Hokkaido Raptors

The first night we are due to get up early and get on a boat to go photograph the eagles I don’t sleep very well. I’m jet-lagged (like everyone else) and I guess part of my brain doesn’t want me to oversleep and miss the alarm.

We’re in Rausu Town on the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido. We’re up early three mornings in a row to go out into the Nemuro Straits to photograph the White-tailed and Steller’s Sea eagles. I’ve never photographed birds in flight and my mornings are frustrating, though my efforts are also rewarded as I make some images I am happy with. I learn a lot about what works and a lot more about what really doesn’t. I make friends with some of the settings on my camera that I have never needed to use for immovable objects.

Martin is a patient teacher and spends time explaining how panning works – specifically to make images that show movement, whilst keeping the face of the bird in focus. He warns us that it can result in a lot of images that won’t be right (and how how true this is!) and often calls out his camera settings so we have a chance of making some photographic memories of these regal birds.

I loved how the rising sun caught their feathers and bathed them in golden light, how majestic they are in flight with their primary feathers curled, and how goofy they can sometimes look when they walk.

It takes over 2,000 photographs, and a few choice words muttered under my breath, to get to this small set that I like.

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