I prefer to work with big alpha animals – elephants have a greater pull on me than mice. This is true also with birds and this has drawn me towards the American Bald eagle – a magnificent and emblematic creature with an astonishing wingspan of up to seven feet.
The difficulty is capturing imagery that captures fresh detail – the world is not short of images of this bird – indeed they adorn homes in America from the White House down.
The starting point for me was always going to be the wings – their size and textural detail. However, the more I worked on this project in Alaska, the more I was disappointed by my “in flight” work – I struggled to do the wings justice. The problem was simply that in flight, the wings do look big, but there is a disconnect to anything that gives real scale – a “big sky” does not help as it excludes much of what could help define and give context.
I travelled to the fishing village of Homer – a great place to spot great Bald eagles, especially in the winter and spring and sure enough there were a great number of eagles on the beach. It was then a question of getting sufficiently close to work with as small a telephoto as possible. Instinctively, eagles will tend to take off away from an intruder, not towards him and to engineer the effect captured I had to use decoys to encourage the eagle’s first wing movement in my direction.
Finally, it came off – and I think this is indeed a fresh image of a bald eagle. What remarkable wings and all the more remarkable at take-off.