When I’m out shooting wildlife for a morning, I’ll often come back with 1000 (or even double that) photos. Out of that, I may end up keeping 50-100 and that’s just because I’m too lazy to pair it down any further than that.
So why do I end up with so many photos? It’s because you don’t always know when something cool is going to happy in front of you. In this photo, an Osprey grabbed a fish and there was an eagle nearby. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the osprey was moving much faster after the fish grab than I normally see. A few seconds later, I realized why – there was an Eagle nearby that decided it wasn’t going to let this osprey have it’s catch that easily, so the chase started.
I thought this capture was really interesting… the osprey isn’t looking back at the eagle, but it knows it’s there and the chase began. And for some reason, the Rockwell song (featuring Michael Jackson on some vocals) came to mind 🙂
“I always feel like… somebody’s watchin’ me!!!”
What you can’t see here is the speed. We’ve all probably seen larger birds flying through the air. But when chases like this happen, you can tell something is up because things happen a lot faster.
While we revere eagles as our national symbol along with our flag, they’re actually very opportunistic and bullying in some ways. And trust me, I’m as flag waving, eagle loving as they come – but so many times while I’m out shooting, I see more eagles try to steal other bird’s food rather than try to catch it themselves. And if it were an easier task, I could see it. But nearly every time I see it, it looks like SOOO much more work for the eagle, than if they just caught their own fish – especially on a lake where the fish are plentiful.
Anyway, I saw this eagle flying around the osprey, and again… you can’t see it in the photo but it was moving MUCH faster than I usually see them. You knew immediately it had a purpose and it was closing on the osprey fast. This photo is taken after the Osprey put some distance between it and the eagle, but the big guy wasn’t giving up… Plus, the sun angle to this photo was really nice. A little shadowy on the right side wing, but overall the sun lit this up nicely in some of the key areas.
Coming back to the topic I started with (having a lot of photos after a morning out shooting), now you can see why I end up with thousands of photos. The osprey caught the fish which is photo worthy and caused me to rattle off 10 seconds of continuous shooting at 30 fps. Then, I let the buffer clear for a few seconds after it hit the water. But I kept my eye on the osprey and noticed the eagle approaching. So I kept photographing the osprey waiting for it. That’s when the first photo (the chase was taken). Then the Osprey put some distance between the eagle and it looked like things were dying down. But then the eagle approached again and I kept shooting. Even if nothing happens, you don’t know that when you start, so you just… well… keep shooting.
Many times, these interactions cause the bird with the fish to drop it. In this case, the osprey hung on (which is why they’re one of my favorite birds). And after a small chase, the osprey got away. In the people world, “Survival of the fittest” never goes over well and the eagle would be deemed a bully. But in the animal world it’s the golden rule, and on this interaction the osprey showed it was up for the challenge. It got away, and if you zoom in to the wings you can even see it didn’t get to shake all of the water off itself because the chase happened so quickly after the catch (or maybe that’s just sweat!) 😉
Are You Good About Deleting Photos?
In this whole shooting burst I probably ended up with over 600 photos. Out of those photos, there’s no reason to show/keep any more than I have here (3 to be exact). So why keep them right? Many people consider not shooting 1000’s of photos on an outing the sign of an expert. And that may be true to some extent in some cases. But in this case, you had to in hopes of catching that really interesting and rare moment. I don’t personally get down on myself when I return with more photos than I think I should have. For me, shooting is free… it’s the storage space that costs more if you fill it up. But I always try to get back and at some point (whether it’s that day or a month later), delete the ones that aren’t needed. For me, that’s where the skill comes in – figuring out which ones to delete.
This is a great time to ask yourself, are you keeping too many photos? If you photograph a bird in flight or perched, do you need 30? Or is one good enough. And if you can’t narrow it down to 1, I bet you can pick 5-6 out of that 30 and still narrow it down.
Matt, I’m enjoying the Blog. I, too, shoot a BUNCH of photos and discard most. All for the same reason you stated – you never know. My winnowing of the day’s images is done in LR . As I go through them and find one I particularly like I mark it a “Pick.” If it is particularly nice or some other thing factor makes me really like it, I rate it a “3.” After I finish the first run-through, I filter on the picks, Select All, Invert Selection, Remove Photos. That leaves me with a much more manageable batch to continue reviewing and discarding. Out of a typical 600 photo morning, I’ll keep 10-ish.
Good morning Matt,
Cindy and I really appreciate all that you have taught us. I just wish that we could remember something. 🙂 🙂
I have, over the years, worked my shutter speed from “wrong” all the way up to 2000th of a sec. I am going to
go out and try your 3200 today. Do you always try to shoot that high when the subject is moving? Or have you
come up with guidelines for different wildlife moving speeds?
Hey Dave. Tell Cindy I said hi!
I always try to work my way up to 1/3200th if the action is moving fast. I personally have never seen a tack sharp photo on my computer and though “Man, I wish I used a slower shutter speed”. With higher ISO’s not much of a problem these days (both cameras and software are better), I’d much rather it sharp and not think about it, and 1/3200 gets me there. If it’s dark and low light, I’ll always experiment to get down lower – but my number 1 thought is always sharp before anything. Talk soon!
I read somewhere there was hesitation among some founding fathers to have the Bald Eagles as our national symbol for the same reason you explained. Someone thought the Eagles were opportunistic and bullies….Nevertheless, they chose right!…..they are magnificent creatures.. Good read Matt, thanks!
That’s pretty funny. Especially since bullying wasn’t really a “thing” back then. I did read that Ben Franklin thought the eagle was of poor moral character. Hey… in the end, I’m good with survival of the fittest and if eagles survive that way and it’s nature… who am I to argue 🙂
Pretty sure Ben Franklin wanted the Wild Turkey as the National Bird…. He was a great man, but a very strange duck.
This was an interesting story, and I don’t want to take anything away from it, BUT…I can’t stop looking at the detail of the “feather tracing outlines” on the eagle’s right (shoulder) wing!!! Those markings are outrageous. I just love that pattern and the way the light is tracing it.
Am I crazy or is that truly amazing?!
Hi Jeff. Yes, it’s very pretty. Not really special to this eagle specifically, as most of the adults look like this as well. Also, part of it is good light positioning so it really shows off the texture and feathers. But yes, these birds look amazing!
I’m like you…I keep shooting in hopes something great will happen. Since reading your blog and taking a lot of your classes I’m now trying to delete a lot more photos and just keeping a couple of great ones. I’d love to get the Sony A1 but I’m afraid of how many shots I’ll take!