Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bald Eagle

My friends have been going to Honeymoon Island and Anclote Key, here in Florida, where there are known active Eagle nests. Although I don't have a lens nearly long enough to successfully shoot these beautiful birds, I thought I'd give it a try anyway.

I've never seen a Bald Eagle in the wild before and I must say that finding a pair nesting was quite the thrill. This is either the male or the female. For a long time, probably an hour and a half I watched the nest and only saw the Eaglets (there are two of them at this nest) popping their heads out every now and then. Mom and Dad were somewhere else and I assumed they were out hunting. Well you all know what assumed stands for. Mom and Dad were both there, very close to the nest keeping a watchful eye on their cute little Eaglets. It took a while for me to spot them. Each parent was hidden in different, but nearby trees.

An Osprey on the hunt flew over the nest and Mom and Dad came to the rescue, each of them perching in the open on two separate branches just above the nest. I know they had nothing to fear from the Osprey, since Osprey only eat fish, but they let him know that they were there to protect their babies in case he got any funny ideas. It was amazing to watch them squawking at the Osprey until he left the air above the nest. I also know that the Eagles knew they had nothing to fear from the Osprey. It was as if they were telling him that this was their territory and that they were mightier than the Osprey. Besides, there was two of them.

I waited for another hour, but they never went into the nest to feed their young. I guess it was the wrong time of day. It was quite an amazing experience. One that has convinced me that more than ever I need a longer lens.

Settings for this image in very tricky, contrasty light were: ISO 200 because the light was very bright, Aperture Priority Mode at F5.6 to ensure a fast enough shutter speed to contain any movement and + 1 2/3 exposure compensation to keep from burning out the shadows since the Eagle was backlit from the sky. I used two cameras with 2 lens combinations: on the tripod, I had my Canon EOS 40D with a 75-300mm lens and a 2X tele-extender, and I hand held my 20D with the 55-250mm lens attached. This was shot with the 55-250mm at 250mm. The 75-300 lens isn't that great a lens and I knew it was pretty useless to try it with a 2x tele-extender on it. I'm glad I kept the 55-250mm handy because the other lens, while it gave me a lot more distance, there was so much chromatic aberrations (purple fringing in high contrast areas) that the photos I took with it were pretty much useless. I had a feeling that would happen. I was hoping the better camera might make up for the loss in quality with the lens/tele-extender combination. It's always good to be prepared.
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