Tons of people have asked how I am getting the high quality Eagle Photos, so I will focus this post on giving out all most of my secrets!
To get shots like this, lets walk through the steps.
Know your gear: I can’t begin to tell you how many people ask me a question in the field and I gladly give them answer, but then don’t know how to adjust their own camera. I am a Canon shooter and all setting and screen shots will be Canon. Nikon have all the same settings, you will just have to hunt for them.
- Shutter Speeds = 1/1600 or higher. At 1/1250 you will still get some wing blur.
- ISO = 400 to 800. Some high-end camera’s can go faster, but be careful for noise.
- Aperture = high as possible, I like to shot at f 7.1 or 8
- Depending on light I shoot in Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority.
- Fastest continual shutter speed your camera will drive. (Drive Mode)
- Exposure Settings. It is so easy to “Blow” out an Eagles white heads and tail feathers!
- Adjust your EV settings in the field as needed and even as the light changes.
- I will shoot as high as + 1 & 2/3 on a cloudy day.
Advanced Camera Settings:
In order to track a flying bird, slow down your auto-focus tracking sensitivity to as SLOW are you can get it. This will prevent other things that pop in and out of your frame from grabbing focus. It also helps to speed up focusing.
On my Canon 1 DX I use setting #2
Micro Adjustment of telephoto lens:
I use a wooden ruler as a cheaper way to do this.
I find myself using three different types.
Tripod with a full Gimbal Head: this is what most of the serious guys use. My camera and lens combo is right at 14 pounds, so it gets heavy.
Monopod: I find that for most situations this works best for me. I use a Really Right Stuff Head on my monopod. This allows me to move more easy and I have way better luck tracking birds in flight.
Thanks Sriti for the use of your photo.
BushHawk: I use this for when I want to hand hold. It is great for faster moving birds and high fly overs that you can’t track with the Gimbal.
OK, so are we finally ready to hit the field? I use this website to track the Eagles on the Mississippi to see where they are gathering at. The public can get the closest to the Eagles at Lock & Dam 14 just South of Le Claire Iowa.
- The pros say to expect keeper rate of 1 out of a 100.
- First time out I shot over 2,000 to get 38.
- Practice on common birds, so when you special bird comes along you will be able to increase your chances.
- If shooting eagles, gulls are great to practices on, and set your white balance.
Know your Subject:
- Mostly birds land into the wind and always fish into the wind.
- Most birds will launch into the wind.
- Use your natural light
- East side of a river in the morning
- West side of the river in the afternoon
- Flashes tend to turn the birds
- Some use “Better Beamer” extenders
- Blue skies with clouds provides nice backgrounds!
Back Button Focus: will really help with your keeper rate and not ending up with unwanted photos.
Top Ten Tips:
Tip #1: Watch your composition.
Tip #2: Adjust your elevation.
Tip #3: Adjust your camera settings.
Tip #4: Use the user programmable modes.
Tip #5: Shoot away from the sun.
Tip #6: Shoot in short bursts of 2 or 3 images.
Tip #7: Don’t skimp on depth-of-field.
Tip #8: Shoot with both eyes open.
Tip #9: Pay attention to the background.
Tip #10: Don’t skimp on Image Stabilization.
This is the biggest area I still need improvement and am working on. I am trying to leverage and follow most of these steps. I will say, as a rule Less is More!
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