Let's get two things straight from the get-go: I'm certainly not implying my photographic prowess ranks me anywhere close to Ansel Adams. And I have no doubt the above eagle photo is significant only to me.
None the less, capturing such a shot, on the stretch of river flowing directly past my modest stone cottage home, is—in my scheme of things—a momentous event. I'm thrilled to have managed such a feat, and rank the image among the dozen best I've captured over the past year.
Eagles have been a rarity throughout Ohio practically all my life. Statewide, our historic bald eagle population began dwindling long before I was born, in fact, well before WWII, starting at least from the turn of the century; and the widespread post-war usage of the pesticide DDT, with its impact on fish and wildlife such as nesting birds, proved the final devastating blow. I never saw a single wild eagle during my entire growing up, or hear a report of one being spotted. It was rumored one or two eagles still nested along the shores of Lake Erie, but here in the southern portion of the state, eagles were simply long gone. Practically mythological birds.
It wasn't until my early-twenties that I saw my first eagle—a distinctive shape, way up in the sky, winging southward during the autumnal migration. Not much of a sighting; more a glimpse of a sky-high traveler. I spotted another migrating eagle a year or two later. Then one day a year or so after that, while deep in the genuine wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, as I fished my way down a remote, jackpine-lined brook trout creek a few miles inland from where it dumped its tannin-stained waters into Lake Superior, a magnificent bald eagle soared overhead, so low I could almost have touched it with the tip of my fly rod. An eagle sighting truly worth mentioning!
However, several years ago, a few bald eagles began slowly moving back into the Buckeye State. Their reappearance in an area where an eagle hadn't been seen in a hundred years was such a noteworthy event it almost always got covered by local newspapers and television. A few years back, a pair of eagles finally appeared here, on my home river. They built a nest a mile or so upstream, but were unsuccessful in hatching or at least rearing any young. And to my knowledge, the nest hasn't been used since.
I have, however, since spotted eagles on several occasions at various locations, near and far, throughout this southwestern quadrant of the state. So Ohio's eagle population is obviously still on the upswing. And I couldn't be more pleased.
Still, seeing an eagle wheel over a distant lake corner, wing across a field, or disappear around a far upstream bend, isn't quite the same experience as having one come swooping in, snatch a foot-long sucker from your "front yard" pool, then sit on a rock fifty feet away for several minutes while you frantically snap it portrait.
Now that's a thrilling Ohio eagle sighting!
Serendipitous, too, because I just happened to be looking out the front window. And lucky, because the day was very dark and drizzly, I was shooting through the window, and had to hand hold my 300mm (effective 450mm with the crop factor) lens and shoot at 1/125 second, hoping for the best.
That it all worked out so well is a pure wonder…and in my photographic experience, wonder doesn't come waltzing in all that often and hand you such a gift. And you know what, I'll bet Ansel Adams would say the same thing.