January Theme Challenge – “Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch”

The Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch in Nova Scotia is held each year during the last weekend of January and the first weekend of February. You can visit during the week on your own when there are less visitors. 80% of the Poultry farmers are in this area for Nova Scotia and supply the Eagles with dead chickens each day. The Eagles are typically fed around 9:00-9:30am. There can be hundreds of Eagles at this location during the winter months. Many photographers and viewers come to see the Eagles every year. The Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch Viewing site is located at 1770 Middle Dyke Rd, Centreville, NS B0P 1J0 (45.15342713667335, -64.49383798667183).

This is an opportunity to see the majestic Bald Eagle, although this event has received criticism in recent years it is still very amazing to see and provides photographers with the ability to get fairly close to capture amazing images.

Part of being a photographer is creating images on assignment whether you are hired by someone or you have your own idea for an image that you have wanted to create by setting a goal for yourself to make it happen (self assignment). This month I encourage you to travel to Sheffield Mills to see the Bald Eagles in action. Create an image or a short video of the bald eagles. For tips on taking images of wildlife refer to the September 2020 theme challenge on backyard wildlife. Do some preparation by looking up the location on google maps (see above embedded map), check the weather forecast, make sure you are dressed for the cool temperatures and pack the camera gear you will need. Spend the time, the eagles don’t always come close right away, be patient and you will be rewarded with not only great images but you’ll also have an exciting experience. Don’t be intimidated by other photographers with expensive gear, use what you have and concentrate on getting the best images possible and don’t forget to enjoy the experience. Weather you have a kit 55-250mm lens or an iPhone you’ll be able to capture some images. Consider using your phone to take a video.

Here is an example video of a Bald Eagle eating in a tree. The video was taken with a Canon 7D and a telephoto lens.

If you do not live close enough to be able to visit Sheffield Mills you can still create an image for this months theme challenge by taking images of local wildlife.

Important note about looking after your camera gear in cold weather; Usually when you bring your camera gear from the cold into a warmer area such as a vehicle or building moisture will appear on your camera and lens which is not desirable. It is important to put your camera and lens into your insulated camera bag or tightly wrapped in an insulated blanket or jacket before getting into a vehicle or building. You can also use large ziplock bags (make sure the bag is properly sealed) while outside for your camera and lens so the moisture will accumulate on the bag and not your gear.

For some history of the Sheffield Mills Eagle watch check out my photo essay below. Also consider creating your own photo essay.

Below are a few sample images taken in 2020 and 2021.

f/8, 1/2000, ISO 640, @516mm
f/8, 1/2000, ISO 1600, @600mm

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints and ideas.
Birds of Prey Photography and iPhone Video instructional aids:
How to Photograph Eagles and Birds of Prey: by Tim Boyer Photography (15min 22sec)
10 AMAZING iPhone Videography Tips: by Think Media (11min 41sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

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