Following the printing of my Bald Eagle Photo in the January 8 edition of the Independent, I’ve been flooded with “How did you get that?!” questions. First let me say December – February are prime eagle photo opportunity months here in the Upper Rogue. Second; I’ll give you the big three tricks first:
1. Look up! I know, that sounds sarcastic – but it’s a true trick! More than once I’ve been the one in a group of many to “spot the eagle” simply because I scan the trees whenever I’m in an area where “Here there be Eagles”. I’ll also say mature Bald Eagles are whiter than you can possibly imagine! You will see them and you will know it when you do.
2. You do not worry a Bald Eagle one little bit! Eagle photography does not require stealth, camo or leaving the kids or dogs at home. I’ve snapped an eagle photo while standing in a group of eight people chatting, laughing and being raucous in general while the Eagle sat 20 feet up in a nearby tree, utterly nonplussed.
3. Take a chance! I was once at McGregor Park and spotted an eagle sunning himself in a barren tree. I had only my small camera with limited telephoto. I snapped a couple cursory shots then crossed my fingers, hiked back to the car, drove the 5 miles home grabbed the better camera, drove the 5 miles back and…yep, there he still sat for the balance of his photo shoot.
More general tips include: It should go without saying, but we’ve all missed a photo op because our camera was on the kitchen counter (see #3 above) – take your camera wherever you go. Obviously the better your telephoto the better your chances at a good picture – my “little” Canon Power Shot IS has built in 36X optical zoom and cost exponentially less than an SLR and telephoto lens. You do not have to be a professional or have thousands of dollars worth of equipment to get a stunning photo! If you aren’t sure what type of large bird you’re looking at – take a picture anyway! The first Bald Eagle I caught a picture of was so far away it looked like a teeny black speck in a tree (and in the middle of a desert – go figure). Also Juvenile Bald Eagles are very similar in looks to Golden Eagles – grab the photo and do the identifying later (and a Golden Eagle photo is nothing to sneeze at!)
Mind, all of the above does you no good if you don’t know where to look! My “Desert Eagle” was surely a one off – stick to rivers, lakes and streams! During these key winter months I’ve spotted Eagles at several area locations; McGregor Park along the river trail, in front of the boat ramp across from the Cole M. Rivers Fish Hatchery, Elk Creek (you’ll need to hike in, but it’s worth it!), Sugarpine and Bitterlick Creeks (Note: always be respectful of private property – there’s plenty of public access to local waterways!) Keep your eyes peeled around “hot” Steelhead fishing holes, eagles will go after other prey but a nice bit of fish is their number one choice. Also they are out hunting during all hours of the day, so you don’t have to hike around in the early morning hours.
Have fun, enjoy the outdoors and the scenery – good photo ops come to those who wait and watch the skies.
By Christy Pitto