D4 and Katana Gimbal do Alaska Bald Eagles

Started Apr 9, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Ron Perkins New Member • Posts: 19
D4 and Katana Gimbal do Alaska Bald Eagles

In November 2012 I was 1 of 4 English photographers who travelled to Haines for the Bald Eagles.  Because the airline and ferry schedules are out of sync it was an expensive 3 day journey; we needed a large number of keepers to justify the trip.  We were pleased to meet Matt Shetzer and his team.

Throughout the stay the sky was overcast; there was a fall of snow on the second day and further snow showers. I used a D4 and a 200-400 mm plus x1.4 mounted on a lightweight Velbon carbon fibre tripod via a Katana gimbal head.  All of my shots were taken at f7.1 using ISO Auto and a slowest shutter speed of 1/1000 second. The ISO was usually between 2000 and 4000.  On the duller mornings the ISO was pushed higher but only light denoising was required. On auto white balance 2 only a few frames out of ~5000 needed white balance correction.

We were all amazed to find the eagles very confiding; they would sometimes land within a few yards.  A shooting situation we regularly encountered was to have an eagle ~30 yards away eating a salmon. It would be attacked by other eagles swooping in at 35mph.  Experienced eagles usually anticipated the attacks and would flip over with extended talons to ward off the attack.  This action was very rapid so the 10 fps burst rate of the D4 was a big advantage. The exceptionally high quality of the bearings in the Katana gimbal enabled easier capture of this action.

We all rated the trip a huge success - Haines is highly recommended.

A juvenile on a mission

A good test of the D4 AF in heavy falling snow

About to land

An experienced juvenile fending off an attack

Just after take off

The last remnants of salmon were carried into the trees to avoid attack

The D4 was faultless thoughout the shoot, it has had 3AF upgrades since then!

Leica X1 Nikon D4
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