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Photographing a Bald Eagle’s Nest with George D. Lepp, Post #1

The techniques of documenting a bald eagle nest for 12 weeks

Four years ago, in March 2013, I was introduced to a unique eagle nest site in an Oregon State Park. I followed the nest, from courtship to fledging of the two eaglets, in a photographic project that was published in OP in April 2014 (see “Eagle Eyes”). In addition, I created a ten-minute video of the nest’s progression for educational use in the park’s visitors’ center, but I was not satisfied with the 720p resolution available to me at the time. Below is the 10 minute video that will give you an idea of what this project entails.

This year, I’m following a nesting pair in the same nest and their single eaglet using Canon’s newest DSLR video capture equipment with 4K resolution, and in a series of posts I’ll share with you the progress of the nest along with approaches and photographic techniques necessary to complete this project in both stills and 4K video.

It takes a lot of equipment to bring the nest (white arrow) close and personal from 200 feet away and render it in 4K Video.

It’s very important to note that nesting raptors are vulnerable to disruption from nearby human activity, and photographers must always act in the birds’ best interests. In this case, the nest is monitored and protected by State Park personnel, who have authorized my project and facilitate my access to the area. The nest, which has been active and successful for six consecutive years, is uniquely positioned in an enormous pine in a deep canyon. From a vantage point on the rim, I can photograph the nest and its occupants, some two hundred feet away and slightly below me, without disturbing them.

The parent eagles with the 11-day old eaglet in this year’s nest. Canon EOS 5D MK IV with EF800mm lens and EF2X tele-converter. A total of 2,784mm with the 1.74X 4K crop factor of the 5D MK IV. More info in the next blog post.

This is truly a unique opportunity to safely document and to contribute to the nesting history of bald eagles. For me, it is especially satisfying to concentrate again on the kind of natural history photography I undertook early in my career, long-term projects in support of wildlife researchers and scientific agencies.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the logistics of photographing a nest and its (now) tiny occupant from 200 feet away, and the equipment needed to achieve a professional result. In the meantime, you can view the 2013 video below.

The Nesting Bald Eagles of Smith Rock State Park, Oregon from George Lepp on Vimeo.

One of North America’s best-known contemporary outdoor and nature photographers and a leader in the field of digital imaging and photographic education, Lepp is the author of many books and the field editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. One of Canon’s original Explorers of Light, Lepp finds inspiration in advancing technology that fuels creative innovation and expression of his life-long fascination with the natural world.