Where Eagles Soar
There is an unequaled majesty about eagles. When I see them, I am overcome with a sense of power only tempered by wonder. How they soar through the cosmos with ease and then swoop down to earth to collect their prey makes me wish that I possessed wings.
Last November, I traveled to Haines, Alaska, to photograph eagles at the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Nature photographer Josh Miller organized the trip.
I first flew to Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Then I took a 4-hour ferry ride to Haines. There are also flights to Haines, but they are subject to uncertainty based on the weather. I was glad I chose the ferry since I would have missed the magical Alaska landscape if I had flown.
I arrived in the early afternoon. I had a few hours before I met the rest of the photographers on the trip. After warming up, I put my not-warm enough jacket on and ventured outside. I grabbed lunch at one of the few open restaurants, bought some thermal underwear, and got a long overdue haircut.
The next morning we all set out for the Preserve. The sunrise around the Preserve was a positive omen for what was to come.
But it was the eagles that were the main attraction. It was immediately apparent from the prevalence of eagles that something other than the desire to pose for photographers drew them to the Preserve. Eagles were everywhere. Those not flying were on branches just waiting.
The draw was salmon, the eagles’ main food. In catching and devouring salmon, Eagles showed themselves to be savage and merciless. The Preserve was not a good place to be a salmon.
Photographing eagles competing for salmon was my ultimate prize. The combat was short, intense, and loud.
Much about photographing eagles involved waiting and watching. Eagles moved when they are good and ready to do so. They perched themselves on branches for hours. But when they decided to soar, riding wind currents past snow-covered ranges, it was all I could do to raise my camera. My first inclination was to marvel at their magnificence. But when caught by my lens, it allowed me to follow closely as their wings powered the eagles through the air, interposed with their gliding with the air currents.
Watching and waiting paid additional dividends when I sat on a log, only to have an eagle land on the opposite side, at most 10 feet away. I froze to avoid scaring the bird and grabbed my camera. The eagle stood its ground.
Seing eagles in their natural environment was an experience I will always cherish.