Bald Eagles in Alaska 2018

The Perfect Tour

The conditions for my two eagle tours last week were just about perfect. The quality of the light we enjoyed during the tour, was exceptional. The light level was high enough for a proper shutter speed to stop the action, but soft and diffused at the same time, and we alway seemed to have beautiful dark clouds in shades ranging from dark deep blue, to purples and grays. Take a quick look at the images below to see what I mean.

Eagle bank against dark stormy skies. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 180mm 1/4000th sec at f/4 ISO 200 handheld manual mode.

We were really very lucky this year to have falling snow for my first two groups. Snow might not be anything special for people living in the great lakes or the northeastern USA, but snow has been less and less frequent in Alaska over the last few years. If you don't believe me, locals told us that the snow last week was the first snow of the season!

Upside down against the clouds. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 120mm 1/2000th sec at f/4 ISO 400 handheld manual mode

The winds were nice and light over the entire week and the direction was perfect for some of my favorite spots. The favorable winds also allowed us to visit different spots almost every session, including one new spot that we shot at for the very first time.

Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 145mm 1/4000th sec at f/4 ISO 200 handheld.

Did we even see any eagles? The number of eagles for each shooting session last week was about 30 to 50, except for one session, where we had only a about a dozen or so, due to rise in the ambient temperature that normally causes a slow down in the action. 

Eagle and dark cloudy skies. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 300mm 1/2500th sec at f/4 ISO 200 handheld.

Shooting in winter in Alaska usually means struggling for decent shutter speeds, but this week with all the unbelievable light, I was able to maintain my shutter at about 1/2500 to 1/4000 for most of our time shooting. 

Eagle braking in-flight to avoid a collision. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 180mm 1/2000th sec at f/4 ISO 500 handheld.

My first two groups enjoyed so much high quality opportunities over the first half of the tour, that a few of the people chose to sit-out some of shooting on the last day. Our tour participants and I had a great time and lots of fun together over the five days of shooting. Many thanks to our participants for making the tours a big success.

Eagles under cloudy skies. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 135mm 1/1250th sec at f/5.6 ISO 400 handheld.

Each location we visit on the tour is chosen based on the conditions, sun, tide, and wind, using my 13 straight years of experience here to put my group in the very best spot possible for each session. Keeping the tour schedule flexible really paid off these year, we had a perfect success rate at every shooting session.

Eagle strike in perfect afternoon light. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 195mm 1/4000th sec at f/4 ISO 200 handheld.

With my first two groups finishing up this week, I will be leading the third and final eagle tour of the year next week. Interested in joining us next year? If an eagle photo tour in Alaska seems like something you are interested in 2019, I will be leading two eagle photo tours next season. For more info on the tours, visit this page for more details:

These two tours will sell out quickly, so don't be disappointed, please let me know right away if you are thinking about joining us next year.  

Once-in-a-lifetime Lion Encounter

Last week in South Africa I had an experience that left me with a sense of awe, one of the most unbelievable things I have seen or experienced in a decade as a wildlife photographer!

Once-in-a-lifetime Lion Encounter Video with our Ranger Omega.

As a wildlife photographer its part of my job to work close to my subjects, closer than ideal sometimes, but in this situation we came face to face with a predator, closeup, an arms length away. We got to see just how awesomely stealth a lion can be and how poor humans senses are, we never saw or heard the cat approach us. No one saw her until she was sitting on branch relaxing!!! If she had wanted to take one of us, no one in our land cruiser would not have known until after she had clamped down on that person's neck.

Up close and personal portrait. Sigma 120-300 S @220mm Nikon D500 1/800 f/4.0 ISO 560, manual mode EV -0.7

It all started earlier that morning as we were watching this lioness and her sisters play with the cubs in her pride. We decided to head out to look for leopards but as we left, one of the males jumped up and ran off at full speed, then another male did the same. We caught up with the two with a water buck in their jaws that moments earlier a leopard had originally taken down. Nothing in Africa will challenge two adult male lions over food. As we were watching the two males on the kill on our left, all of a sudden a lioness decided to climb up a dead tree next to our land cruiser on the right to get a better look.  We never saw or heard anything, yet there she was a few feet away. After this experience, our ranger Omega told me that this was closest he had ever been to a lion in his entire life!

Lioness in early morning light, uncropped image at 120mm. Sigma 120-300 S Nikon D500 1/800 f/4.0 ISO 560, manual mode EV -0.7

The situation was not as dangerous as it looks. The lions in the Sabi Sands are habituated to vehicles so they are simply seen as large objects that come and go and are not associated with humans or prey. So we were safe even though it looked dangerous. As the situation unfolded I was not afraid at all as the lioness would have already struck if its goal was to attack. Also the lioness showed no aggression or stress at all, even her ears were standing straight up and her tail was relaxed so I was not too worried but it was an awesome experience to see the completely wild and free cat just a few feet away.

More images and stories from my South Africa tour are coming next week. 

Any questions or comments please share them below or send me an email.