Amazing Eagle Tour 2011

March 2011 Bald Eagle workshop series report

Now that I am back in the office and looking back at the last twenty something days in Alaska, its hard to find words to describe them. The three weeks were simply amazing, three sold out workshops, tons of eagles, great weather and unlimited opportunities. Compared to the previous six years, this year has to go down as one of the best. Two of the workshop participants were in the same area to photograph bald eagles in Homer in 2005-2006 and they both agreed the opportunities during this workshop were better by far.

Landing eagle making a threat call, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D700 and SIGMA 150-500 mm APO OS HSM lens @ 300mm, 1/1600 sec at F8, manual metering, no flash, ISO 800. Subject distance: 21 m. Image Copyright 2011 Robert OToole / Robert OToole Photography.

March weather in coastal Alaska can be harsh and very cold but this year we were blessed with mild weather and each of the three groups were lucky enough to have sunny days. As usual I brought my entire lens arsenal, complete with a 500/4 and a couple of new lenses on loan from Sigma USA. My favorite lens camera lens combination for this trip were my D700 and Sigma 150-500 EX OS HSM lens (thanks Sigma USA). I used my standard setting for birds in flight, Manual mode, 1/1250th – 1/2000th of a second at F8. My ISO settings ranged from 200 to 2000. Most workshop participants found the 70-200mm zooms with and without 1.4X converters to be very effective for action while longer lenses were useful for static images and portraits.

Eagle on the attack, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D700 and SIGMA 150-500 mm APO OS HSM lens @ 200mm, 1/2000 sec at F8, manual metering, no flash, ISO 640. Subject distance: 15 m. Image Copyright 2011 Robert OToole / Robert OToole Photography.

This image was made during a session that I will never forget, one of the greatest photography sessions in my life. Warm, soft morning sun, wind at our back, smooth water and an eagle attacking head on. For a bird photographer, this means eagle photography heaven. The only potential problem that goes through your mind in a situation like this, do I have enough memory?

Eagle banking against show covered peaks and spruce trees, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D700 and SIGMA 150-500 mm APO OS HSM lens @ 290mm, 1/1600 sec at F8, manual metering, no flash, ISO 640. Subject distance: 21 m. Image Copyright 2011 Robert OToole / Robert OToole Photography.

A moment after the LCD review image popped up I sighed with relief when I could see that I avoided any clipped wing tips. The tree line curve follows the wing position nicely.

First year Juvenile eagle claiming a carcass with a threat call, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D700 and SIGMA 150-500 mm APO OS HSM lens @ 500mm, 1/1600 sec at F8, manual metering, no flash, ISO 640. Subject distance: 15 m. Image Copyright 2011 Robert OToole / Robert OToole Photography.

This image was made at one of my favorite sand banks, only shoot-able on a low or medium tide. I asked our guide and captain to maneuvered the bow of our boat up on to the bank to put my group at eye level with more than a dozen eagles. A special situation to experience to say the least. The soft blue backgrounds at this spot are just superb.

If you would like to join me on the next Bald Eagle workshop series please send me an email right away to be placed on the interest list. The last three workshops sold out quickly. The 2011 workshop details have been finalized and will be announced here within the next 24 hours. Shoot me an  email, Robert at Robert OToole Photography.com,  if you have any questions.