Sunday, December 20, 2009

Squamish Eagles

When we arrived in Squamish (actually, Brackendale) on Friday afternoon, about eight eagles perched in a distant tree, on and off misty rain, and fast-fading light welcomed us. I put my camera rain cover on, hoping that Saturday's "cloudy with sunny periods" forecast would be accurate. The eight eagles were just specs on the tree, but I decided to walk along the riverside in search of others that might be closer. That wasn't to be, but this heron suddenly appeared at the bottom of the rocks. The camera caught it amazingly well, given the conditions.
I have been reading up on my camera through what I think is a very good site, and though I'm beginning to understand F stops, shutter speed, and even iso, changing them, especially when outdoors, is still mostly boggling my brain. My big breakthrough for the weekend (thanks to encouragement from Bill who spent time sitting with me, going over instructions, and explaining things as non-technically as he possibly could), was to stop using autofocus on the exposure selection dial. The camera was still giving me lots of help autofocusing most elements, but at least a tiny bit of input was my decision. I tried a couple of options. Now, my question is how to figure out the information on my pictures. I can see it if I put my pictures on Flickr, something I mostly do only if I think they are at least half decent, but in iphoto, I can't seem to find it. I can see the information on my camera, but I always delete pics as soon as they are downloaded. Anyhow, here is the same heron, with possibly a different iso setting.
Bill had been entertaining Black Jack by running back and forth along the rocks, and was ready for a nap when we checked into our motel room. Black Jack lay down on his stomach, one of her favorite places to be. Here, she is staring at the fridge, trying to let me know that she believes it is time for supper.
I was playing with the camera, and discovered a new setting called "vivid" so I tested it out by taking a picture of a picture on the wall. Bill and I agreed it turned out better than the original.
Bill is the champion of all nappers. He can nap for under ten minutes, and awake refreshed. When I nap, I sleep for way too long and emerge grouchy. When he woke, I fed Black Jack, and she snuggled into her bed while we went out for supper. A great supper that we both enjoyed, and for the life of me, I cannot remember, nor find, the name of the restaurant. I can tell you it is a two-minute walk (even hobbling on my still weak ankle) from the modest, but very comfortable and clean August Jack Motor Inn, where we stayed. An added note, we had taken along a rented dvd to watch Friday evening, and when we didn't see a dvd player, we asked about renting one from the motel owners. The lady was so kind, she was ready to give us her own personal one. Then, we remembered we could watch it on my laptop.

Saturday morning, we tried a different eagle viewing spot that had been recommended. It was alongside the golf course, but wasn't very successful. We did see this one - the only one in the area - at the top of a very tall tree.
Poor Bill. I was hobbling along the trail, grouchy because my fingers were cold (I had left my gloves and hat in the truck), my ankle was hurting and because photo ops seemed few and far between. He ran back to the truck for me, brought the hat and gloves, kept Black Jack safe and happy, and maintained his good humour in spite of me. Thank you, Bill!

Thinking eagles might not appear, I looked for other things to photograph. Just a branch with some lacy tendrils.
Black Jack got a lift over some icy terrain.
We finally gave up on the new trail, and went back to Brackendale. There were more eagles than either of the last two weekends, and the weather was cooperating. I used my monopod, and tried out that "vivid" setting. I didn't get any flying shots that I was happy with, but had lots of chances to see eagles sitting on logs and in the water. Here was the only flying shot I kept.
These two eagles had been sitting quietly on their log, but when they saw another land in the water, they called out a greeting. Or, was it a warning?
This eagle, perched on a tree root, looked to me like a nun saying her prayers.
I have yet to figure out how to photograph mountains. Here was one attempt, de-shadowed and definition added, with seagulls in formation flying over the top.
These three eagles lined up to bathe.
Then, two of them settled on a log to dry their wings. I thought they might be telling the third eagle to get out of the water before it caught its death of cold.
Wingspread and awesome patterns here. I was hoping for a glimpse of this eagle's face..
..and it obliged as it settled on the corner of the log.
I just caught this beautiful smile, as Bill rock-hopped with Black Jack, way down at the water's edge. That zoom lens is amazing, and so is Bill.
Eagles don't seem to hop as other birds do. This one took purposeful strides.. it made its way.. a step-up spot.
I think the eagles were enjoying the intermittent sun as much as we were. I know they were drying out their wings, but sometimes, they seemed to use them like cloaks.
I quite liked the vivid mode. I was using P on the exposure selection dial, and only realized after going through the photos, that there was no blurring behind my subjects. Sometimes, I guess the background almost outshone the eagles. This tree root is beautiful, but I wonder if the overall image has a bit of a "fake" feel to it. For now, I'm happy to see more detail, especially considering that all of the action was on the other side of the river. I guess time will tell whether "vivid" is a setting I'll be happy with over the longterm. If anyone is feeling like commenting, do not worry about hurting feelings. I really appreciate other opinions to guide this rather slow but most enjoyable learning process.
Just one un-zoomed shot at the other end of the dyke. We counted well over 20 eagles in that area.
This is a fully zoomed shot of a section of the above photo. That slanted log seemed to me like a seesaw. To get any closer, I would have had to clamber down on the rocks, something I'm not ready for yet, but I think my ankle is finally starting to feel stronger. It has seemed like a very slow and frustrating healing process, but I have great hope that another week will do it.
Today, we are really looking forward to a Pacific Baroque Orchestra concert. Bill's niece, Glenys, her husband, Paul, and his sister, Angela, are all performing. We also get to visit with Phyllis, Bill's sister, her husband, Barrie, and maybe even Oscar, their grandchild. A perfect weekend, with nature, music, friends and family.


  1. What an amazing series of shots, and such a variety. I really liked the lacy tendril photo. The image of three eagles having a bath in the freezing river makes me shiver. I know winter is hard on birds and some don't survive, but thankfully their plumage keeps them somewhat warm.

    I have been to Squamish a few times over the years and seem to remember that there is a nice restaurant close to the August Jack Motel called the Parkside. Could that be what you referred to? They don't have a website but are on Google maps.

  2. A very nice set of pictures, CC, particulary of the eagles and then in poor light.

    Regarding EXIF (exposure info) - you can usually get it by right-clicking on the original image from your camera. And you can get it from your Flickr site, and from the sites of some others, lputts for instance but not mine. (I inadvertently strip that data from mine in the process of "Saving for the Web".

    Your eagle pictures are all very good given the conditions and camera settings. The seven recent eagle pictures I've looked at were taken with F6.3, ISO 200 and no Exposure Bias (0 EV) and shutter speeds 1/250 th or less. Your pictures will become sharper if you use 1/500 or faster - and to get these faster speeds given poor light, you need to jack-up the ISO to 1000 or 2000 or even 3200 (your max). But the idea is to keep it low - and thus keep digital noise and grain to a minimum.

    Also when taking pictures of birds among branches, grasses, etc, most photographeres will set the camera to focus on a single point, like the center point in the array available to the camera. In your Eagle Praying picture, your camera averaged seven different points in the 11-point array to try and figure out just what it was you wanted to focus on, and it might have honestly thought you meant one of those rocks or branches, etc. For birds, I would set the camera to use just one point - the center point - and then shoot at the bird's eye or his beak where there is sharp contrast, thereby forcing the camera to look through the branches as your are, for the eye or the beak.

    So, take a look at higher shutter speeds ~ 1/1000 say, and limit the the camera to just one point - the CenterPoint - of the array available to it in autofocus mode.

    I enjoy reading your blog and seeing your pictures, and wish you and Bill a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Shiprock

  3. PS - Oh yeah, forgot. To see the EXIF data on Flickr, click on one of your photos (or one of lputt's)
    and at the bottom right of the page divided into two columns, you will see "Taken with a D90" or whatever, and below that "More properties".

    Click on the "More properties". Unfortunately, the procedure I use preparing my pictures for Flickr, strips EXIF data out, in favour of small file size. Cheers, Shiprock

  4. Stunning Eagles Serie!
    Beautiful Birds.

  5. Thanks for your comments, everyone. They are much appreciated.

    Fred the Dog, I do believe you are right! Thanks so much for seeking out The Parkside. Too bad it doesn't have a web site. Warm atmosphere, great service, reasonable prices and excellent food would appeal to quite a number of tourists, I would think. And yes, I shivered for those eagles too. It was amazing how some of them bathed so thoroughly - dunking their heads over and over and splashing the water over their bodies.

    Shiprock, you really are kind to take time to help me out with the mysteries of photography and of my new camera. I found the "more properties" link on Flickr. Amazing to me how much information it shows. I really appreciate that you are putting the ap, shutter speed and iso info with your inspiring photos. The right clicking on iphoto only gives me the number of the photo. I must be missing a link somewhere. I will definitely try increasing the shutter speeds, and yes, single point for birds makes sense. In changing some other settings, I must have inadvertently changed that one too. I am wondering how you saw the seven points my camera attempted to focus on. Can you see that in the picture? (My eyes don't seem to be as sharp as they used to be.) Or perhaps, I just need to read the "properties" info again.

    And.. a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you! It would be great to get together for some shooting, or just to say "hi" before school begins again on the 4th.

    Thanks, Andrea:)

  6. Oh Carol these are the most amazing photos, you are awesome, and you know your bold eagles, wow what a moment.

    Carol, I also dropped by to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Lots, lots of happiness. Also I wanted to send warm thanks for being a good blogger friend, your kind comments are always appreciated. Anna :)