Having a new camera…
I tried many settings for these action shots with my D750. I ended up settling on manual settings rather than shutter priority at the suggestion of the seasoned photographers who shoot eagles often.
Shutter priority is commonly recommended by professional photographers for photographing flying birds, and is what I often use for shooting hawks. It worked poorly on eagles though. The aperture setting was not always well-chosen by the camera. Eagle action is less predictable, the light always changing and far too fast-moving, so manually switching settings worked the best.
The camera was set for 1/1250 sec. f8 ISO 400 AWB in the series of images here. Much of the day the camera was set at 1/2000 f8 ISO 640 for these fast-moving combatants. The D750 is the newest full-frame camera from Nikon.
Once a bird catches a fish, eagles commence chase on the eagle grasping its fish. This makes for a beautiful action sequence, from approach through capture to pursuit. See the fish jumping out of the water in the photo above? The eagle does.
The camera was set to continuous to fire off multiple frames, getting the entire sequence of action. This eagle came in from the trees behind us to make the approach to the river. For a front view, the approach is generally too far off for my lens.
Some photographers have been coming here for about 15 years. I found them very helpful and friendly, always alerting me when an eagle was about to feed.
You get used to the clues the more one watches the behaviors, but getting the “heads up” from fellow photographers or birders is the difference between getting an action sequence or missing it. Without their help, I may have missed a lot.
Immediately after a fish is captured, fights break out among the greedy pursuing eagles. It involves a number of birds and is exciting to watch. On occasion the bird being pursued will drop its fish into the river. On GWGT, the bird drops the fish.
You need a fast camera and a fast, long lens. I have a 80-400mm, barely what is needed. The professional lenses are much crisper, focus faster and let in more light.
Recommended is 500mm and up to get crisp feather detail of birds. The image below is the actual “out of the camera” size. The camera takes sharp images. My problem, the lens.
These images are enlarged quite a bit.
Challenging also is the eagle’s white head. Exposure is difficult because the body is dark and the head and tail are white. It is easy to blow out the whites with little definition in the tail feathers, like seen here. Through changing light you need to be quick, especially when more than one eagle is in the shot.
Check out more action over on Garden Walk Garden Talk.