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04.26.2010

 Each year I lead a series of photography workshops on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Our target is Bald Eagle in their natural habitat. Being in the wilderness with groups of eagles is an amazing experience and I always look forward to my time there. This year our group ended up in a unusual and potential dangerous situation. What do you do when your subject is in a potential fatal situation, when do you step in to help? Where would you draw the line between recording natural history and stepping in help an animal in need of assistance to survive? Do you stop shooting and give up a potentially award winning image?

Eagle Portrait © 2010 Robert OToole / Robert OToole Photography

NIKON D300S and Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM, Handheld at eye level, 1/1600 sec at F5.6, manual metering, flash off, ISO 400.

My workshop group and I were out photographing a group of eagles at a favorite area with driftwood and small spruce trees surrounded by blue water. The plan was to photograph all afternoon until sundown. After shooting for some time some the eagles would fly in closer for an inspection. We quickly noticed a large seemingly fearless eagle. Something just didn’t seem right. I had never seen anything like this before. The eagle would jump up and flap for three of four feet but the eagle could not fly any real distance. We still had plenty of light to shoot but I couldn’t photograph any longer and I decided to put down my camera and do what I could to save the eagle. The thought of leaving it alone in a deserted unprotected area without the ability to fly to find food or shelter made my decision easy. I am one of those people that just cannot stand to see any animal suffer, I had to rescue the eagle and bring it to get some medical attention.

After receiving an okay from the Alaska Fish and Game office I called for a boat to bring a dog transport container, blanket and gloves for the rescue attempt. Within a few minutes we had the eagle safely in the container, and thankfully the eagle calmed down almost instantly once I covered the container with a blanket. Once we had the eagle safely in the kennel were all relieved the eagle suffered no additional damage and everyone involved in the capture still had all fingers still attached.

Eagles coming in for a closer inpection. © 2010 Robert OToole / Robert OToole Photography


NIKON D700 and Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM, Handheld at eye level, 1/1250 sec at F5.6, manual metering, flash off, ISO 400.



Alaska Fish and Game had the eagle transported to an eagle rehabilitation center and I am glad to report that the she is doing great and eating well. It’s a great feeling to know that the eagle will be okay and the eagle’s unfortunate situation turned out okay after all. Sacrificing part of an afternoon of photography for a subject’s welfare was much more rewarding than any of the missed images. 

Eagle landing in the Beach © 2010 Robert OToole / Robert OToole Photography

NIKON D700 and Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM, Handheld at eye level, 1/1600 sec at F5.6, manual metering, flash off, ISO 400.

Let me know if there is another nature technique you would like to learn more about in a future blog post. If you would like to know more or to join my free newsletter list please email me Robert@RobertOToolePhotography.com or visit my website: http://www.robertotoolephotography.com

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