Trip Report – Bald Eagle Photography Workshop – November 2013

In Trip Report by Matt Shetzer

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Right off the ferry, we are welcomed to this beautiful state.

I would like to share our 2013 Bald Eagle Photography workshop with you and the activities we did during the week.  I’m always impressed with our great guests who love the outdoors and photography as much as I do and love to spend long days out in the field.

Day 1
Today the guests arrived on the Alaskan Marine Highway ferry from Juneau to Haines on the M/V Malaspina. Many have already been enjoying the sites in Juneau over the past day or so visiting the Mendenhall Glacier, and were treated to picturesque hoar frost, a glowing white ice covering the trees.
We loaded up everyone’s gear, took a tour through Haines and checked everyone into their hotel rooms. Then, we headed out for dinner, enjoying fresh Alaskan halibut and salmon.  Over dinner, we discussed our plans for the week and talked about the behavior of the bald eagles. This will help each photographer predict their motions in the field and get that GREAT shot.  Tomorrow, we will start the Bald Eagle photography and put in a full day capturing great images.

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The Alaskan Marine Highway’s M/V Malaspina arrives right on time with the guests of the 2013 Bald Eagle Photography workshop.

Day 2

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Ron with the an eagles who is ready to have its portrait taken.

We woke to the pitter patter of raindrops and everyone was prepared for a wet day out in the field.  As we drove out to the Bald Eagle preserve the rain stopped, and we enjoyed a long day of shooting the bald eagles. They were out in great numbers.

Some of the shots captured today included:
•    Bald Eagle in flight with salmon in their talons
•    Bald Eagles fighting over salmon
•    Bald Eagle eating salmon
•    Bald Eagles roosting in the trees
•    Ten to twenty Bald Eagles in a single composition
•    Bald Eagles attacking each other in flight
•    Bald Eagles screaming/crying with their head back

As the light faded at the end of the day, we packed up our gear and returned to town for a quick warm up. Then we were off to dinner at a fantastic Thai cuisine restaurant. We also had a discussion about camera techniques to improve upon the images of the eagles we’d taken during the first day out in the field.  We covered topics that will assist us to capture quality images of the flight shots and talked about different camera settings.

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A Bald Eagle comes right at us with salmon in its talons.

Day 3
We started well before sunrise this morning, heading out to a location that has been attracting lots of moose and trumpeter swans. We didn’t see any moose today, but we were able to watch the trumpeter swans swimming in a lake with beautiful reflections, and a few fly bys.
As the sun rose, the mountains started to peak out of the clouds and we turned our focus to landscapes and reflections of the rugged mountains on the Chilkat River. We had great morning, and we were back to concentrate on the Bald Eagles before 9 a.m.!Throughout the day, we saw many eagles fighting over salmon, and were fortunate to get very close to the action. The guests put away their long lens and used their 200-300mm to capture the action.  A few photographers were able to capture stunning images of eagles on moss covered logs as well as tack sharp in-flight images.

As the sun began to set, we headed over to take in the hospitality of the folks at the American Bald Eagle Foundation.  As we entered through the doors, Brian, the organization’s raptor handler, introduced us to Bella, one of their resident Bald Eagles.

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At the American Bald Eagle Foundation enjoying the close-up flight of an Eurasian Eagle owl.

He brought her right over to us on his glove so we could admire her from a few feet away in her mew.  Her size amazed everyone. To be that close to such a beautiful eagle is indescribable.  Brian answered questions from the group. Then we said goodbye to Bella, and were introduced to Hans, a Eurasian Eagle owl, which is the largest owl in North America.  As a treat, the handlers flew this owl right in front of us and let us admire her grace and beauty, and many took photos.

We spent the next hour admiring the other live raptures such as a Barr Owl and a Red Tailed Hawk, as well as the exhibits of bears, moose, wolverines and porcupines found in the museum – what a great organization.

After our visit to the American Bald Eagle Foundation, we headed back to the hotel for a short break, which gave us time to download the images we’d taken over the course of the day.  Then it was off to dinner at the best fish house in town, where we talked about the days adventures, and started planning tomorrows. During our photo workshop we covered topics such as HDR, filters, back button focus, white balance, RAW and started some post-processing discussions.

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An eagle displays the beautiful colors in its wings

Day 4
We awoke to clear skies and beautiful mountains all around us, and headed out with our landscape lenses for a fantastic shot of the sunlight kissing the Cathedral Peaks as the day began.  The after-sunrise light was also gorgeous, so we hurried up to the bald eagle grounds and composed many images of eagles on the limbs of trees, as well as eagles eating salmon and fighting.  It was everyone’s best day so far. There were even some great images of the trumpeter swans flying by with rugged mountains in the background.

After a full day of shooting the eagles, we headed over to the Chilkoot river and lake. This beautiful glacier-feed lake has a green glow to it, and the rocks are covered in lichen and moss – a photographer’s dream. We spotted and photographed some eagles in the evergreens to add some different images to our growing collection.  We then photographed the lake and its perfect reflection of the mountains.

Once the sun set, we returned to the hotel for a little warm up and downloaded our images.  We enjoyed another tasty dinner before heading off to the classroom for a discussion on Photoshop image work up.  Many guests brought their images and we worked them up as a group. everyone contributed their “special” techniques to the discussion.

Day 5

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Jim getting ready to capture that beautiful morning light for a landscape shot.

Another blue bird day awaited us. We headed out prior to sunrise to set up for a gorgeous location overlooking the Lynn Canal. Historic Fort

Seward, also known as the Chilkoot Barracks, was the last military post established in Alaska during the gold rush. We were lucky enough to capture reflections of the scene in the low tidal pools.  The rocks were exposed due to the low tide and the towering mountains behind were covered in the pink sun’s rays.

After taking in nature’s show, we headed up to the eagle grounds and continued to shoot in this gorgeous light.  The eagles were extremely active today, and their numbers where the highest we have ever seen in some of our preferred locations.  The clients in-flight techniques are getting better and better. Keeper rates have greatly improved with smiling faces everywhere, and LCD peepers throughout the day.

During lunch in the field we were able to watch a half-dozen mountain goats congregating up on the ridge just below the snow line.  We left the preserve in the afternoon and then headed back over to the Chilkoot river and lake. We took some landscape images looking up the glacier fed river as it bends up the valley with moss-covered rocks and evergreens on each side. Common Mergansers and Dippers, with their distinctive bobbing characteristic, were on the river today.  It is a beautiful spot.

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Sharing stories of the day and getting ready for a good meal.

We photographed the eagles eating salmon on the large granite rocks and moss, capturing very different images from the preserve. As we headed up to Chilkoot lake, we took more landscapes of the beautiful lake with towering mountains and blue skies.  After a short break and time to download images, we headed over to our favorite restaurant for dinner and shared stories.  After dinner we headed into the classroom for a presentation of Digital Art by Bill McRoberts.

Wildlife Spotted today:
•    Eagles everywhere
•    Common Mergansers
•    Trumpeter Swans
•    Dippers
•    Mountain Goats

Day 6
It was another clear day and all the mountains were glowing.  Since it was a cloudless day, we headed over to Cathedral Peaks to see if we could improve upon our prior images.  As soon as everyone had their shots, we hurried up to the Bald Eagle ground to enjoy the great light on the eagles. Our timing was right on. Eagles perched on trees enjoying the sun’s rays and exhibited that golden glow we all love.  In the afternoon we headed back to a small lake nearby to photograph the trumpeter swans and some more landscapes with mountain views and glaciated valleys.

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Mike is getting at eye level with the eagles for that great shot.

Then we were off to Mosquito Lake looking for more wildlife and landscape images, and headed back to the eagle grounds to capture more eagle images.  Once the sun set, we headed to a locals roadhouse for another group dinner, enjoying the look and feel of a backcountry roadhouse.  After dinner, we drove back to Haines for a little rest. The skies were clear and the stars were out, so we met at 8 p.m. for some night photography. We were hoping for some Northern Lights, but didn’t see them, so we photographed the mountains towering over the Lynn Canal. The sky was lit bright with stars and the water was still.

Day 7
This morning, due to the clear roads, we visited the Chilkat State Park and Rainbow Glacier. We took a brief tour through historic Fort Seward, and headed up to the preserve as the light

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Ray and Carol at the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

came up for more eagle shooting.  In the afternoon we headed to the American Bald Eagle Foundation for lunch, and encountered a special treat. The Eastern Screech owl was being displayed, and we enjoyed a photo opportunity of the cute little guy.  As the ferry approached Haines, we took the guests to the ferry terminal, and as we said our goodbyes the snow started to fly.  Guest departed on the Alaskan Marine Highway ferry M/V LeConte right on time, and had a relaxing ride back to Juneau to catch their flights home or on to their next adventure.

It was a great week, and we had enormous amounts of field time due to the best weather we have seen in years.  Thanks to all of our great clients. We hope watching the eagles in the wild has left you with fond memories of Alaska.

Matt has led 9 workshops in this area in the past three years. He normally spends the entire month of November scouting the best locations. When not showing guests the area, he is on the river each day enjoying the beauty of the eagles.

If you are interested in an upcoming photography workshop, please check out our upcoming photography workshop schedule found here.

Bald Eagles in the Trees

Some of the 3,000+ eagles in the Chilkat Valley

Trip Report – Bald Eagle Photography Workshop – November 2013 was last modified: December 24th, 2017 by Matt Shetzer