Barber Pool and Bald Eagle Day

I went to “Bald Eagle Day” which was presented by the Idaho Bird Observatory in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Golden Eagle Audubon Society and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. While this 700 acre nature reserve called ‘Barber Pool’ is a winter home to many roosting bald eagles, not one was to be seen today — shy I guess. They did have one in an indoor presentation, but the lines were long and I was more entertained by what was outside of the indoor presentation — mostly falcons, owls, and a golden eagle. There were tons of people huddled around the birds and their handlers, but if you watch your camera angle at events like these, you can still get some pretty nice stuff. The first photo is of a falcon with his handler dressed in Shakespearean attire. He took this bird’s leather cap off for a few pictures. You’ll see the cap on a different bird in the following photo. Apparently these falcons do better if they can’t see people so they cover their eyes … especially when there might be young children or puppies around … yum (J/K).

This owl was a little bitty guy — no more than 6 or 7 inches tall.  I was using a 50-135 zoom lens and I was pretty close to the bird — maybe 8-10 feet away.  I shot at f/2.8 to blur his handler holding him.

The next photos are of a Great Horned Owl.  He was big and quite regal in every way. I was impressed. I have several shots of the same bird to illustrate some photo tips. These next two shots are from different angles. Notice the background in each. The first has the trees and sky blurred out and the second is really dark blue but it’s not the sky — it’s a window of the building close behind where he’s perched (there was no polarizer filter on my lens for either shot). So what’s your preference?  I prefer the bird of the second shot with the background of the first but he’s just a beautiful bird no matter what angle you shoot him (and yes, it takes lots of shots to get the one you like so shoot away!).

I think he’s giving me the evil eye which brings me to my next photo tip. When you point your camera towards a subject, what do you want to be the center of attention and sharpest focus? For most point and shoot cameras they purposely make the depth of field narrow so that everything in the picture is in focus, but if you have your camera set on Portrait Mode for example, or you shoot a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera like I do, then you’ll often want the distracting background or other features blurred out so that the subject is prominent.  I wanted the owl’s eyes to be sharpest part of my photo so what did I do?  I aimed my focus ring right at an eyeball, pushed the shutter release button half way down to focus, held it there while repositioning my shot, then continued to press the shutter all the way down to take the picture. There are other rules at work here, but that’s a good rule of thumb when taking someone’s portrait – always aim for the eyes then reposition.

Below is a beautiful 28-year-old Golden Eagle. You’ve probably noticed by now that I like tight shots — all the better to show off those beautiful soft feathers. Besides, they were tied to a rope so what’s the glamour in that, right. Another tip for tight shots like these is to have your DSLR camera set for a fast shutter speed to prevent movement of the bird and movement of the photographer — both of which can easily happen when you are hand-holding a zoom lens like I was here.

As I was leaving a handler was walking in with his Great Horned Owl. He was just as beautiful as the earlier owl so I felt he needed a photo too. This bird was found near death with an entire wing ripped off and now lives a happy life as an Observatory bird.

You can read more about Barber Pool in this Idaho Statesman article found at:

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