I will admit that when I got the invite for Photo Wild, I blanched a little at the $90 price tag. It was just a little, certainly not enough to deter me from going. Leading up to the event, the weather was not looking very promising. After a few e-mail exchanges about the weather between Amber, the Raptor Center’s bird curator, and the photographers, we decided to brave the elements. The forecast was for somewhere between 60 – 70% chance of rain and temperatures in the lower 40s; however, rain accumulations of only 1/100 of an inch. We figured we’d be safe.
Tom, Earl, and I arrived at the Carolina Raptor Center at about 7:30 AM, signed in, and waited for the photography to begin. It was cold, right around 40, overcast with a bit of drizzle. Fortunately for us, it remained that way for the entire 5 hours that we were there. It never really rained, just misted and drizzled. The three of us left our camera gear uncovered, some had their gear covered in plastic bags, others in plastic ‘gear’ made specifically for the purpose, custom fit and all. Earl was shooing his D600, I the D700, and Tom has Canon 5D Mark III. The crowd was about equally divided between Nikon and Canon shooters, with one guy shooting an Olympus OM-D, EM-5.
Throughout the morning, on half hour intervals, they rotated the birds. The handlers/trainers were very helpful, giving us the bird’s name as well as how they came to be there. There were all sorts of stories from injuries to seizing of birds who were illegally raised by hand. In other words, a bird fell out of the nest during a storm or just by being curious and going a bit too far, someone finds it, takes it home, ‘imprints’ it, and begins raising it. First, it is illegal, but also they don’t know who to provide the proper diet and care. Other birds were hit by cars, particularly owls. One of the falcons sheared of his left wing while hunting for food. He was on dive, after some prey, and hit a power line, severing his wing. I learned that Peregrine Falcons have been recorded diving at 250+ MPH!
Luke, the bald eagle, pictured here, was electrocuted and the exit of the electricity burned off half of his right wing.
We learned, also, that the money collected from the Photo Wild sessions, of which there are a few more, is used to provide food for all of the birds. Lots of little rat and mouse morsels to go around. After spending nearly 5 hours, having access to such great looking birds, hearing their stories, and knowing that the money was being put to good use, it was worth even more than the price of admission.
Finally, much thanks to Earl for loaning me his 28-300 mm lens for the day. Many of the shots that I got could not have been had without the loan!!!