Christmas Eagles

Bald eagle perched on a branch in Eleven Mile Canyon

I don’t normally go to Eleven Mile Canyon on weekends because there are so many fisherman driving up and down looking for the perfect spot that I’m sure they will scare away all the raptors. But being Christmas Eve day I thought I might get the canyon to myself so I went ahead and gave it a shot. Much to my surprise there were no fishermen, but there were quite a few eagle watchers! It’s been a while since I’ve seen the eagle watching crowd.

I encountered my first eagle perched in a tree before the bend, unfortunately there wasn’t much light at that point. I noticed my Canon R7 was selecting ISO 6400 with the shutter and aperture I was using, which is well over what I would like to see.

Bald eagle taking flight in Eleven Mile Canon Colorado

Shutter priority with auto ISO seemed like the best solution and I dialed the speed back to about a 500th of a second, which brought the ISO down to a 1000th of a second on this (above) shot. One good thing about low light and bald eagles is the subdued light doesn’t blow out the white feathers so easily. When it looked like the eagle was getting agitated I quickly dialed the shutter speed up to a 1250th of a second which is a bit less than I would like to have for a bird in flight, but in this case I thought less noise from one stop less of ISO amplification might be worth it.

Eventually the great bird took flight and took a fairly advantageous path, almost right at me. Animal tracking did a pretty good job of keeping the flying raptor in focus until he flew behind a bush where I lost focus and never recovered. But I was happy that the first dozen or so captures turned out pretty well, especially for a 1250th of a second. I find a wide band of  focus region across the center of the viewfinder works well with the R7 mirrorless technology along with animal tracking and eye focus. That way the camera doesn’t become fooled by distracting branches above and below the subject, while retaining focus as the subject flies horizontally.

Bald eagles fishing in the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon ColoradoI cruised slowly past around the bend when I spotted a group of trucks parked at the main tree on the south end. The sun was in my eyes and I couldn’t see a thing, but I was pretty sure what the commotion was all about. All the other photographers were remaining in their vehicles with better position that I had, so I just parked and walked around the bend looking for a better light angle. I found a good rock to sit on with the sun shining brightly on my side of the majestic raptor. The white feathers were extremely bright so I had to dial down the exposure compensation to almost -3 to avoid over exposure. Then I waited… and waited and waited some more. By the time the bird was ready to fly all the other photographers had given up and only I remained.

My arms were quivering from holding the camera at the ready, but I really wanted this picture! Unfortunately at the last second he turned around and faced downstream for the takeoff. Then there was no light on his face and he flew directly away from me. But I did get a couple of really nice shots of him on that beautiful old tree!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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Colorado Author and Photographer Wildlife 2023

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