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Behind the lens: Shooting video of the wild bald eagle in Irvine

By Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times

As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm … in this case a chance to catch a glimpse and photos of a wild bald eagle roosting outside the Orange County Zoo’s bald eagle exhibit in Irvine Regional Park.

The wild bald eagle, which appears to be male, has returned fairly frequently to perch above the cage of Olivia, a 6-year-old female bald eagle. Birders and photographers are flocking to the rare and exciting sight. Maybe the early bird gets the girl? Some speculate that the bald eagle is lonely and just looking for some company. The bird of prey first appeared a few weeks ago and has sporadically spent mornings and sometimes evenings perched in a tree above Olivia.

My friend was an early bird and got the “worm” and posted photos of the eagle on his Facebook page.  I immediately made plans to go find it for myself. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime sighting here in Southern California.

I’ve been a photographer for 30 years, and getting a close-up photo of a bald eagle flying in the wild has always been on my dream list. And so, with a nod from my photo editors, I set off on a photo and video mission, usually arriving for the golden light at sunrise that allowed me to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Irvine Regional Park for 31 hours over six days. As they say, patience is a virtue. My best day, shooting still photos, was watching the sunrise light up the eagle’s eyes and wide wingspan as it flew over my head a few times. There was a small crowd of nature photographers there, and we all went home with big smiles on our faces, knowing we had just witnessed something rare and special.

After publishing it in the paper, I returned to shoot video and capture more images. However, the eagle made only brief (less than five-minute) appearances over the next several days in poor to average light. A couple of times, I spent nine hours each day and saw the wild eagle for only about four minutes each time. It was very challenging to shoot stills and video at the same time. I always pick which I’m more loyal to and hope that I get another chance to shoot the same thing with the other medium.

I used two Canon Mark IIIs, a Canon Mark 1V, 7D and a Canon HV30 for video. For stills I also used a Canon 300 2.8 with a 2xdoubler on the first day and returned with a Canon 600 F4.0 on the Canon Mark 1V and 7D DSLRs.

See more photos and read the full story by Tony Barboza: Sightseers flock to see wild bald eagle roosting outside O.C. Zoo’s bald eagle exhibit.


  1. April 23, 2011, 1:00 pm

    Dear Sir,
    Come to Washington State…Bring camera..Eagles are all over the place here. You can even see them sitting on the grass dividers on the freeway. In fact, there are news articles about their overpopulation and their threatening the Blue Herrons due to their voracious appetite for Herron eggs.

    By: linda
  2. April 24, 2011, 2:22 am

    […] are truly spectacular birds.    Watch,  read,   and enjoy this […]

  3. January 6, 2012, 8:52 pm

    Free they can live and love….He will teach her how to get food.
    Maybe at least let him in…if she cant fly…A real happy ending would be so nice for S CA.

    By: earthlyoga

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