Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Deadliest Catch" Eagle Photography...

My son Johan(15) and I were looking for some winter photo action. Most of the birds in Sweden have headed South and by now are somewhere in Spain or Africa. Not being so keen on the heat we had another alternative that we had been thinking about for a while - Alaska! (I think we've been watching too much "Deadliest Catch")

Winter flights to Anchorage were pretty reasonable; it was obviously not the tourist season, or maybe it was the connections. We flew with KLM Copenhagen - Amsterdam - Minneapolis/St.Paul - Anchorage. Even the lodging on the Homer Spit Road (where all the action is) was reasonably priced; so we booked five days in a one bedroom flat where we could do our own cooking, with a door directly onto the beach.

We picked up our rental car at the Anchorage airport, and then headed to our hotel room, exhausted after our 21 hours of travel we were asleep by 9:00PM. Our body clocks completely out of sync we woke up at 3AM and were ready to go. So we packed our gear into the car and headed to Denny's for a steak and egg breakfast. We sat next to three Alaska police who were probably wondering what kind of cruel trick I was playing on my son by getting him up at this hour. By 4:30AM we were on our way and as we left the lights of Anchorage behind us we drove off into the winter night; a black road, but the snowy mountains lighting up the sides of the road. The sun comes up at 8:45 in the middle of February but there is a long beautiful twilight which we thoroughly enjoyed. We made a few stops after the sun came up looking for other birds and animals, but there was not much to be seen until we ran into a bald eagle eating a dog that had been hit by a car. Not the glorious first encounter we were hoping for.

A few hours of traffic free driving on clear highways and we were in Homer exploring the town. It reminded me a bit of San Francisco, and we discovered that there were quite a few migrants from the Bay Area. There were eagles all along the Spit sitting on rocks, tree stumps, boats and buildings. My pulse was rising, and we took a few photos and then checked into the hotel. We did some shopping for dinner and breakfast groceries and made it another early night.

The next morning we headed out before sunrise to park next to Jean Keene's trailer where the eagles were being given a hand out of frozen herring.

Sitting in the back of our SUV with the back door up we had the perfect view of the incoming eagles.

While it's not the most natural environment for eagles, it's not much different from the bird feeders we have in our backyard at home, although we use sunflower seed, and not herring.

To get some pictures in different environments we took a couple of day trips with Mako Haggerty who runs Mako's Water Taxi who took us to some coves and inlets on the Kachemak Bay to feed and photograph the eagles and look for other wildlife.

So we had actually succeeded! We were on a crabbing boat (I think Mako had a couple of crabbing pots) in Homer, Alaska in the middle of February. Thankfully the seas were calm and the weather was beautiful.

On the water  we saw some of the other local wildlife like these seals,

And a mother sea-otter with her pup.

Our five days in Homer passed quickly. We had several thousand images each, and agreed that this was more fun than our winter photo trips to Norway where we sat in a freezing hide not being able to move or leave the hide during daylight hours.

We headed back to Anchorage for our final night and prepared for the 21 hour trip back to Sweden. As luck would have it we had a two hour layover in Seattle which gave us just enough time to have lunch at the airport with an old family friend, Marion Friederich. For our next trip we want to visit Alaska in the summer.

The equipment we used was the Canon 1DmkIII, 5DmkII, 300/2.8IS, 500/4IS and 100-400. 

For a few more images from our trip see