Friday, November 26, 2010

Bald Eagles Along The Susquehanna (Day 1)

Each fall Joan and I take a short weekend trip to the southern part of the Susquehanna River to view and photograph Bald Eagles that have migrated there from the north.  The spot along a Fisherman's access area just below the Conowingo Power generation dam.  The eagles find it easy to find fish there when the generators are running at the dam.  It raises the water level while at the same time churning the water which brings many fish close to the surface.  On Friday the 19th of November I stopped counting at 70 Eagles in the tress and along the bank.  I took one picture across the river and had 13 eagles in the picture while using a 600mm lens.  There is also a Great Blue Heron rookery there on an island below the dam.  It is not uncommon to see 50 plus great blues.  It is certainly a bird watcher and photographer paradise.

The Eagles in the trees can present a back lighting problem, but it is a great opportunity to practice those types of shots by playing with exposure settings as well as using a better beamer to fill flash the birds.  All of these shots were with a Canon Mark IV 1D with Canon 600mm f4 lens on a Gitzo Tripod using a Wimberley Head and the IS was turned off on the lens.

The eagles are amazing.  The fish seem to be plentiful and easy to catch.  However, when one catches one, others swoop in to try to steal it away.

Canon Mark IV 1D; Canon 600 f4; at f5.6, 1/800, ISO400 EC +1
This shutter speed would normally be too slow (I like to keep at 1/1250 minimum) to capture a flying eagle crisply-I caught them at a moment in flight when they were changing direction so their speed of flight was down and it allowed a good crisp shot.

Canon Mark IV 1D; Canon 600 f4 at f5.6; 1/1000 ISO 500 EC+1
I used the eye as my focal point on this shot and could probably have taken the aperture to f8 to get a deeper depth of field-but the picture actually turned out well.

The next series of shots is a sequence of an eagle catching a fish--notice after he has caught it and begins to get airborne that he actually checks to see if he has the fish!

f6.3; 1/3200 ISO 1000 EC +.33

f6.3; 1/2500 ISO 1000 EC +.33

f6.3 1/2500 ISO 1000 EC+.33

f6.3 1/2500 ISO 1000 EC +.33

f6.3 1/2500 ISO 1000 EC+.33

The next shot was after another sequence of shots were the eagle caught one-but then he lost it.  After he found he lost it, he circled back and picked the fish out of the water again. 

f6.3 1/1250 ISO 800 EC 0.0

This was a difficult shot to get.   The eagle with the fish was being pursued by 5 other eagles and they kept getting blinded from me by a row of trees along the river bank.  Finally they came out into the open and I was able to get a burst of shots of the chase with this one being the best.

f6.3 1/6400 ISO 1000 EC +.33

After many tries on many trips I was finally able to get a Bald Eagle in a well lighted dive for a fish.  This one was with the 1.4tc on the 600mm lens giving a focal length of 840mm (or about 17x magnification)

f7.1 1/3200 ISO 640 EC +.33


Until Next Time!
Jim Borden

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pa Elk in the Fall

We have been busy with business and family the past few weeks but have had time to visit Elk County Pennsylvania before the beginning of the Elk Season.  We saw over 275 different elk in the Benezett area-all of them in the hunt zone.  All of these elk were very acclimated to human interaction.  It is very difficult to understand those that support the hunt 100% when one sees how tame these elk are.  Their claims that they go into the back country and the elk are not tame there is certainly a misunderstanding of the facts.  The PGC claims the elk herd is about 700 to 800 animals.  With that in mind I observed about 1/3 of the entire herd in two days at benezett.  Joan and I took a walk back in the woods and I was able to walk within 15 yards of a small herd of elk resting in the woods.  They showed no signs of fear and remained laying down while I photographed them.  A certain faction of the individuals that I have conversed with from the area that are avid hunters and members of the Keystone Elk Alliance have begun calling some of us anti-hunters because we oppose the Pa Elk Hunt.  One individual's conversations are laced with veiled violent rhetoric and he has even said the anti hunters better be careful in the woods during the hunt because they might get hurt.  It is sad to see that some of these individuals can not have an adult conversation about the pros and cons of how the hunt is run and a discussion of the facts concerning the hunt showing that it is not a fair chase hunt.  It is also sad that they can not understand that many of us that oppose the Pa Elk Hunt are avid hunters and Sportsmen!

With that part of it aside-we had a great time viewing and photographing the elk.
Canon Mk IV 1D; 600 f4 at f4 1/100; ISO 2500 EC +.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; 600 f4 at f4; 1/160 ISO 2000 ec+.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; Canon 600mm f4 at f4 1.40; ISO4000 ec+.67

Canon Mk IV 1 D; Canon 600 f4 at f4; 1/100 ISO 2500 EC +.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; canon 600 f4 at f4.5; 1/125 ISO 4000 EC +.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; Canon 600 f4 at f4.5; 1/125 ISO 4000 EC +.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; Canon 600 f4 at f4; 1/60 ISO2000

Since most of the good photo opportunities were early in the morning and late in the evening, it gave us a good chance to really push the ISO capabilities of the camera.  I had previously thought I would need to stop at ISO 2000 to retain good picture quality-but this trip proved that theory wrong.  I was able to take high quality pictures up to an including ISO 4000.

here is a parting shot.  Joan took this picture of me after we had walked to the back of the reclaim area in hunt zone 2.  I had walked across the open field area toward the elk to see if they would spook-the wind was to my back and I was in the open.  I walked to within 15 yards of the elk and they did not show any signs of fear or anxiousness.  This is the spot where friends had been a few weeks prior and the archer and/or the archer's "guide" that were hunting there made claims that "anti's" had interfered with the hunt.  No one spooked any elk or attempted to spook any elk and the archer could have directly walked up to the elk if he had so chosen.

Until next time

Jim Borden