Updated: Feb 27
Why a Wonder: One of the best places in the world to photograph both bald eagles in flight and humpback whales bubble-net feeding.
Where: Coastal waters of southeastern Alaska aboard a live-aboard boat. I recommend the M/V Norther Song.
When: April, during the herring spawning season.
Bald Eagle Photography: Birds in flight (BIF) photographs are some of the hardest photographs to take. You need to practice a lot to get sharp shots. . . so don’t be discouraged when you start out.
Camera settings are important. Choose Animal Tracking, Eye-Detection, Continuous Focus and High Frame Rate. Set a shutter speed of at least 1/1000th of a second to freeze the action. Go for wings up or wing down shots. Capture gesture. Be sure the eye is in focus.
A telephoto lens in the 100-500mm range is good choice, but the longer the lens the more camera shake you get, the less depth of field you have, and the harder it is to track the BIF. A Gimbal Head is a good camera support and makes tracking fast-moving subjects easier . . . once you get used to using it. Set your exposure so the highlights (white feathers) are not washed out.
Shoot with both eyes open, so you can see what is outside your viewfinder – perhaps other eagles in the sky that you may want to photograph or include in your frame.
Photographing from a boat or Zodiac gives you a good opportunity to get close to the birds.
Bubble Net Feeding Photography: The key ingredient for getting good photographs of bubble-net feeding is luck: you need to be in the right place at the right time. With that in mind, you'll need to be on a boat with a knowledgeable captain or skilled naturalist.
While on a boat, scan the horizon line and look for sudden congregations of sea birds hovering close to the surface of the water. This indicates that fish are being forced to the surface – trying to escape the net.
On a boat, go to a high deck, so you can look down on the circle of bubbles and into the mouths of the whales. Be prepared with wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses, as the activity can come very close to the boat.
Once the action starts to happen, shoot fast, as it may only last for two or three lunges.
Learn More: Learn more about photographic composition in this KelbyOne class, The 20 Time-Proven Rules of Composition.
© Rick Sammon
This post sponsored by Volatus wine.