Regarded as one of the prime locations for viewing and photographing the majestic symbol of our country, bald eagles that converge along the Chilkat River near Haines, Alaska, have numbered in the thousands over the years.
Today, as many as 1,500 of these magnificent raptors return every fall to feed on a unique late season salmon run from as far away as British Columbia. Learn about the natural history of the eagles, valley and native Tlingit on our rides to and from the “eagle council grounds.” The unique design of the river with silt and gravel keeps the river from freezing and a chum salmon spawn allows the birds to find plenty of food to start off their hard winters. We will spend all day at the preserve getting out and photographing eagles as they feed on the salmon, soar overhead and fill the trees just above our heads feeding on the salmon or just taking a break. We’ll also have opportunities for some beautiful muontain landscape shots on our way to and from the preserve.
Every day, scores of eagles can be seen gathered along the sandbars, perched on snags and roosting in the branches of nearby cottonwood trees. Lots of flight shots of the eagles coming in for a meal are sure to be taken, some in front of a magnificent mountain backdrop when using a wider lens.
Some of the most interesting activity is when an eagle comes in to confront another one already on a fish. The one on the ground will jump up and lift its talons to defend as the other flies in with talons extended. The confrontations only last a couple of seconds but this type of action is what people wait around for wanting to capture.
This workshop is designed for all levels of photographers. Whether you are a beginner or intermediate photographer, you will learn something regarding the technical concerns of photographing bald eagles such as exposure, focus and flight photography. For the seasoned photographer, this is a great trip for building a very impressive portfolio of bald eagle photos.
This instructional-based workshop includes critiques of your work in addition to the daily shoots and as much in the field hands-on help as you desire. First Lights small group size allows for in-depth instruction combined with personal attention that is designed to the needs of the individuals in the group. You will hone your skills on close-up portraits, wildlife landscapes and interaction.
With the timing of this trip being late fall, shooting hours are reduced to between mid-morning and mid-afternoon before the sun dips below the mountains. This leaves plenty of time to review your work from the day’s shooting.
The workshop begins with a ferry ride from Juneau to Haines that has the feel of the fjords of Norway. A full bird photography program is planned for the rest of the afternoon and part of the evening. For the next five days you will be photographing the gathering of eagles along the Chilkat River. Perched in the cottonwoods that line the river, the eagles fish for salmon as they come upriver to spawn. There will be conflicts as eagles love to fight each other over a meal even though it’s easier for them to go and grab one of their own. The incredible scenery will offer the opportunity of working flight shots of eagles against snow-covered mountains.
About the Location
The Chilkat Eagle Preserve was designated in 1982 with the goal to “protect and perpetuate the world’s largest concentration of Bald Eagles and their critical habitat.” More than 48,000 acres of river-bottom land along the Chilkat, Kleheni, and Tsirku Rivers has been put aside to help preserve this incredible gathering.
A combination of cottonwoods and Sitka Spruce provide great habitat and the St. Elias Range as a backdrop is hard to beat.
- Lodging in Juneau
- Round-trip ferry ride from Juneau
- Five nights lodging in Haines
- Lunches & snacks in the field
- Dinners each night
- Hands-on instruction in the field
- Evening critiques and photography programs on a variety of subjects
* Hotel, ground transportation and all meals included in cost
* Hands-on help in the field and in-room digital instructional programs
* Hand-outs related to the particular trip as well as other photo tips and information
* Our aim is to help you capture great images in a relaxed atmosphere and teach material that will help you take better photos the next time you go into the field