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Posts Tagged ‘birds in flight’

I watched and waited for an extended period of time yesterday as this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) groomed itself in a tree overlooking one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was pretty much in the open at the edge of the trail and did not dare to move forward for fear of spooking the eagle. Fortunately I had my camera and long telephoto zoom lens on a monopod, because I know from experience that I would not have been able to hold it pointed upwards for that long a period of time.

I tried to stay as alert and ready as I could, which can be quite a challenge after a while. Sometimes a bird will signal its intent to take off, but this eagle took off without a warning. Acting on instinct mostly, I managed to capture the first image when the eagle was just clearing the edge of the branches. In the second shot, I clipped off the edge of the wings, but decided to include it to give you an idea of the challenge of trying to track the speed a bird when it first takes off. The final image shows you what the eagle looked like when it was perched in the tree before the takeoff.

bald eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Over the past few months I have repeatedly heard the screaming of hawks in the distance, but it has been rare for me to actually catch sight of one. I was thrilled therefore when I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The hawk soared almost directly over me, providing me with a wonderful view of its fully extended wings and red tail.

This was one of the few cases when it was not an advantage to have my camera attached to a monopod. I ended up taking this shot with the camera held at a high angle with monopod sticking straight out, almost parallel to the ground.

Red-tailed Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I walk the trails parallel to the water at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I try to stay alert, because I never know when a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) will come zooming by, as this one did last week.

I had my camera already set to relatively appropriate settings and my biggest challenge was to acquire the eagle in my viewfinder before it flew out of sight. I was fortunate that the eagle was flying on a level plane, so I did not have to worry about having to zoom the lens in or out. I took a burst of shots and the image below was the one that I liked the best, primarily because of the wing position and the catch light in the eye.

Each opportunity to photograph a bird in flight is unique. I never know when circumstances will work together to permit me to capture a good in-flight image, but it feels almost magical when somehow I do.

 

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It has been quite a while since I last got a shot of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), so I was really happy when I saw this young one in the distance earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Experienced birders can tell the age of a Bald Eagle by its coloration. All I know for sure that it is less that five years old, the age at which the head feathers turn white, though I have the impression that it is pretty young.

As is often the case, the eagle spotted me right afterwards and took to the air, but I managed to get a shot as the eagle flew off. When it comes to eagles, it is always a challenge to get a shot, because the eagle’s eyesight is so much better than mine and its reaction time so much quicker.  I therefore have to react almost instantly when I see one and then hope that luck is on my side.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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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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