Bald Eagles

In Summer 2012 I was attending a cruise to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. It was a fantastic voyage with lots of wildlife. I have already shared an experience with a Bald Eagle loosing his catch earlier last year.
In Amalik Bay we did a short tour through channels and bays with a small rubber boat, called Zodiac. We were in search for more wildlife, mainly bears and eagles. The tour started smooth. We were slowly cruising along the coast of small islands and peninsulas, carefully watching trees and bushes. It didn't take long until we saw a Bald Eagle. It was sitting at a higher branch of a tree, watching the surrounding.

400mm  f/5.6  1/400sec  ISO800  +2/3EV

The scene was quite away but with my 400mm lens I tried to catch the eagle. That was not that easy, because the small rubber boat was shaking and moving a bit. Due to overcast sky the light conditions were not good and shutter speeds tend to be too long. So I had to increase ISO value to get reasonable speeds. To work against boat movements I rested my arm onto my knee and tried to hold as still as possible. With every shot I did a lot of continuous releases. My hope was that at least one of those would be of good quality. We had some time to watch the eagle until he decided to spread his wings and flew away.

400mm  f/5.6  1/400sec  ISO800  +2/3EV

We continued our tour through the bay and soon we spotted another Bald Eagle. This time he was sitting on top of a small tree. We got the chance to get closer to him and luckily this doesn't disturb him. So I could take some photos where the main attraction was not that small. I again tried to compensate boat movement by taking lots of continuous shots in hope, at least one of it would be OK. The eagle carefully watched us, but stayed where his was, even if it seemed a bit uncomfortable to him. We again watched this eagle for a while and continued our tour afterwards.

400mm  f/5.6  1/400sec  ISO400  +1 1/3EV

On our way back to the cruise ship we spotted one last Bald Eagle sitting on a think branch. This time the background was quite dark and therefore the eagle was exposed perfectly. And again we could get quite near to it and my 400mm lens was able to frame it nicely. These birds are so majestic and beautiful. Their bright yellow beak and claws are impressive. The piercing gaze is amazing. After watching this bird for a while we finally had to get back to our vessel. A very impressive and exciting rubber boat tour came to an end.

400mm  f/5.6  1/400sec  ISO400  +1 1/3EV

I took these photos with my EOS 500D camera and as already mentioned with my excellent 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L zoom lens. Due to dark sky the settings were quite challenging. To avoid too much noise I increased ISO value up to 800 only. Shutter speeds were too slow. So I switched to Tv mode and set a fixed shutter speed of 1/400 sec which is minimum to shoot free hand at 400mm. If the resulting image was too dark I set exposure compensation to a higher value, up to 1 1/3 stops. Aperture value was calculated automatically but because of low light it was always at lowest possible value.
In the end I'm quite satisfied with my results. As I mentioned I took lots of photos, but it is easy for me to delete nearly all of them as long as there are a few good ones left.

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