Juneau, Haines, and the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

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Stephen Fischer Photography

After observing the bald eagles long enough, you get to be more aware of their behavior.  This understanding helps to better position yourself and anticipate their next moves for better photographic results.  For example, one of the main motivators for the eagles is the fish.  So if there are no dead salmon on the banks or gravel bars of the river, then the number of photographic opportunities will be less.  With this in mind I would look for areas where there would be salmon present (or where a gull might be dragging one to shore), and then position myself such that I would have an unobstructed view of the salmon with its surroundings, and ideally with the sun more to my side for the purpose of better light.  The next step was to wait for an eagle to show up and the action to begin.  This usually would not take too long.

 

Often times eagles will be perched in the trees on the river bank just above you.  I realized that this introduced a new hazard for your photography and an additional reason to be wearing a raincoat.  After almost getting nailed with eagle poop showers and dropping fish heads from their perches above you, I learned to look up first before deciding where to take up a position on the bank of the river.  Some other photographers were not so lucky, with one complaining about getting nailed three times on his visit so far.  With the eagle‚Äôs diet being so rich in salmon, I would have to say that the smell of one of these showers is enough to gag a goat.

 

Perhaps one other ingredient that kept the photography interesting in Haines was the drive up the Chilkat river valley each morning, and the return later that afternoon.  The mountainous terrain that surrounds this valley can be jaw dropping, especially under the golden hours when the cloud cover is not as thick.  One thing about photography in general in Alaska, due to the low angle of the sun and shorter days at these latitudes, the golden hour tends to stretch out over a longer period.  In mid-November the sun does not begin to rise until after 7:30 am and sets by about 3:30 pm.  On the first morning when the lighting was good, I ended up being about an hour late in getting to my favorite bald eagle location at mile marker 20 due to numerous stops along the way for landscape related photography.  For this reason it is beneficial to also pack a landscape related tripod, cable release, and lens for your travels to this area.

 

On a few days in the afternoon, the activity with the eagles slowed down.  I used this as an opportunity to head back into Haines, grab a quick lunch, and then explore the Chilkoot inlet and river basin under the late afternoon light.  The landscape photography of this area did not disappoint, as I was fortunate to have some good light with partly cloudy skies, and calm waters to capture some glass-like reflections of the surrounding mountains.  Further up the Chilkoot river past the bridge towards Chilkoot lake there are also some unique boulders in the middle of the river with small bonsai sized spruce trees sprouting from them.  This was a perfect opportunity to take out the tripod, and try some longer exposures in order to capture a silkier look to the water, with the intent of a composition that better reflected the setting of these more delicate looking trees.

 

As far is places to eat and hang-out in Haines, your choices are somewhat limited. My favorite local and dependable diner is the Bamboo house on 2nd ave and Main.  Another good choice for breakfast and lunch is the Chilkat bakery and Resturant on 5th and Dalton, which serves surprisingly good Thai food on select days of the week (Tuesdays and weekends?).  A popular local hangout for coffee and lunch is also the Mountain Market Coffee House at 3rd and the Old Haines Highway. The coffee here is good, and also has a small organic food market in one half of the building.  

 

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All content and images are property of Stephen Fischer Photography, copyright 2013.   Last updated: 11/22/2013