, Bald Eagles are my favorite bird to photograph. If you want to see some of my Eagle photographs from this year feel free to look at my blog at http://aaronsmithwildlifephotography.blogspot.com

Thomas said...

Love your photos.

Marvin said...

Great shots of the Bald Eagle. We don't see many up here on our ridge, and those we do see are flying high.

V.L. Locey said...

Georgous images!!

Bob Shank said...

Great photographs, Willard! Nicely done!