Getting the perfect Bald Eagle flight shot.... is not easy!

I have tried many years unsuccessfully to get the perfect Bald Eagle flight shot. They are common birds and seemingly everywhere on the Pacific Northwest but they have white heads and tails and dark bodies. It is easy to overexpose them. You also need to think about background, light and composition. They can be skittish and always fly in the opposite direction it seems too haha.

Anyways, I think flight photography is something that takes a fair amount of time to master, especially when you shoot manual as I do. I still have so much to learn. This weekend I went to Harrison Mills and Squamish and here are some of my efforts.

I visited Brackendale and the water levels were too high washing away many of the carcasses. I saw some seals and Barrow's Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers and a few Bald Eagles and got to eat lunch at the "Water Shed Grill" (which  is my fave place to eat in Squamish). Again it was on a beautiful sunny day so couldn't complain. Last year I went on a raft, a week later and got some beautiful eagle shots of them on sandbars that you can see HERE.

I got my favorite Bald Eagle flight shot so far at Harrison Mills. I liked the background and light but the eagle's placement in the frame is not perfect, one wing is hidden but the wing that is showing is perfectly showing definition in great light. I do like the wing position for the most part. So despite some small negatives, I am exceptionally happy with this image and will frame it. I will still continue to work on my craft and get better flight shots and hopefully one day obtain the perfect image. Photography like birding is a hobby of continuous learning. To me, this makes it all the more interesting and exciting.

I loved seeing the eagles fly above me in beautiful light they are such majestic creatures. It was also cool to see all the spawning Chum and Sockeye Salmon. Yes I may work with them but I never tire of seeing their incredible life cycle. How the eagles and so many other threatened species including us depend on them makes it all the more vital that we protect this vital keystone species before their endangered populations vanish forever. Do you know salmon act not only as an important food source for bears, whales, birds and humans but also act as fertilizers for the trees we need to breathe!

I really am looking forward to photographing more Baldies in Harrison Mills, WA and Squamish this winter season. The numbers should increase even more when the last salmon die off. Let’s hope those water levels stay low I checked out Nicomen Slough on the way to Harrison and eagle numbers were down there too. I never saw the reported Golden Eagle in Harrison or the 2 Leucistic Baldies out there. There is one almost completely white bird and one very pale tawny brown bird. Both are striking! In the winter what a good thing to do. Or maybe travel to somewhere warm which I plan to do but more on that later.

Shooting in the golden hour worked in my favour with this Baldie - Photo: Melissa Hafting

So here is something funny my friend Maxime taught me that if you use photoshop you can move the eagle in the frame so that you get the perfect shot, even if you didn't obtain it in the field! So makes you think are what we looking at really "real" or not?

Which do you prefer the doctored version or the real thing?! I prefer the doctored.

If you have seen my first flight shots when I started photography in 2014 you would think I have made some huge strides haha! Check out Flickr for those dreadful shots.

Here are some more flight shots I took this weekend of lesser quality and of Bald Eagles of varying ages. Despite needing some improvements; I still like them for varying reasons, so thought I would share. Sometimes it’s not about the perfect shot but about the memories.

Bald Eagles in Harrison Mills - Photos: Melissa Hafting

While shooting the eagles I also saw Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, Common Mergansers, Chestut-backed Chickadees among others and enjoyed gorgeous sunlight.  Not to mention as I said earlier how cool it always is to see Chum and Sockeye Salmon spawning in the river. On the way home from shooting the Eagles I stopped in at the spot on Hale Rd. that I had seen the Chipping Sparrow on Nov 11th and this time I found 2 in a Junco flock! There was also a Slate-colored Junco there and many Purple Finches. I believe this is the latest record for the Metro Vancouver area for Chipping Sparrows. There is also a Ruff in Tsawwassen right now, which is also the latest Metro Vancouver record. Plus the Philadelphia Vireo that I saw last month has returned to Hastings Park, which will make many birders and especially Winter Listers happy!. I am hoping that some rarities show up so that I can hit my 270 Metro Vancouver target.... I am so close, next target the PRAIRIE FALCON but not before heading south for my lifer TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE!

2 Chipping Sparrows in Pitt Meadows - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Good birding.


  1. Beautiful photos!! Best eagle shots I’ve seen

    1. thanks i think the bald eagle shot is the best ive ever taken! so thank you :D love you sissy.

  2. I have for a number of years been trying to get good flight shots of eagles but because of what you mentioned, white head and tail and dark body it is hard to get proper exposure. That flight shot is a good one as are the rest of your photos.

    1. thank you so much my friend. so you have been in the same boat as me.. It is not easy at all to shoot these stunning birds as you say the exposure being the biggest reason.


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