Well I don’t know if the eagles were smiling but God definitely was smiling upon me this morning 🙂 All the places I usually go in the summer to photograph wildlife were closed this summer due to the virus so I was forced to find some new places and learn some new skills. As it turns out Eleven Mile Canyon is fairly close by and it’s big attraction is raptors and birds of various types. I have spent my summer honing my skills photographing eagles and osprey while watching the progress of our area’s favorite eaglet as he grows in strength and has finally learned to fly.
I started the summer with all my camera settings and skills calibrated for photographing large mammals and I have to say, birds in flight is a whole ‘nother game! Well anyway, today it all came together, including my finding the camping chair which has been lost for as long as I can remember… it was folded up and sitting in plain sight in my room of course but this morning I just happened to spot it, completely by accident 🙂
So off I went, just before sunrise in the hope of arriving just as the sun cleared the ridge to the east, providing perfect light over the eagles nest and the pristine waters of the South Platte River as it flows out of the Rockies on it’s journey through Nebraska to the Mighty Missouri.
With the warm sun spilling over my shoulders I set up my rig on the bank of the river with a “birds eye view” of the restricted raptor area on the west side. Ready for action, my camera set to Tv mode with auto ISO, 1/2000th of a second… plenty of shutter speed to capture an eagle in flight. I wasn’t too worried about the aperture, with my 1.4x extension attached I’m pretty much guaranteed the camera will use F8. I’d like a little faster but with the loss of a stop of light from the 1.4x, F8 is the widest my 400mm F5.6 can achieve. Usually I sit for hours with not much happening other than a little flapping of wings in the nest as the fledgling practices his newfound wing skills. The eaglet was indeed on the nest but I also spotted the mother eagle on a perch not far away so there was some hope that today could be special.
It wasn’t long and the youngster took flight and tried to join mom on the higher perch, but she was having none of it. The eaglet landed on a branch near her and immediately the mother eagle took flight and made a wide circle over the entire area before disappearing behind the mountain. Much to my surprise however, she was soon back and flying right over me at low altitude after which she just circled and circled for a good long time. with each pass I shot more images as she approached, while letting off the shutter as she turned her back to me in preparation for another pass.
Eventually she swooped in and landed in a tree above the fledgling. I thought the show might be over so I packed up to go visit the osprey further up the canyon, but after walking a few steps I looked back and all three eagles were in the air! It was clear the show wasn’t over so I just went and sat back down in my chair and decided to remain on the banks of the Platte until the heat of the day drove all the critters into the shade of the dense pines in the San Isabel National Forest.
And what a show it was, one by one each of the eagles went on a long flight above me, soaring high on the mountain air currents and circling past over and over, as if they knew I was ready and wanted me to photograph them! By the time the sun began to beat mercilessly down upon the forest I had accumulated over 800 images, almost all perfectly exposed and tack sharp 🙂
These I have included today are just a few of my favorite ones, there are many more including some cool shots of the red wings and some geese paddling by in the golden beauty of the early morning water that I photographed while waiting on the eagles 🙂
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