Capturing An African Fish Eagle…Fishing!

The African Fish Eagle is without any doubt a real symbol of Africa and the African waterways. With most of Southern African being partial desert, the real living arteries of the region are its perennial rivers. During the dry season, large concentrations of animals and birds congregate on these waterways.

The Sabie River that flows on our southern boundary is one of these perennial rivers and it is really the life blood of the area. It is one of the only rivers that has water all year round, even in years of extreme drought. In recent years the river has flowed more strongly than ever, in part due to the fires that decimated the forests on the mountains in the catchment area 3 years ago.

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I am sure many photographers dream of a good picture of a fish eagle actually fishing. For most of us this will remain a dream, as it is more a question of luck than anything else. If you spend a lot of time with the eagles and keep your attention on them, you might eventually be lucky. But invariably you are not ready and in position, or the wind is in the wrong direction, or the sun is too low or not at the correct angle. Here are a few tips that might help.

Eagles will always take off into the wind and will only fish into the wind. Early morning is normally best as the eagles will be hungry from the long night. Winter is better than summer, as the rivers are lower and the eagles can see their prey better. Always have your shutter set to 2000th of a second – no slower or you will not freeze the action. Set your ISO to auto and your aperture as high as you can so that you get a bit of depth. Do not use too much lens. I use my 200- 400mm set to 300mm to minimize the risk cutting the eagles wings out of the picture. Put your camera on full shutter speed and take as many frames as you can until your buffer kicks in, otherwise you might just miss that magical photograph.

Good luck! It’s not easy. It has taken me years to get this right.

Happy snapping,

Rod Wyndham

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