Pho­tog­ra­phers vie for best ea­gle shot at Conowingo Dam

Cecil Whig - - 5 - By JES­SICA AN­DER­SON

— The pho­tog­ra­phers ar­rived be­fore dawn Satur­day to stake out spots along the Susque­hanna River, not to cap­ture the peak fall col­ors, but the dozens of bald ea­gles that fished along the Conowingo Dam. More than 1,100 peo­ple gath­ered at Fish­er­man’s Wharf & Park for the fourth an­nual ea­gle day hosted by Ex­elon Gen­er­a­tion, which op­er­ates the hy­dro­elec­tric power plant. The event, which of­fered demon­stra­tions from wildlife and na­ture or­ga­ni­za­tions, aims to high­light the birds and wildlife at the park.

“It’s the best place to see ea­gles,” said Ex­elon spokes­woman, Deena O’Brien.

The Har­ford County park has long drawn fish­er­man, but has also be­come a pop­u­lar spot for bird lovers and pho­tog­ra­phers, hop­ing to get “the shot” of the ea­gles as they scav­enge for perch, giz­zard shad and other fish.

The ea­gles are at­tracted to the area to feed on the fish in water re­leased from the dam. The con­cen­tra­tion of fish and the open view of the river from the shore­line make it one of the best places in the coun­try to view bald ea­gles in na­ture, O’Brien said.

Sher­man Wright, 58, of Linthicum, stood along a paved path that led to a nar­row peb­ble beach. He said the spot he goes to ev­ery year — a cutout in the side­walk by the park­ing lot — is the best spot be­cause it’s of­ten over­looked. “It’s so tight where you can’t turn two feet,” he said. Wright said he loves meet­ing other pho­tog­ra­phers whom he can learn from, and make new friends. “It’s like a fra­ter­nity,” he said. Along the paved path over­look­ing the water, pho­tog­ra­phers stood shoul­der to shoul­der, as­sem­bling tripods topped with cam­eras with mas­sive tele­photo zoom lenses. Many looked as if they were dressed to go hunt­ing. Some wore rub­bery boots or long wader pants, and many were heav­ily bun­dled for the cold weather.

Some hauled rolling cam­era bags with mul­ti­ple cam­eras, and oth­ers brought cool­ers and set up camp chairs for the long day of shoot­ing.

Gulls and cor­morants reg­u­larly flut­tered along the water’s sur­face, but the prized ea­gles would in­ter­mit­tently swoop into view, of­ten leav­ing a perch from a nearby power trans­mis­sion tower on Row­land Is­land.

When one ea­gle glided out over the open water, one pho­tog­ra­pher shouted, “right over­head.”

The idle con­ver­sa­tions im­me­di­ately stopped amid the scrum of the most ded­i­cated pho­tog­ra­phers who ar­rived early for the prime spots at the edge of the wharf. As the ea­gle came into view, each pho­tog­ra­pher rushed to peer through the viewfinder of their cam­era and ad­just the lens. The si­lence was quickly taken over by the sound of dozens of cam­era shut­ters go­ing off at high frame rates.

One man joked it sounded as if ma­chine guns were go­ing off.

W hen an ea­gle would fly di­rectly over the crowd, some­times car­ry­ing a fish in its talons, some pho­tog­ra­phers would quickly reach for an un­teth­ered cam­era and fol­low the bird un­til it flew out of sight.

“You have to be quick,” said Su­san Gre­gory, who was camped out with her hus­band Michael.

The cou­ple spends many week­ends shoot­ing pic­tures to­gether. “Pho­tog­ra­phy, in gen­eral, takes a lot of prac­tice,” Michael Gre­gory said.

The cou­ple of­ten trav­els from their home in South­ern New Jersey to Conowingo for the ea­gles. They left Fri­day night and planned to stay at a nearby ho­tel for sev­eral days.

Michael Gre­gory said he en­joys na­ture pho­tog­ra­phy, not only for the images, but the peace of the out­doors. “It’s re­lax­ing,” he said. The best light for pho­tos is in the morn­ings and evenings, when the light is the soft­est and the au­tumn col­ors are most pro­nounced, he said.

They planned to stay un­til about 4 p. m. to try to cap­ture the best shot.

By about 10 a. m., he had al­ready taken more than 600 pic­tures.

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