Springtime brings hundreds of thousands of alewives to the state of Maine on their annual spawning run from the Atlantic Ocean. Utilizing each massive rivers and small streams, they make their approach inland to lakes and backwaters of streams, the place they deposit and fertilize their eggs. It’s an ideal alternative for photographing osprey fishing and in-flight.

Photographing osprey in flight and fishing

With water droplets exploding, the osprey emerges from the stream with a pleasant catch. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM and Canon Extender EF 1.4x III. Publicity: 1/3200 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 10000.

The Alewife is a species of herring that’s 10 to 14 inches in size and weighs as much as 1 pound. Whereas not as well-known because the salmon runs of the Northwest Pacific coasts of the USA and Canada, the alewife migration is one in every of nature’s nice happenings. Like salmon, alewives are an anadromous species that migrate into freshwater from the ocean to spawn. Nevertheless, in contrast to salmon, they don’t normally die however as a substitute return to the ocean—offering they will efficiently run the gauntlet and keep away from being caught by human or wildlife predators.

A number of species make the most of the annual alewife run as a supply of meals to assist in elevating their younger, together with the osprey, bald eagle, cormorant, gulls, mink and raccoon. Smoked alewife is taken into account a New England delicacy.

Conservation efforts have been vital to sustaining and increasing the alewife fishery. Native People fished for alewives for millennia, and European settlers additionally exploited this useful resource. In newer occasions, overfishing, dam building and air pollution have decimated the alewife inhabitants. Nineteenth-century logging and dam constructing for industrialization alongside the rivers destroyed the atmosphere for a lot of wildlife species. In consequence, many New England Rivers don’t have any alewives at present.

Thankfully, ongoing conservation efforts to revive the atmosphere have led to a resurgence of the alewife inhabitants in some streams. Air pollution cleanup, restoration and constructing of fish ladders and removing of dams have supplied an atmosphere conducive to the well being of the alewife fishery.

Photographing Osprey Fishing The Alewife Migration

As a photographer, my major curiosity is photographing osprey, which I deem to be the celebrities of the alewife migration with their dramatic dives to catch the alewives. Watching an osprey hit the water at over 60 miles per hour after which emerge with a fish is one in every of nature’s spectacular occasions. The 6-foot wingspan of the osprey allows it to start flight with highly effective strokes because it emerges from the water after being completely submerged. Typically they’ll emerge with two and even three fish clamped of their sharp talons, although the struggles of the fish, coupled with their weight, will normally end result within the osprey flying off with solely a single fish for all of its efforts.

The osprey performs a “moist canine” shake to shed water to make sure clean and environment friendly flight. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x at 560mm. Publicity: 1/2500, ƒ/6.3, ISO 6400.

From a photographer’s perspective, the osprey exiting the stream amid a twig of water droplets with its catch is an excellent motion shot available. Because it begins its climb, a number of shot alternatives are current, and one in every of my favorites is the “moist canine” shake when the osprey twists vigorously to rid itself of water from its feathers for smoother flight.

Ospreys are profitable on most of their dives primarily based on my expertise. Nevertheless, they aren’t dwelling free as soon as they seize their prey, as they’ve two thieving opponents: gulls and bald eagles.

A herring gull is comparable in dimension to an osprey and may be very aggressive. Whereas it might probably catch fish itself, it would assault an osprey when it’s nonetheless within the water and weak to rob it of its catch. The bald eagle has a special technique. It waits till the osprey has gained some altitude earlier than it assaults. The eagle will fly up beneath the osprey, forcing it increased and better till the osprey tires and drops the fish, which the eagle will then snag in mid-air. Typically one other eagle will be part of the enjoyable and try stealing the fish from the eagle that simply stole it.

The osprey leaves with out its fish after being attacked by a herring gull. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM. Publicity: 1/2500 sec., ƒ5.6, ISO 640.

Suggestions For Capturing The Scene

Listed here are some suggestions for photographing osprey to seize photographs like these proven on this article.


The fish are usually most quite a few with the incoming tide; verify the tide desk for the stream that you’re close to. You might be a number of miles inland, so plan for the extra time it takes for the tide to maneuver upstream.

Discovering Your Spot

Search out a place on the river with good over-the-shoulder lighting. Additionally, being on the water’s edge or close by to get a low capturing angle is useful. Concentrate on the background to keep away from distracting parts like bridges, buildings, homes and particularly different photographers.

Endurance & Persistence

As with every wildlife shoot, be affected person since unpredictability is a part of the problem. Typically there are osprey however no fish working, or no osprey however fish are working, or neither osprey nor fish current. Then there’s that point when all the pieces comes collectively, just like the day I counted 17 osprey within the air hovering and circling as they scanned the water for fish. It was an extra of riches as a result of for a profitable shot it is advisable to watch one osprey and give attention to it because it begins it dive after which comply with it to the water. With so many ospreys current, it was inevitable that some nice shot alternatives can be missed.

An osprey reveals off its good catch because it flies overhead on its departure from the river. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM. Publicity: 1/3200 sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 320.

Carry A Quick Digicam—Or Three

I was amused once I would see knowledgeable photographer carrying a number of cameras. Nicely, I’m now not laughing, as the appropriate instruments are wanted for the job. I choose high-frame-rate (10 fps or extra) cameras that can yield extra wing positions in a sequence. This provides you a greater likelihood to acquire the perfect shot, as some wing positions are extra pleasing to the attention.

I may be discovered within the subject photographing ospreys fishing with a giant telephoto lens on a tripod, a telephoto zoom lens on a diagonal strap and wide-angle zoom round my neck. Thus, I can cowl vary of 24mm to 1120mm. I by no means know what circumstances might happen with the meant topics or if an sudden animal might make an look. Whereas I could also be searching for wildlife, an amazing panorama shot would possibly current itself, too.

I exploit three digital camera our bodies, as I’ve discovered to keep away from altering lenses within the subject. The time concerned to vary a lens might end in a missed shot. This method additionally helps keep away from the opportunity of getting mud or moisture on the digital camera’s focal airplane sensor.

Dial In Your Publicity First

When establishing, I take check photographs and verify the histogram to verify there isn’t a clipping of the lights or darks. To make sure that the fowl’s head will not be overexposed, I zoom in on my digital camera’s LCD to verify for head element. In altering gentle situations, judgment is usually essential to make on-the-fly adjustment of settings. Relying on situations, I’ve employed publicity compensation values from minus 2 to plus 2 stops. Whereas some “fixing” may be doable later with processing, don’t rely on it. Get it proper within the digital camera.

This osprey is off with a “twofer” after putting a dense group of alewives on their spawning run. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x at 560mm. Publicity: 1/2500, ƒ/5.6, ISO 10000.

Composition & Digicam Settings

When selecting the lens size, be sure you depart area round “fowl in flight” conditions as it’s higher to crop some later than clip the fowl’s wing. My rule of thumb is that the sitting fowl ought to solely take up one-third to one-quarter of the body top within the viewfinder. This may increasingly seem to be an excessive amount of room, and maybe it’s if you happen to need solely a sitting portrait, however I’ve discovered an osprey launching for prey can refill the empty space fairly shortly.

The osprey is perhaps diving 100 yards distant or as shut as solely 20 yards away. Their dives will probably be from the sky or a tree perch alongside the river. I pay attention for his or her chirping to find them as they’ll usually vocalize earlier than they dive. On condition that their diving pace is as much as 60 mph and the background alongside the river is cluttered with bushes, I discover it useful to make use of again button focus to lock on to the fowl earlier than it dives. I usually shoot in shutter precedence with a shutter pace of at the very least 1/2500 sec. to “cease” the motion. Additionally, I exploit Auto ISO to compensate for the altering gentle situations from the sky. Relying on the scene’s brightness, a adverse publicity compensation of -1 cease is usually warranted to keep away from over-exposing the osprey’s white head and feathers.

Whereas I’ve invested in top-of-the-line digital camera gear, I’ve seen glorious photographs taken with a spread of cameras and lenses from 100mm to 400mm. A 150-600mm telephoto zoom is a well-liked lens that I usually see within the subject. So, don’t suppose that solely the “execs” or these with super-telephoto primes may be profitable photographing ospreys fishing.

An in depth-up view because the osprey flies by with the alewife, which is at all times oriented head-first. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM. Publicity: 1/3200 sec., ƒ/5.6, ISO 2000.

Planning Your Journey To Maine

If you want to strive your hand at photographing osprey, some planning is required. The alewife run is within the Might and June timeframe, however the precise timing varies from yr to yr. An online search will yield standing reviews to assist your planning.

Considered one of my favourite locations to go to is the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder. Two different fashionable capturing locations are on the Saint George River in Warren, Maine, at Payson Park; and downtown, east of the bridge on Fundamental Road. Additionally, I’ve had good luck simply driving round and searching for ospreys within the air. I’ve discovered them on small streams and slim inlets along with the most important rivers. It’s an amazing journey, and I want you good capturing if you happen to determine to go. 

See extra of Howard Arndt’s work at howardarndtphoto.com.

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