Sunday, November 6, 2011

Close-up photos of an American Bald Eagle...great references for artists

If you're a bird artist, you're probably always looking for ways to study birds up close, but it's hard to sneak up on an American Bald Eagle in the wild, so if you're an artist looking for close-up reference images of an American Bald Eagle, feel free to use these.

This American Bald Eagle was part of an education program from Back to the Wild, a volunteer, non-profit wildlife rehabilitation and nature education center located in northwest Ohio. I was at the Midwest Birding Symposium in Lakeside, Ohio when I saw their tent set up in the vendor area. Just like RAPTOR, Inc. (from my previous posts), Back to the Wild's primary mission is to rehabilitate and release injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife back to the wild...

...a closeup of an American Bald Eagle. Nothing beats that profile...

I had just come out of a lecture and didn't have my big camera with me, so I took these photos with my little Panasonic LUMIX DMC-257. For being such a small camera, it has a nice little zoom. I always regret not taking my Nikon with me wherever I go, but I had no idea these gorgeous birds would be working that day.

...another closeup. It's almost the same shot, but the there is a subtle shift in his head tilt. The down-tilted angle changes the mood captured in the image, creating a more aggressive feel. It all centers around the line of his brow. This photo can help artists see how a tiny shift in the angle of the eye creates a not-so subtle shift in the mood...

A quick bit about the boney ridge above the eagle's eye...
The fierce glare of an eagle is all because of the oversized supraorbital ridge that makes up the eagle's brow. This boney ridge makes the bird look tough, formidable, and no-nonsense, but really the supraorbital ridge is only there to block the sun and eliminate its glare so the bird has an easier time hunting. As humans, we interpret the look as a scowl that denotes power and strength, because in our faces, emotions can be deciphered from a shifting brow—a downward slanted brow indicates concentration, anger, or attack. The eagle can not change the position of the supraorbital ridge, and he doesn't have an eyebrow to move around freely, but as artists, we can shift the position of the head to make the slant of the supraorbital ridge a bit deeper, which then creates mood and emotion for the viewer. (Click here for previous posts on the supraorbital ridge.)

...this angle is more contemplative. We equate this gaze as far reaching and noble. The supraorbital ridge is exactly the same, but we perceive the angle of the brow and chin as a mood shift. It's strange how we can pin human characteristics to a bird to create a mood in art, but it's not surprising...

...it also explains why so many sports teams choose hawks and eagles as their namesakes instead of owls and ospreys. How many times have you heard someone shout, "Go Owls!" The owl is every bit as powerful a hunter and can inflict just as much damage as an eagle or hawk, but because it lacks the oversized supraorbital ridge, it carries a different "expression" on its face. Without the scowl, aggression does not register in the viewer and no fight-or-flight adrenalin is produced either. Owls are considered "wise" and hawks "tough," and the poor ospreys, even though they can rip flesh apart with the best of them, they seem to have a perpetually "surprised" look on their faces. "Go Ospreys!" Intellectually, we know what's what, but artistically, emotion can be produced in a glance, and there's nothing we can do about it...

...a full-bodied shot of an American Bald Eagle. This photo is certainly not going to win any awards. Yuck, it's out of focus and people and cars are in the background, but an artist can use it to spark an idea or refer to it for proportion. When I look at this photo, I see an eagle perched on the edge of a nest looking towards its mate approaching with prey...

...artists can get lost in the beautiful and intricate patterns that show in an eagle's wings. Since the wing feathers are so large and pronounced, the pattern is striking.

I always feel sad when I see birds that have been injured so badly they can't heal well enough to live in the wild, but it's nice to know that most of the birds recovered by Back to the Wild are rehabilitated and released and go on to live out their lives in the wild. I also feel like I'm cheating when I photograph these birds. They are tethered and can't fly away, but I know these close-up photos are a great way for artists to study raptors. (Click here for close-up photos of RAPTOR, Inc.'s birds of prey. Artists can also use these photos as references.)

27 comments:

Lynette said...

My goodness, what great photos. The sheer size of the eagle is amazing. Thanks!

KaHolly said...

Incredible close-ups!!

Rick said...

Outstanding, Kelly. Wish I could have been there to see this. You're in good company with the Lumix. I have quite a few friends with this camera and they all love it.

Randy Emmitt said...

Kelly,
Very nice close ups the little camera did wonderfully.

Ken Januski said...

This post sounded, and looked, a bit familiar. Then I saw your link to other RAPTOR posts and it seemed VERY familiar.

Why? My wife and I had been around Magee Marsh for 10 days in May and had just gone through our last auto-tour of Ottawa NWR before starting the first leg of our trip home to Pennsylvania. But we decided we should make a pit stop first. So in a great hurry since it was getting late we drove into parking lot for a 1 minute or less visit to the bathrooms.

And there were a Bald Eagle, a Peregrine, a Barred Owl, Barn Owl, Kestrel, Red-shouldered Hawk and others. We took 5 minutes to hurriedly look and snap photos on my Lumix with its 18x zoom, and then were on our way.

I really wanted to sketch them but we just didn't have time. In our rush I also didn't see the name of the rehab group. But I think it was probably this one or RAPTOR. What an opportunity it was but one we just couldn't take advantage of. So it's nice to see these photos from someone with a little more time to take advantage of the opportunity.

Quite a pleasant surprise to come upon these.

Janice K said...

Wow! Breathtaking!

Lois Evensen said...

Gorgeous! What a beautiful bird and your fabulous photography.

Montanagirl said...

They are truly majestic, and your photos certainly do him justice! Just gorgeous, Kelly.

TexWisGirl said...

they're so beautiful. nice to see such up-close detail. the feathers are fascinating.

holdingmoments said...

Superb captures Kelly.
Such a proud looking bird too.

Sue said...

I've always wondered why the eagle is always giving the "evil eye"--I didn't realize they had a boney ridge doing that for glare reduction. I always thought they were looking for a fight-LOL!

Dan Huber said...

wonderful close-ups Kelly. I always love seeing the feather details

dan

Roy said...

Stunning shots Kelly.

the cuby poet said...

Wow these are amazing photos. What power and strength in a bird this size. Fabulous.

AndysLens said...

Excellent post and wonderful profiles of the eagle.

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

Great photos and I really liked your discussion on how a simple change of the head angle alters how we perceive the birds personality.

Regards
Guy

KAT said...

thanks ! I saved them and the owls too. I don't usually try to paint or draw real detailed art work but I love to get the feeling right. and to vary the feel of an artwork from others like it. My husband is a scoutmaster over at SMOY church and he is always asking me to make an eagle for a eagle scout gift from us to the boy getting that award. Id love to try to make a wooden eagle wall hanging with my bark stuff.

- KAT -

Chris said...

This is definitively one of the most beautiful eagle! Gorgeous close-up pictures Kelly and how lucky you were to see it so close ;-)

Jeni said...

Incredibly beautiful creature! It must of be awesome being that close to him.

Gillian Olson said...

Thanks, I saved these beautiful pictures and hope to paint them later. What beautiful shots they are.

DeanO said...

Simply wonderful - thanks,

Elaine said...

Wonderful opportunity to see this magnificent bird close-up. It isn't as exciting as getting a good close-up in the wild, but it does provide a great learning experience.

Caroline said...

Kelly these are marvellous shots - I will certainly keep for reference and really hope I'll find time to use them one day. Thank you very much - it's so nice of you to allow your photos to be used.

Marco Alpha said...

Hello Kelly,
These shots are really fantastic!! Wondeful images of all these birds of prey. Beautifully sharp and excellent colors.
This is real enjoyment for me.

Greetings, Marco

Kelly said...

...thank you, everyone! It's bittersweet being so close to these birds. It definitely goes against nature because if they were healthy, they would have been long gone (or I would have been ripped up!). This eagle was missing his left eye and therefore, could not hunt and survive in the wild. If an artist really wants to study the feathers and shape of the bird...and body movements, up close and in person is the best way.

Kelly said...

p.s. Ken....you probably saw these birds. RAPTOR, Inc. (the owls from my previous posts) is located down in Cincinnati, but this organization, "Back to the Wild," is located up by Lake Erie closer to where you were.

Cicero Sings said...

What great photos came from your little Panasonic!