I used to say that if I wasn’t in hospital management, I would work at REI. Recent events have modified that view.
Over the past 6 months I have made the drive between Salt Lake City and Great Falls, MT over 10 times. Portions of this drive are incredibly beautiful. I have often noticed huge hawks, eagles, and even an owl aligning I-15’s power poles hoping to scavenge any small animals left behind as road kill.
Over the past few trips, I started bringing my camera with a 270mm telephoto lens hoping to get a great picture. A few weeks ago, I spotted a HUGE bald eagle about 7 miles south of DuBois, Idaho. I pulled over my truck and immediately he flew off. I hopped over the barbed-wire fence and gave pursuit. In my mind I saw myself as a budding National Geographic photographer hot on the chase of the next “photo of the year.” In the end, I landed a few very grainy photos without much detail. None of the photos even proved worthy of saving.
Yesterday, as I drove back to Great Falls from Salt Lake I was determined to find the same bald eagle. I pulled over and watched his nest for 30 minutes. Much to my disappointment, there was not sign of him/her. I continued down the interstate and about 10 miles down the road I saw another huge bald eagle (maybe the same one). I slowly exited the truck hoping not to spook him off. Again, he took off. They are so private and unwilling to share their honorable mystique.
At this point, I thought my chances of landing the photo of the year had vaporized. So, I continued down the interstate with the audio version on the life of Einstein keeping me entertained.
About 20 miles south of Butte, I spotted another bald eagle on a fence post (see below). I got out of the truck with my hand on the shutter and immediately started shooting. I was still at a distance over 30 yards, so the pictures weren’t great. It was also dusk, so the pictures were under exposed.
As I kept walking towards him, he took off. As I dropped the camera from my face, I noticed some movement about 20 feet in front of me. It was a hawk! He just stood there staring at me with a cautious face (how do I know it was cautious? I mean, I am no expert in hawk facial expressions.)
Anyway, I was certain he was going to fly off…but he didn’t. I kept approaching him while snapping photo after photo. He let come within 3 feet of him. I set down the camera and just sat gazing at this amazing creature. At some point, he actually took his eyes off me. I took this to mean he was pretty comfortable with me. I sat there for over 10 minutes. It was a sacrosanct experience for me. It was such an incredible feeling.
I started to get cold, so I started to slowly back away and return to the warm comfort of my truck. As I settled in behind the steering wheel, I started to review the photos. I had taken over 100 shots!
Included in this post are a few of the best shots. Note, the photos of the hawk have not been digitally zoomed in photoshop. I was literally that close with the lens at about 50mm. The picture of the eagle has been modified-hence the grainy look.