I joke (but it’s true) that my best eagle and osprey in moments in the Northwest happen in silhouette. There’s the issue of light, and how low and flat it tends to be in the winter. There’s also the issue of my luck — where the light is perfect, I’m pointed in the right direction, but the bird has other plans for me, usually flying overhead and hovering mere meters away with a lightbox of diffused sun behind her.
My most recent Bald Eagle encounter combined the best of all weather conditions: rain, white clouds, and then backlighting, as the sun struggled to emerge behind that scrim. A sub-adult eagle soared right over me and landed on a totem pole just off a marina pier. This was how the scene looked to my naked eye and to the default settings in my camera:
I decided on spot metering, to bring out detail in the eagle feathers, then some negative exposure compensation to avoid completely blowing out the sky. The results weren’t perfect, given the intense backlight and the limited amount of time to experiment. But, I shoot RAW, so I can bring up the shadows and play around with highlight recovery in Lightroom to create a workable (if highlight-clipped) image, as I did with this one:
Another, easier option is to abandon strict realism, give in to the randomness of the moment, and go artistic on the eagles. Seeing as I haven’t added any images to my Bird Noir series in a while, I decided to go for eagles in black-and-white.
So, here’s my Eagle Noir series, commemorating this latest encounter with an almost-grown Bald Eagle who gave me yet another Northwest “best” … in silhouette (but of course).
To my wildlife photography friends … how would you have metered and shot this scene, given the conditions?