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Posts Tagged ‘birds in flight’

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between seeing and taking pictures as I find myself growing more and more acutely aware of the details in my surroundings. The more I shoot, the more I see and the more I see, the more I shoot. I am continually amazed at the things that I see and even more amazed that I am able to capture some of those experiences with my camera.

I have fallen in love with a quotation attributed to photographer Dorothea Lange, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Even when I don’t have a camera in my hand, I seem to be viewing the world differently than I did in the past. My sensitivity has undoubtedly been heightened by greater knowledge of my subjects and my skills honed by lots of practice and familiarity with my gear.

This past Friday, I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soaring in the air over the waters adjacent to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. That was not very unusual and I was able to capture some shots like the second one below. As the eagle flew out of range, I noticed that it seemed to be decreasing in altitude and circling back, so I continues tracking the bird. Somehow I suspected that the eagle was tracking a fish. Unlike an osprey that drops straight down into the water to catch a fish, an eagle seems to pluck a fish out of the water as it flies by.

I watched in awe and wonder as the eagle caught a fish. My timing was off a bit and my shots of the moment of the moment of the catch were not in focus, but I captured this image of the eagle flying away with its catch, an image that I really liked. As I think back about the experience, I feel absolutely no disappointment that I did not photograph it better. Instead, I feel a kind of joy and exhilaration that I was able to experience a really cool moment in nature.

Photography has opened my senses to those kinds of moments and motivates me to spend hours on end trekking about with my camera in hand. Capturing those experience in images is a real bonus whenever I am able to do so.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Eagles in flight are always a challenge for me to photograph, so I was really happy when I managed to capture this image of a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that flew by me on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as rays of sunlight illuminated different parts of its body.

Quite often when I spot eagles in flight, they are really high up in the sky and it is difficult to capture details of the majestic birds. As you can probably tell from the angle of view in this shot, this eagle was flying at a relatively low angle when I took this shot. Additionally, the eagle was pretty close—I cropped some from the top of the original image, but not much at all from side to side. In fact, one of the biggest problems I had was keeping the eagle within the frame. On several other images I took, I cut off portions of the wings or of the body.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When this immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) fixed its eyes on me on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and flew straight toward me, I couldn’t help but feel a little concerned. As it turned out, the young eagle was simply soaring and veered away—and my heartbeat eventually returned to a normal rate.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At first I thought this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted today at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge had a really dirty head, but I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s simply the feather pattern of an almost-mature eagle whose head will eventually be all white.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The weather was not very cooperative this past Monday, but my persistence was rewarded when I was able to observe a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) pulling a fish out of the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Virginia. On multiple occasions I have seen an eagle with a fish in its talons, but this was the first time that I actually got the see the eagle catch the fish.

The only downside was that I was quite a distance away and the light was limited when I captured the shots. Like most wildlife photographers, though, I feel inspired by the images that I do capture to go out again and again, often to the same places, with the hope and expectation that I will have more opportunities to make better images. Unlike Olympic athletes, I won’t have to wait four more years to have another chance to test myself.

bald eagle

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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When I photographed a family of Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) early in January at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I initially put off doing a post on them, thinking I would be likely to see more of them later and hopefully at a closer range. As time passed and I took more photos, I sort of forgot about the swans, even though it was my first time seeing this species.

As it turns out, I did not see any other Tundra Swans in January, so I thought I would feature them today. I initially spotted the swans across a wide expanse of ice near a small island. From the differences in coloration, I judged that there were two adults and three juveniles. I was a long way away and don’t think that I spooked them, but suddenly they took to the air. I especially like my in-flight shots, with the cool-looking clouds, but I am also including a shot of the swans in the process of taking off.

I took a whole series of shots and as I reviewed them, I realized how tough it is to capture an image in which all of the birds are facing the right way and have their wings in a good position. Actually, that’s a problem with any group photo, so I can’t blame the birds too much.

Tundra Swans

Tundra Swans

Tundra Swans

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were really busy yesterday now that much of the ice has broken up and is melting. This heron caught a fish so big that it really seemed to be struggling to gain altitude as it flew away.

Temperatures in our area have been below freezing for almost a month and I was starting to get worried that the Great Blue Herons would starve. Somehow, though, they manage to survive. I did not actually see this heron catch the large fish. I first caught sight of the heron when it flew with the fish to a section of floating ice in the distance and tried to manipulate the fish into position.

Eventually it seemed to have decided to head for solid ground and I captured this shot just after the heron had taken off from the ice. I tracked it in the air as it flew to a little island in the middle of the bay, where I hope it was able to finally swallow the fish.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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