Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

Cry of the Eagle

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In the Field

Cry of the Eagle. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 10 July 2019.

If you like shooting Bald Eagles on absolutely iconic perches, there's no better place to go than Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve on the BC coast. I caught this adult eagle drying its wings while perched high in a long-dead (and even longer-lived) tree overlooking a calm bay. I got lucky in that the eagle decided to cry out just as I got it framed up and started shooting.

This shot was captured using a Nikon D5 paired up with a Nikkor 180-400mm f4E zoom lens (with its built-in teleconverter engaged at its maximum focal length - 560mm). While the 180-400mm lens is extremely expensive (and I certainly howled about the price when it was first announced), I have found it to be an incredibly versatile lens for wildlife shooting and optically as solid as the best prime lenses. In fact, with the exception of the diminutive Nikkor 500mm f5.6E PF lens, I no longer take big primes on any of the photo tours I lead and - at least to date - I have had NO regrets about leaving the big primes at home. There's no doubt the Nikkor 180-400mm is my KEY wildlife lens and functionally replaces several other lenses in my kit.

Are there any drawbacks to the 180-400mm? Yep - at least two. The first is the most obvious - its price. Some (including me) may be able to justify it by noting how many lenses it can replace. But the reality is that even with that thinking its price simply puts it out of reach of a lot of shooters. The second downside? Its weight. At 3500 grams (7.7 lb) it is simply too heavy for many to hand-hold (or to hand-hold for more than a few seconds at a time). And, this weight does make it harder to transport the lens around - a point that is really driven home if you also happen to own a much lighter super-telephoto like the Nikkor 500mm f5.6E PF. But for me, the many positives of this lens do "outweigh" its two primary drawbacks and I have to say I still just LOVE shooting the 180-400mm f4E.

Here's a larger (2400 pixel) version of this iconic bird (on its iconic perch):

Cry of the Eagle Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.24 MB)


1. This image was captured during our "Gwaii Haanas Explorer" photo tour in July of 2019. Each year we offer photo tours into several different parts of the Great Bear Rainforest as well trips to photograph marine mammals and oceanscapes in locations on Vancouver Island. And, in selected years, I also offer photo tours to locations to capture other highly sought-after subjects, such as Dall Sheep, Bald Eagles, and more. Details about these trips can be found on the Photo Tours page of this website.

2. This image - in all resolutions - is protected by copyright. I'm fine with personal uses of them (including use as desktop backgrounds or screensavers on your own computer), but unauthorized commercial use of the image is prohibited by law. Thanks in advance for respecting my copyright!

3. Like all wildlife photographs on this website, this image was captured following the strict ethical guidelines described in The Wildlife FIRST! Principles of Photographer Conduct. I encourage all wildlife photographers to always put the welfare of their subjects above the value of their photographs.

Behind the Camera

Cry of the Eagle. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 10 July 2019.

Digital Capture; Compressed RAW (NEF) 14-bit format; ISO 360.

Nikon D5 paired with Nikkor 180-400mm f4E at 560mm (with TC engaged). Hand-held from floating Zodiac. VR on and in Sport mode. 9-Point Dynamic Area AF mode.

1/800s @ f6.3; No compensation from "recommended" matrix-metered exposure setting.

At the Computer

Cry of the Eagle. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 10 July 2019.

RAW Conversion to 16-bit PSD file (and JPEG files for web use), including all global and selective adjustments, using Phase One's Capture One Pro 12. Global adjustments to this shot included minor modifications to exposure, shadow detail, and a levels adjustment. Selective local adjustments performed using Capture One Pro's layers and masking tools. In this case adjustments were made on 8 separate layers and included local/selective editing of (or adjustment of) clarity, colour balance, tone curve, colour saturation and a further adjustment to shadow details.

Photoshop modifications were limited to the insertion of the watermark and/or text.


Cry of the Eagle. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. 10 July 2019.

Species Status in Canada*: This species is not designated as at risk. The Bald Eagle was listed as "Endangered" in the contiguous US states from 1967 to 1995. In 1995 it was downlisted to "Threatened". On June 28, 2007 Bald Eagles were removed from the list of endangered and threatened species - a true American conservation success story.

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a very large bird of prey with broad wings. Adults possess characteristic white ("bald") heads. It takes Bald Eagles a full five years to attain their characteristic adult plumage (including their nearly pure white head and tail). In the years prior to the development of their adult plumage they are easy to confuse with Golden Eagles. Being very broad-winged Bald Eagles are able to use an energy-efficient flapping-soaring style of flight. While many people like to think of the Bald Eagle as a fierce hunter, in reality they hunt only as a last resort. More commonly they scavenge for their prey. Additionally, they often klepto-parasitize other weaker species such as Osprey, commonly stealing the other species hard-earned prey items. The Bald Eagle is, of course, the national emblem of the United States (Benjamin Franklin argued against this - his preference was for the Wild Turkey).

*as determined by COSEWIC: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada