Photography can be quite difficult in the Kruger National Park. It is not a lack of subject matter, but rather the inability to go off the roads to get the ideal lighting angle. It is generally imperative to have the sun directly behind you so that you minimise shadows on the subject. The following group of images is a good example of what I mean. I have seldom seen a pair of mating Tawny Eagles, but one early morning we came across this breeding pair. The best light angle I could achieve was about 30 degrees off the ideal. The subject was great but as can be seen from the images, the light direction caused shadows to fall on key parts on the birds.
We stopped to observe this pair and I had just placed the camera and lens on the beanbag when the male mounted the female and I just depressed the shutter button and hoped for the best. There was no time to make any adjustments to what was pretty much set on the camera at that time. I got a burst of four images, which are all shown below. Ideally I would have preferred ⅔ to 1 stop of additional light. No time for exposure compensation or to put on a 1.4x extender. I used Canon’s propriety software, DPP 4.0 to render the RAW images. It does this very well, especially if the exposure/noise presents difficulties.
Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax), Berg en Dal vicinity, Kruger National Park, South Africa
ALL IMAGES: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV with a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens.
1/800 sec @ f/6.3 in Aperture Priority mode. ISO 400. Evaluative metering. Supported on a BLUBB© beanbag.
Tawny Eagles are monogamous and breeding usually takes place between April and July. Generally 2 eggs are laid and the chicks hatch a few days apart, with the older chick attacking the younger sibling. The nest is a large stick platform as can be seen in relation to the size of the birds. Most nests are used for a few years with some recorded to be used for long periods of time