What my recent trip to Alaska lacked in eagles in action was more than made up for by cooperative eagles in beautiful light. I photographed hundreds of images of eagles waiting for a decisive moment to unleash a glaring stare or unrestrained call. Most of my best new images involve direct eye contact. I mostly deleted my images where the eagles were simply too complacent. This image resonated with me because the eagle’s stand-up attention made it appear noble and proud. However, this common anthropomorphization does not necessarily agree with their lazy and opportunistic nature. I created this image with my Canon 7D and 500mm f4 IS lens using minimal digital processing. For this photo, I precisely positioned my camera so as to render the distant snow-capped mountain, forest, and bushes as pleasing bokeh. I always advise photographers that, when using a long telephoto lens, what is behind the subject is just as important as the subject.
I just got back from leading my 2010 Haines Bald Eagle Photography Tour. It was awesome, but Alaska always is. I had 4 clients signed up to join me, but at the last minute only 2 were able to attend. This was the first time that I worked with Paul & Kim and we had a great time together. Paul had never used a real camera prior to our trip and was skeptical about taking a photo tour, but I made him a believer in dSLRs as his photography skills improved each day. There were not as many eagles around this year, possibly due to the unusually warm fall weather, but we made the most of the opportunities we had. What was lacking in eagle numbers and activity was more than made up for by close-up portraits in beautiful golden light. To create this image, I used my Canon 7D with a 500mm f4 IS lens and 1.4X tele-converter. That is effectively an 1120mm lens! If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend micro-adjusting your camera bodies and lenses. I can not believe how sharp my images are after doing so, especially when using the tele-converter. I was able to get within 15 feet of this cooperative eagle for almost an hour. I placed my camera in a position so that the trees bathed in golden light behind the eagle rendered as this pleasing red bokeh. I like this image because of the eagle’s open beak when it briefly called out to another eagle flying by.
I want to share another one of my favorite Atlantic puffin images from the bird cliffs at Latrabjarg in the Northwestern Fjords of Iceland. It took me 9 years to return to this fantastic location so that I could photograph these cute birds. I was fortunate that the clouds parted late in the evening allowing the sun to bathe the cliffs in golden light. I like this puffins open beak with the fantastic bokeh background of the cliffs behind it.
Yesterday, I spent 6 hours editing, processing, keywording, and sizing my Atlantic puffin photographs for the web. As busy as my summer is, I am not going to finish processing the rest of my Iceland trip any time soon. This is one of my favorites. I like how the puffin’s breast is pointing forward with the orange bokeh from the sunset illuminating the cliff. I always preach that the most important part of a great wildlife image is not the subject, but what is going on behind it. Clean, simple background like cliffs and mountains in the distance yield the best results. I created this image with my Canon 7D and 400mm f4 DO IS lens on a Gitzo GT2931 tripod with an Acratech Ultimate ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.
This is my favorite Atlantic puffin image from my Iceland trip. I had wanted to do-over the puffins I shot on my first visit to Iceland 9 years ago. I was glad they were still around, though not in the same numbers I remembered. I only spent 1 night photographing them on the cliffs at Latrabjarg, but was fortunate the sky was clear at sunset which bathed the puffins in golden light. Just when I thought I would have the cliffs to myself, a tour group showed up. I can’t complain because I moved around enough to avoid the puffin-jams and still photographed some beautiful poses. The cliffs are between 50-100m high, so I got as close to the edge as I was comfortable, but people have fallen to their deaths by getting too close, including an unfortunate German tourist a week after my visit. My heart went out to his family when I heard the news. I’ve got many more puffin & Iceland images to share in the weeks ahead.
I am pleased to announce that my article about using my own boat to photograph Southeast Alaska is in the May issue of Popular Photography! The opening double page image is of a humpback whale swimming along with its mouth open after bubble-feeding. My article features 10 landscape & wildlife images from my last 3 summers in Alaska. I look forward to working with Popular Photography again in the near future.
Coincidentally, it is almost summer, which means it is time for me to photograph Alaska. My summer plans include using my boat for several weeks in May-June to visit Icy Bay on the south side of Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Russell Fjord in the Tongass National Forest. Later in the summer, I will photograph humpback whales, and in August I am shipping it to Whittier where I will base it on Prince William Sound for the next few years. Wish me luck!
I stayed home the last 4 weeks, so I was able to accomplish some serious photo editing. It has been hard work, but also fun reliving all of last years’ amazing adventures and discovering some real gems that I missed during my initial edits, like this bald eagle portrait. I photographed this majestic bird during my Haines Bald Eagle Photo Tour last November. My 3 clients all had a great time, learned a ton, & came home with some real keepers. I already have requests from several people to go back this November. Since I will not take more than 4 clients on my trips, space will be very limited.
This is a cute tufted puffin that I photographed last June in Lituya Bay on the remote outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. During my visit, I used my inflatable boat to explore the sea bird cliffs on the south side of Cenotaph Island. There were thousands of kittiwakes but only a few breeding pairs of tufted puffins. The puffins constantly flew back and forth from the tops of the cliffs down to the water to fish. Through my persistence, I was eventually able to drift close enough to this puffin to take its picture with my 500mm lens. I like the dark green water and pink reflection of the cliffs on the water behind it.
There are only an estimated 1500 endangered ae’o or Hawaiian stilts in the world. I saw about 10 of them yesterday afternoon when I drove down to the Koloko-Honokohau National Park fishponds. I thought about throwing the 500 f4 lens in the car as I left my room, but decided not to bring it. After I pulled into the parking area and got out to look around, I immediately observed the stilts lined up on the edge of the fishpond. After about 15 minutes, I decided to drive back to my room and get the big lens. When I returned with the 500, the ae’o let me approach close enough to take some nice portraits. I like this image because the bird’s long leg is out of the water as it is hunting for prey.