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Bald eagle juvenile takes flight!

We had turned onto Highway 46 near Cambria looking for green hills to photograph. That's when my partner noticed a large bird on a rock. A really large bird. With a big ol' beak. 

Very quietly, we pulled over to the side of the two-lane road (not much traffic) and I threw my 70-300 telephoto on the camera, a Nikon D5100. 

The first shot above was taken from the driver's seat, with me leaning over my partner and pointing the camera out the open window. I then slooooowly got out of the car and managed to take the second and third shots by hiding behind the kayak that was perched on the car's roof. 

The bird sensed something was up and took flight. I tried to keep the center focus sensor on the bird while ripping off a bunch of shots. We thought it was a golden eagle but after some careful Googling, we discovered this was a juvenile bald eagle; the raptors distinct white heads is something that happens s it turns out, it's a juvenile bald eagle. The distinctive white head comes later. 

It was bright and very sunny and that helped with the exposures and keeping my ISO low -- which is important to reduce noise on the D5100. The first photo was taken at 1/800th shutter speed and I went faster at 1/1000th for the second and third photos to try to freeze the action. 

The camera was set on dynamic area focus with continuous-servo autofocus -- a good combination for tracking moving objects (I usually just leave the camera on those settings, since I take a lot of bird photos). 

The shutter was on burst mode. On the Nikon D5100, I can usually fire off five shots with the first burst -- exactly what's needed to capture a bird in flight.

The above shots aren't perfect, but I'm very pleased with them. Getting decent photos of birds in flight is tough--really tough. I pretty much nailed the focus and all the above should print very well at 8 x 12. FWIW, I used NIK Software's Output Sharpener to tidy up the pics. 

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The above photos are ©Steve Hymon and may not be used elsewhere without my advanced written permission. All rights reserved.