Eagle Photography at Lock & Dam 14

It’s hard to believe, but another year has passed and I’m here again sharing about another trip to Le Claire, Iowa to photograph bald eagles. My presence on the blog was pretty much nonexistent last year, but I hope to make some changes and share more in 2019. I hope you’ll come back to check it out on occasion.

Note: Don’t forget to click on the images to see them larger and much more detailed!

This year’s trip started out like all the others, with a 5+ plus hour drive north on Interstate 35 to Des Moines, then east on Interstate 80 to Le Claire. It was mostly an uneventful drive, except for the last hour or so as some freezing drizzle was beginning to create some problems on the roadways. After white-knuckling it for the last leg of the trip, I checked into the hotel to get things ready for shooting the following morning.

January weather in Iowa, and in the Midwest in general, can be quite unpredictable. This was my 4th year making this trip, and weather the previous years had been somewhat mild. This year was a bit different. On Saturday morning, I woke up to a frigid temperature of -14 degrees. At least there wasn’t any wind to contend with. I made the short drive to L&D 14 to find that I was the second person to arrive for the day. L&D 14 can get pretty busy, as it has become one of the most popular locations for eagle photography. Even on this cold day photographers slowly poured in anxiously looking forward to putting some pixels on birds.

The first hour or so was a wash, as the fog on the Mississippi River was too thick to see, much less, photograph anything. There were, however, a couple of eagles perched in the trees above the parking lot. They don’t seem to mind all the people snapping photos. In fact, it’s almost like they enjoy posing for us photogs at times. The dense fog and frigid temps had created a coating of hoarfrost on all the tree branches, which made for some interesting images.

The heavy fog slowly cleared out for the most part. It remained overcast for the entire day and there were a few patches of fog every now and then. One thing that was consistent was that it was cold. I don’t believe the temperature ever got above 6 degrees. To top it off, there was not much fishing by the eagles all day. One would fly overhead now and then, but the action was very minimal. Bummer!

The view across the river from L&D 14.

The dark spots in those trees are eagles, but they stayed put all day.

Looking along the shoreline at the viewing platform. Not many people were out yet.

The nice thing about L&D 14 is how close you can get to the action, when there is action. The eagles typically fish the waters right in front of the viewing platform, which makes capturing images much easier. Another nice thing is that you park literally just a few feet from the river. On a cold day, that’s nice so you can hop in the car to warm up now and then. That was the name of the game on this day. Here are a few more images:

Going for a fish…

…and came up empty handed.

Coming in for a landing.

The second day was much different, weather-wise. Skies were clear and temps were “only” -4 degrees to start the day. It sounds cold, but what a difference 10 degrees and sunshine makes! The morning light was absolutely beautiful. There was more fog hanging over the water, but it was much thinner and allowed the morning light to shine through. Landscape photography is my favorite genre and this morning’s sunrise was right up my alley. I grabbed my Fuji mirrorless camera to focus primarily on landscape compositions for a bit.

The weather seemed perfect for some eagle action this morning, but they still were mostly staying perched in the trees. Oh well, with wildlife photography, you just have to take what you get and make the best of it. I didn’t get the shots I really wanted, but that’s OK. It was still a great time and I’ll be back again.

A look at the viewing platform bathed in the early morning sunlight.