Photographing Bald Eagles along the Hudson

This time last year, the lower Hudson River shores were filled with bald eagles escaping the frozen waters further north. In their wake, photographers and sightseers spent hours watching the graceful birds and shooting the occasional show of eagles fighting over fish.

I wrote much of this last year, at the end of eagle season, after I had been out to the river almost every morning for much of February and March. I figured it would be a guide for this season and I’d publish it around the time the eagles would visit the area.

Well, maybe the extreme cold spell this weekend will do it, but so far the pickings have been extremely slim. There are some bald eagles hanging around near Beacon, NY, outside of the area I covered last year. Yesterday for the first time this year, I photographed an eagle in Verplanck, NY, where I spent many hours and took thousands of pictures a year ago.  So far, it’s nothing like the dozens of eagles you would see every day last winter.

My one 2016 eagle shot...

My one 2016 eagle shot, so far…

So, just in case we still do get lucky and the eagles once again move to this area, I’m publishing this guide now. It focuses on locations along the eastern shore south of the Bear Mountain Bridge. It’s based on my own observations over many days last year and on information from others who have been observing bald eagles for years.

General Observations

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Photographing Bald Eagles at the Conowingo Dam

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Once you fall for bird photography, the Conowingo Dam in Maryland beckons. The hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River is known to attract dozens of bald eagles in the fall. In their wake, an equal number of photographers and long, fast teles show up for an annual ritual of fishing, photographing and freezing.

The eagles, opportunists that they are, come for the fast food delivered to them courtesy of the Exelon Power Corporation which operates the dam several times a day, in the process stunning the fish that make the trip through the generators and making them easy prey for the big birds.

Like few other places, this predictable ritual allows photographers multiple spray-and-pray runs at fishing eagles and thus increases the chance for the money shot. One hour at Conowingo can deliver more payback than many freezing hours along the Hudson in mid-winter, as I can attest based on personal experience.

The season starts at the end of October and runs through the beginning of December, although there are always some eagles around. The height of the hunt is apparently around the Thanksgiving holiday. On weekends, the crowds of photographers, fishermen and onlookers do get large and parking space limited, but weekdays are manageable.

I was there at the end of October for two days and will return later this week for three days. I will write a detailed guide based on my experiences and talks with local shooters who have photographed here for years. For now, a few quick impressions and images.

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Barcelona with the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro Lens: A Review

Gothic Cathedral at f/2.8

Lots of doubt had surrounded my taking the new Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro to Barcelona with me. For one, it’s a pretty heavy lens. For two, it’s a pretty large lens.

As such these aren’t problems, but large and heavy is just not part of the Micro Four-Thirds ‘gestalt’ and certainly wasn’t my idea of having a fun time shooting in a hot and humid city.

I had even bought the much smaller and lighter Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens to take along with me, so I could leave the 7-14mm behind and take to the streets with a lighter wide angle zoom.

Now, after four days in Barcelona, I find once again that life is full of ironies: I haven’t used the 9-18mm at all. It’s been sitting in the bag, untouched. And I haven’t used the 7-14mm wide open in the cathedral I most wanted it for, instead stopping it down for more sharpness.

Ok, moving on.

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Packing Photo Gear for Barcelona, Spain, and the French Countryside

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Just when I have the most time for and interest in photography is when I’m most limited with the gear I can take. That’s the quandary facing me now that I’m about to leave for five weeks in Europe.

Part of the trip will be spent with my family in my hometown. The other part will be a road trip from Holland via France to Barcelona, Spain, and back. I’m spending about a week driving, with stops for photography, and a week in Barcelona.

So, it’s a great time to try new gear that doesn’t get much use at home.

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Photo Opp: 2015 New York Puerto Rican Day Parade

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If you’re into red, white and blue, the Puerto Rican parade is your thing. Sunday, I spent once more several hours amidst the Puerto Rican crowds with their colorful flags, clothing and national pride to photograph the annual parade marching – dancing, actually – up Fifth Avenue in New York.

Last year, I wrote at length on how to photograph this parade and what to keep in mind. Most of that stands unchanged. If anything, this year the sun bearing down on the avenue made photography even more interesting or challenging, depending on your take.

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I found myself looking for shadows of dancers, whenever the sun was out. When a cloud moved in front of it, I sometimes missed a nice opportunity, but at the same time was relieved by the temporary shade.

The main difference this year was that I started at the very beginning of the parade, both in time and in location. [Read more…]