The Great Journey in Photography

The Alaska Experience (Pt 2)

Eagle-on-the-Salmon

It is not that I could not figure it out myself, I had most of it rattling around in my head anyhow. It is more about the fact that I would not have done it. Only a few hours into the workshop Matt asked me if  I was shooting manual mode. After a puzzled look from me he ran it down. It was a remarkably easy thing to learn and I shot in manual mode the rest of the trip. Because Bald Eagles are such high contrast it is particularly helpful to shoot in manual mode, especially for in flight shots. Over exposing the bright white head of the Eagles is the most common problem when photographing these birds, so if you set a manual exposure to protect those highlights you are good to go. Your Eagle is properly exposed. If the body is under exposed, well that is a dynamic range and intensity of light issue, don’t confuse that with a proper exposure. Cameras in auto modes will rarely produce a properly exposed Bald Eagle on its own. typically, you need to set exposure compensation. With a manual exposure as long as the light does not change the exposure will always be correct regardless of the scene or background. Going from a dark brown tree line to pure white snow-covered mountain peaks is going to make a camera in any automatic mode do drastic changes and the exposure of the subject may or may not be correct. In manual it will always have that original correct exposure. The caveat to all of that is now the rest of the scene may or may not have a correct exposure. In the example of the treelike and snow caps one of them will be way off but remember you subject will still have a proper exposure. That is when you drill down a tad further setting the scene you want to photograph. Be selective, work the scene you have properly exposed and you will make your best shots. Like I said at the beginning it is not that I could not have figured it out on my own it, but rather the fact that I did not appreciate the need to shoot manual and would not have tried it till late or not at all. That is where expert instruction becomes the game changer. That little pivot point marks my greatest accomplishment of the entire trip.

Bald-Eagle-Portrait

Regrets, I have a few. No, I am not going to break out in song and actually there is only one. One day we came upon a rather picturesque scene of a Bald Eagle sitting on a huge boulder  in a stream. I rushed up on the bird and scared it away. You have heard my in the past write about taking the position away from those who are not making the most of or not themselves taking the best position. You can read that here. Everything I wrote still goes but this was a different situation. First, I was indeed too close for the distance I had. Even though there was running water between us and that usually calms the bird I was too close and should have been using a soft step circling approach at that point. Second, I did not have the lens I needed. I was sporting an old 28-85 lens for landscape shots so I could never make the shot I wanted anyhow. If you can’t make the shot, you can’t make the shot and there is no need to be fighting for a place and making things harder for others. I know better than to do that and it was stupid and thoughtless. Don’t be a Bozo kids, think about what you are doing.

Bald Eagle Art

No account of the Alaska experience would be complete without mentioning the co-leader of the group, best of the best, a kind man named Bill. Yes, I do know his last name but I will not mention it today because I did not ask permission to write about him today but I am sure if you are really interested you can figure it out. Bill is a wonderful guide, he is a local to the area and knows the terrain, wildlife, and people like the back of his hand. He is also a very accomplished photographer and artist. You can see some of his work here. I can’t think of a moment when Bill was not lending a hand, answering a question, or just trying to make the whole Alaska Experience a once in a lifetime experience.

I hesitate to use the term “once in a lifetime” when writing about the Alaska Experience, I could do it again, again…

Thanks for stopping by everyone I shared 3 of my favorite images. They are quality publishable images so I apologize for the big ugly watermarks but I hope you enjoy them and I hope you enjoyed the whole series about Alaska. You can see more of my Alaska photos here. If you are thinking about planning your own Alaska Experience, I suggest you give Matt Shetzer a look see.

Oh, by the way, those images I thought were the best I had ever seen. Do I still think the same now that I have my own Eagle photos? Yup!

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