THE IOWA BALD EAGLE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

It’s often called corn country, a flyover state, and the land of deep fried Twinkies.  But for photographers looking to capture award-winning photos, Iowa is one of the best places in the world to photograph bald eagles.  If you want to capture incredible images and improve your photographic technique, meet me for a workshop in my home state!

As the approaching winter freezes the lakes and rivers in northern Minnesota and Canada, thousands of bald eagles travel south in search of a food source.  The open waterways of the Mississippi and its neighboring tributaries provide ample feeding opportunities.  Once they find a good source, they typically spend the next three to four months in the location.  If that’s not enough, weather can amplify shooting conditions.  Winter weather can limit food options by covering the fields with snow and freezing the remaining lake and rivers, leaving only the areas near dams open to fish.  This leads to an extremely high concentration of bald eagles in one area, providing the perfect conditions to capture stunning photographs of the species.   Peak season changes from year to year, but January and February are typically the best months.  In most cases, the season is wrapped up by the middle of March.

To see a brief video that was shot entirely within the bald eagle belt of Iowa, see below.  All of the footage was captured over a 48-hour period.

THE BEST LOCATIONS TO FIND BALD EAGLES

While weather is the key to making all of this happen, it can also become the biggest challenge.  You are looking for a good background.  You are looking to get close.  As a native Iowan with over 25 years of photographing bald eagles in the area, I have repeatedly scouted The Bald Eagle Belt for the best spots.  There are no guarantees, but if mother nature fails to produce a blue sky for our background, we’ll have options.  In other words, when most photographers are packing up their gear and wishing for more cooperative weather, we will likely be trying plan B or C.  Your time is limited and I will do everything I can to maximize your time in the field.

Dubuque, Iowa

Dubuque won't win the population battle but there are a few shooting locations that can make this city a great stop on the Bald Eagle Belt.  Light direction is a strength of this location and often works in your favor.

leclaire, Iowa

While it's hit or miss, when Le Claire is "on", it's simply one of the best places on the america to photograph bald eagles.  There is often plenty of shad to capture fishing shots leading to excellent opportunities for catching them in flight. Lock & Dam #14 is typically the best spot for photography in this area. LeClaire is high on the list but surrounding locations often have an advantage.

Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa City provides some hidden spots that few photographers know how to find.  While the bald eagle population generally won't rival that of other locations in the belt, there have been more than 100 within a quarter mile stretch of the Iowa River. This river is narrow, allowing you to get close action shots.

BURLINGTON, Iowa

Burlington is often the site of the highest concentration of bald eagles in the United States, where up to 600 bald eagles have been spotted at one location.  Photographing them can be a challenge due to some man made structures but the high population is often enough to get great shots. If weather cooperates, one hidden spot can turn into an incredible location.

the shot list

You want to capture some great photographs.  I can help.

EAGLES IN FLIGHT

The Bald Eagle Triangle provides several great locations for capturing bald eagles in flight.  With any luck, Mother Nature will provide a blue sky as a backdrop.  If not, we’ll go to plan B.  Oddly enough, the colder it is, the more blue you’ll see.

EATING IN MID-AIR

As shad flows through the lock and dam systems, they are often stunned from the impact.  Bald eagles use this to their advantage.  Watching them eat the fish in mid-air is an amazing sight.

QUICK TURNS

Bald eagles on the hunt often make quick adjustments in flight, providing a great opportunity to capture unique photographs.  The huge population that is found throughout the Bald Eagle Belt should provide ample opportunities.

DIVING SHOTS

Reaching speeds up to 100mph, bald eagles can be hard to track.  But if conditions are right, we should have plenty of opportunities to capture them in pursuit of their next meal.

FISHING SHOTS

The classic fishing shot is what inspires photographers from all over the country to visit Iowa during the winter months.  We will keep this shot in mind when making the decisions on which location to shoot each day.

CAPTURE BREATHTAKING PHOTOS.
IMPROVE YOUR TECHNIQUE.
HAVE A GREAT TIME.
REPEAT!

While our main focus for this tour is to send you home with dynamite images of bald eagles for your portfolio, we have other goals in mind for each client.  Sending you home with great photos might not improve your ability to capture them in the future unless we deliver the information in a way that helps you retain the information.  During my 20+ years as a corporate trainer, I was fortunate to learn several techniques to make this happen.  Whether you’re a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner, we will take advantage of each learning style to ensure that you take home more than just great photos.  

The third goal is the easiest.  In most cases, our clients have traded their hard earned vacation time to make the trip to Iowa.  We simply want you to enjoy yourself.  While we are heavily focused on getting each client into a position to capture outstanding images, balancing this agenda with a little relaxation is essential.  Thankfully, Iowa has some hidden gems when it comes to dining that can make your trip even more enjoyable.

I traded in my corporate life to combine what I had learned with what I have loved.  Watching another photographer glow with the anticipation of getting a fantastic shot is a tremendously rewarding.  Seeing that light bulb moment when we are able to simplify a complex concept is more gratifying than anything I had accomplished in my previous life.  We understand that this is a once in a lifetime trip for many, and will do whatever it takes to make it fun!

 

bald eagle shows off wing span

the curriculum

We will have a relaxed, informal classroom discussion about key learning topics. Special attention will be paid to learning best practices and problem solving. Whether you are new to the concepts of shutter speed, aperture and ISO or have a deep understanding of the exposure triangle, we will cater to the needs of each photographer.

CAMERA SETTINGS

Understanding shutter speed, aperture, ISO and focus settings can be daunting and has caused many to put down their cameras for good. We will cover each of these items in detail and continually review camera settings throughout the week. This will be a constant source of discussion, starting in the classroom and into the field. Putting these concepts into practice is the best way for it to stick.

BALD EAGLE BEHAVIOR

Wild animals are wild and unpredictable for the most part. What if you could tell when a bald eagle spotted a foe? What if there was a tell tale sign that they were about to take off? What if you could predict which direction they would fly? We will discuss all of these behaviors and more.

COMPOSITION

What impact can the tried and true "rules" for landscape photography have on wildlife photography? What role does wing placement, head position and perspective have on your outcome? Great shots often sit unnoticed on hard drives until we "see" them with a fresh perspective. We will discuss the image assessment process as it relates to bald eagle photography and judge our own images by a set of criteria.

BIRDS IN FLIGHT

The right body movements, position and other nuances are critical for improving your chance of success. This workshop will cover all of the above and more.

GETTING CLOSE

Bald eagles in the Lower 48 aren't nearly as fearless as they are in Alaska. In most circumstances, we will need to take some steps to enable you to get close to the subject. In over 25 years of photographing bald eagles, I have learned a few ways to ensure that you get to see them up close, in their natural habitat.

IN THE FIELD

Our main focus will be in the field. While classroom discussion is extremely valuable, you won't take a wall worthy photo from a comfortable chair. That said, involvement is absolutely critical to learning, and putting your new knowledge into practice is essential for retention. We want you to take stellar photos, whether it's in the Bald Eagle Belt or after you return home.

THE ROLE OF LIGHT

Weather isn't the only challenge during an Iowa winter. Light quality and direction can be downright brutal unless the right steps are taken. There are methods to managing this challenge and we will continually analyze and discuss it in detail. Special attention will be paid to establishing your Window of Opportunity as the conditions change.

PHOTO EDITING MADE EASY

As Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." If we learn the right shutter speed, aperture and focus settings, the need for photo editing should be drastically reduced. That said, there are simple ways to enhance your photos without completely ruining authentic spirit of the image. We will discuss non-destructive editing technique along with the tools to prevent you from having to sit in front of your computer for longer than you already do.

VIDEO TIPS & TRICKS

Capturing video of a moving subject is a challenge for even the best photographers with the most sophisticated cameras. We will discuss several tips and tricks that have the potential to take your cinematic ability to the next level.

Save $500!

Traveling with a sidekick?  You can deduct $250 each ($500 total) from the cost of the workshop.  Lodging is included in the tour so we are simply passing the savings on to you.

ABOUT YOUR GUIDE

AJ Harrison has spent close to 30 years working on his photographic technique.  His award-winning work has been recognized by publications such as National Geographic, Popular Photography, Forbes Magazine and The National Wildlife Federation.  One of his photographs went viral in 2016 with over 8 million views.  To date, he has captured over 500,000 photos of bald eagles in the wild.

Serving as a corporate trainer and director for one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the United States, AJ is able to combine his experience in public speaking and training to provide high quality instruction to other photographers in a workshop setting. 

In 2017, AJ published his first book, titled The Bald Eagle Book for Kids, which he created to be as visually appealing to adults as it is educational for children.  He is currently working on two additional books that are scheduled to be published in 2019. 

While bald eagle photography is his specialty, AJ has also been recognized for other subjects.  He was named as a National Geographic Top Shot Award Winner in 2016 for one of his brown bear photographs.  All of his photos are captured in the wild. 

QUESTIONs?

If you have questions about the workshop or planning your trip, don’t hesitate to contact us directly with the information below.

Say Hi!

Call us

(319) 400 7929

Contact us

AJ@AJHARRISONPHOTO.COM

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