Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Trip Report – Bald Eagle Photography Workshop 2018 – B

In Trip Report by Matt Shetzer

Joining us for the 2nd Bald Eagle photography workshop in 2018 was Barry and Paula from Colorado, Ron and Brenda from California, and Joe and Fred from Arizona. We all met in Haines, Alaska and the valley of eagles.

Judy, a local guide from Haines, and Matt met all the guests at the ferry terminal as they arrived on Monday. The guests had a beautiful ride on the ferry, although early, they got to watch the sun rise and nature show-off the beautiful mountains of the Alaskan Coastal range.

Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Matt, Fred, Barry, Paula, Judy, Joe, Mary Brenda and Joe for the 2018 Alaska Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

As we met everyone we loaded up and took a short tour through the small town of Haines. We got everyone checked into their rooms and settled. In the afternoon we met for a discussion on proper exposure, histograms and the basic camera settings for photographing the eagles to get a head start on the eagle photography as we head to the field tomorrow.

Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Paula and Barry from Colorado attend the Bald Eagle Workshop for a third year.

As evening approached, we headed out for dinner at a local restaurant to enjoy the many Alaskan dishes including salmon and halibut and got to know everyone during dinner and talked about the exciting days ahead.

Tuesday
We woke to lots of rain in town, and headed up to the bald eagle preserve where the weather can be much better. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, so we found a covered area with eagles in view to practice using our histograms and exposure techniques to get a perfect exposure.

As the rain eased, we found an eagle on a branch that was extremely close. The guests all got nice eagle portraits that you we think were a captive shot. So much fun when you can do it in the wild.

Heading up to a remote area towards the Canadian border, the rain turned to snow and we were instantly in a winter wonderland. We took some photos and keep looking for bald eagles, and trumpeter swans. We did see 6 trumpeter swans, but they were quite far away.

As the snow turning to rain, and the forecast indicated we were getting a lot more rain this afternoon, we headed back into town for lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon discussing photographic techniques such as composition, autofocus settings, birds in flight and what makes a quality image.

The group went out to dinner at a local restaurant that specializes in Thai food. After a great meal and getting to know everyone, we headed back to the hotel for a little rest as the remainder of the weeks forecast looks much better

Wednesday

Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Joe and Fred with a photo bomb from Ron and an eagle. Joe and Fred were college roommates 51 years ago! How cool is that !

As we headed out to the Bald Eagle preserve before sunrise, we came upon a large bull moose. Such a massive animal. We headed down to a new sandbar on the river where the eagles were congregating, and 10-15 eagles perched at two locations offered nice compositions showing the sheer number of eagles in the area. When you see 6 eagles sharing the same perch, it is such a unique composition.

The action today was excellent, as we watched the eagles haul out four 13lb salmon back to back. Each time a fish was hauled out, the eagles would fight over the fish and the guests captured great action shots and eagles in flight in the nice light.

Some of the behaviors we photographed today:

  • Bald Eagles bathing
  • Eagles catching fish, and hauling them out of the river
  • Bald Eagles fighting
  • Eagles perched
  • Eagles swimming to shore with fish in talons.

As the sun set, we headed back into down for a little warmup, download all our images from the day. For dinner, the group went to the Haines harbor for more fresh salmon and halibut.

Tonight, during the photo workshop, we discussed more techniques, and went into detail the benefits of back button focus for eagles

Thursday
This morning we headed out before sunrise as the forecast was clear. As the sun came up, the mountains in the preserve were glowing pink offering us nice landscapes of the scenic preserve. As arrived at the Bald eagle grounds, there were tons of eagles fighting over fish. The eagles were flying around and in front of the mountains for that true Alaskan Bald Eagle shot.

Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Ron and Mary Brenda from sunny California.

When the eagles fishing slowed down, we took advantage of the landscapes as the beautiful vertical mountains of the area were painted nicely with light. We photograph the Klelini mountain valley, and a beautiful lake just 10 miles South of the British Columbia border.

Back to the eagle grounds for lunch, and as we were eating, the eagles hauled a couple more salmon. The eagles put on a great show as they were flying around and attacking each other for the fish. Later in the day, we headed over to Chilkoot river and lake. We were treated to a beautiful reflecting scene with the mountains and the glacial fed lake that glows green.

In the valley the bald eagles were perched in the Sikta Spruce trees providing an image meant for a Christmas card. In addition, there was an eagle on a lichen covered rock eating a Dolly Varden trout.

As the sun began to set, we headed over to a picturesque point for our final shots of this photography filled day. The sun painted the Alaskan Coastal range mountain tops pink over the Lynn Canal as the moon set above the mountains. That image is going on the wall.

As darkness came, we headed back to the hotel to download all over the images taken today and a quick break before our group dinner.

Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Fred enjoying the up close Bald Eagle photography

Some of the other species of animals we’ve seen during the workshop:

  • Moose
  • Mergansers
  • American Dippers
  • Ravens
  • Crows
  • Tons of bear prints
  • Trumpeter Swans

Tonight, we are having dinner at the SE Alaska fairgrounds location, where the set of the movie White Fang was filmed. Dinner was at a yummy new Mexican restaurant, in the film’s town of Dalton where the bar scenes were filmed.

Friday
An hour before sunrise, the sky starting to go red, and we headed up well before sunrise to capture natures show. We had a beautiful morning overlooking Lynn Canal as the mountains, sky and water all glowed red. We photographed this beautiful sunrise with tidal flats reflecting the red glow. I’ve never seen such a beautiful sunrise here as the whole sky looked to be on fire. What a great start to the day.

Today we had lots of action in the South side of the Bald Eagle preserve. The eagles were very active today flying around and attacking each other over the salmon on the Chilkat river.

Just above us was an eagle eating a salmon in a tree. We had lots of great opportunities this morning.

Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Matt and Paula working on new photography techniques. Way to go Paula for mastering Manaul Mode!

For lunch, we headed to an old Alaskan roadhouse that specializes in tasty burgers. Big burgers were ordered for everyone and a couple enjoyed the fresh pie. This was everyone’s favorite eatery.

Back to the Bald Eagle preserve for more action, and we continued to photograph until the sun went behind the mountains. We headed back to town for a short break and review of the day’s images.

Tonight, during our classroom time, we discussed HDR (High Dynamic Range) images and processing and reviewed everyone’s images for discussion. This is such an important part of photography, so we can continue to improve every day.

Saturday
We woke to a very heavy snowfall of 6” in town. We headed out to the eagle preserve and the road had not been plowed yet, so we took it very slowly on the way out and saw two cow moose right on the side of the road. As we approached the preserve the trees were beautiful with all the snow in them.

There were lots of Bald Eagles and action as we arrived. Many eagles were perched on a log making for a great composition with the falling snow, and many were perched very close to us.

As this was our last full day of the workshop, therefore we offered two options, stay in the preserve and photograph the eagles with Matt, or an Alaskan cultural tour in Haines with Judy.

Those opting to stay in the preserve with Matt were treated lots of eagle fighting up close in the South side of the preserve. So close, a 200-300mm lens was ideal.

Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Joe, another manual exposre convert. Way to go Joe!

Judy’s group headed back into town and went out for a nice lunch followed by a local museums exhibit on the Tlingit Indian culture, the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest including the Haines area. The museum also had interesting exhibit about a historic Alaskan shipwreck.

We joined together again for dinner followed by a presentation on how to post process images with Photoshop and Lightroom.

Sunday
On our last day of the workshop, we headed out before sunrise to make the most of the day. As we arrived at our first shooting location, the eagles were attacking each other, and then one flew away with the fish.

We did some real nice close-ups of the bald eagles while we waited for more action. As we were wrapping up the close-ups the eagles began attacking each other over fish again. The behavior provided great opportunity for inflight images with the eagles banking showing all their beautiful feather detail.

As the afternoon came, we had some fun taking group photos and headed back to town for lunch, to pack up and head to the Alaska Marine Highway ferry for everyone’s return home.

We had such a great group with lots of beginner photographers that really explored new ways to capture images. It is such a thrill to see everyone so excited about the images they capture. I want to thank everyone for such a great week, and to Judy for joining us again this year!

Bald Eagle Photo Workshop

Judy, Joe, Fred, Paula, Barry, Mary Brenda and Ron in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.

Trip Report – Bald Eagle Photography Workshop 2018 – B was last modified: November 28th, 2018 by Matt Shetzer