As I watched a pair of buzzards soaring above Beda Fell last weekend, I couldn’t help but recollect the time, in the early 90’s, when I was commissioned by one of the national newspapers to get a photograph of the golden eagles on their nest in Riggindale as they fed their young – 

I never expected it to be an easy commission.

The closest viewpoint, as I recollect, was about a quarter of a mile from the nest. I didn’t, or couldn’t afford, any lens big enough to get a close up of the nest.
In the end I managed to borrow a 1000mm lens from somewhere. Anything larger than this belonged to MI5, the police, and NASA, so there was not much chance of acquiring those.

I got as close as the wardens would allow me to: in their forward observation post; and spent all day waiting, and waiting. After many hours one of the eagles flew back to the nest and started to feed its young with whatever it had caught. I got the pictures, and rushed back to my offices in Kendal.

Now, all this was in the grand old days of film. I had managed to use the lowest ISO that I could, to keep the grain small. Yet I knew, as I processed the film and waited anxiously for it to appear out of the tank, that the actual image was only going to be a small part of the negative, and would need some massive enlargement.

I held up the dripping film, and examined the shot with a magnifying lens. Sure enough, there was the chick reaching out of the nest to take the food from its parent. I had the shot, now I needed to get a print from it.

I set up the enlarger so that it was horizontal and projected the image onto the wall, which was about 15 foot away. The image covered virtually the whole of the wall. In the middle, just the size of a birthday card, was the eagle and chick. The actual projection was about 12 foot wide.

I marked the image area on the wall, switched off the enlarger, and taped a piece of photographic paper over the marks. I would have to experiment with the exposure. This must have taken about ten attempts before it was correct, probably something like 60 secs @ f8 – as a guess.

Eventually, there it was, an 8×6 print of the eagle feeding her chick. The grain was the size of golfballs, and the print practically unusable, but I had the picture. It looked a little like one of those join the dot pictures 🙂

If I ever find the negative, I will scan it and post it here on this blog. Today, with digital I expect this would be a much easier exercise, but with film everything was an adventure, and holds fond memories.

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