Birthday Bald Eagles

Shutter: 1/800, Aperture: ƒ/6.3, ISO: 800, Lens: 600mm

On my birthday in November I took my son and my Sigma 150-600mm zoom to Conowingo Dam to try and get some bald eagle photos. We had a blast, and I got some shots I’m really happy with. I don’t have a ton to say, but lots of photos to show off. Click on to see all my pics.

Shutter: 1/640, Aperture: ƒ/6.3, ISO: 800, Lens: 600mm

I’ve been to Conowingo several times and brought rented lenses, but this was the first time with my own 600mm. One of the things I love about this lens is that even at 600mm, you can still use it without a monopod. I started off with a monopod, but I found it was a bit easier to just wing it (sorry) and did alright holding it myself.

Shutter: 1/800, Aperture: ƒ/6.3, ISO: 800, Lens: 600mm

Though my favorite shots are the eagles grabbing a fish out of the water, I also enjoy the in-flight photos. The Sigma is light enough that I can track the bird in the air, and get some tack sharp shots. It’s most important to catch the eye in focus. I also like how the blurry power lines in the background add some elements to accentuate the motion.

Shutter: 1/640, Aperture: ƒ/6.3, ISO: 800, Lens: 600mm

Here is a shot where the wings and the water droplets are blurred from motion, but the eye is (mostly) in focus. You should always present your viewer with a specific point of interest. When elements are out of focus, or perhaps extract, a face (or at least) an eye is a good point to direct the viewer.

Shutter: 1/640, Aperture: ƒ/6.3, ISO: 800, Lens: 600mm

Some may be quick to criticize the Sigma’s aperture, ƒ/5.6-6.3, but for daylight and extreme distances, it works just fine. Here you can see the details of the eagle are tack sharp and the background is deliciously blurred. Yes, I love shooting at ƒ/2.8 as much as I can, but this lens has given me great images both indoors and out. I can carry it around the woods on a hike, or use it for sports, and even a few concerts (when I don’t have pit access).

#baldeagle over #unionstation #wildlife #patriotism #bird #downtown #washingtondc

A post shared by Andy Jones (@ageowns) on

I got this photo of a bald eagle flying over Union Station in DC. This is one of my highest bucket list items, getting a shot of a bald eagle over something patriotic. I got an American flag (with an eagle topper!) in the frame as well. I will tell you the truth… I shot this image with a Rebel and a kit lens (58mm max focal length). The best camera is the one you have with you, right? Anyway, I loaded the images on my computer and zoomed in, and could verify it was indeed an eagle. I typically adhere to strict photojournalistic ethical guidelines, but for this image, I wanted to make it easier on the viewer. I selected and copied the eagle at the original resolution straight from the camera, then shrank the image to web sized, then pasted the original resolution eagle. I didn’t change the context of the image (the overall story isn’t how close to the ground the eagle was) but I did see that eagle, at that moment, at that spot. I simple enlarged that portion so it would be easier for viewers to identify him as an eagle (and not some other bird).

Father and Son

Here are my son and I, on my birthday, waiting for eagles at Conowingo Dam. He is shooting with my 6D and 70-200mm. There’s an important lesson I taught him that day. There were hundreds of other photographers there, all with super powered zooms on tripods. By comparison, we had some of the smallest lenses there. It was easy to feel “inadequate” (even with that 600mm) surrounded by thousands of dollars of glass. However, I overheard several conversations from the shooters on either side of us, and it was amateur hour, all around. Folks were shooting in all auto, or TV mode (dear God, why?) They had very basic, entry level questions and problems, but were handling equipment way over their heads. I told my son that its about skill, not equipment. Good equipment can make things easier and faster, but nothing makes up for inexperience.

I love shooting pictures of eagles, but I frequently come across hawks, and shoot them all the time. I will post more about my hawks in the future.

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