Observing a golden eagle in the wild is probably one of the most rewarding experiences any nature lover could have in Europe. After working intensively with common cranes and white-tailed eagles for a number of years, I made up my mind to photograph the golden eagle. However, in the past, projects like this proved to be goals almost impossible to accomplish, or projects which would last for quite a number of years. Besides, in many parts of Europe, the photographing of rare species and the protection of rare species seem to contradict each other.
For me, as a nature photographer, it is vital that photos are made with the utmost respect for the nature I move in. Therefore, it is of great value to have people such as Ole-Martin as a guide, who, through painstaking and thorough preparations enables us photographers to make unique shots, which, in the past, would have been impossible for most photographers.
It is interesting to see and at the same time forward-looking that the free and intact nature is growing in significance and that the encounter between man and nature helps protecting the rare species.
I’ve known Ole-Martin from when I worked on the white-tailed eagle project and I know that he cares for and respects nature. Like me he is fascinated by the eagle and is highly professional in his work. So, I decided to travel to the Norwegian winter in February to photograph the golden eagles in the deep snow of the mountains.
When the long winter descends upon the Norwegian mountains, days are growing cold and lonely. The countryside seems lifeless and it is quiet, very quiet. Most birds have moved in great flocks to the warmer regions of the south. Crows and grouse are among the few who brave the cold. The sky covering the grand Norwegian mountains now belongs to the king of the skies – the golden eagle. Now, towards the end of winter, the white-tailed eagle as well has moved from the fjords to the mountains.
Photographing eagles also means being extremely patient. One hour before sunrise I move into my hideout. Everything is well prepared. The hideout offers quite a bit of room. I spend my days bundled up in a sleeping bag sitting on a reindeer skin. Outside it is cold. With strong winds and -10º C I am very grateful that my hideout is extremely well built and keeps out the fierce wind. We had placed bait only about 20 metres from our hideout, but the eagles are cautious and a lot of patience is required.
It paid off – I’ve waited 60 hours, and everyday I was able to photograph golden eagles. I’ll never forget, how, on this trip, I saw my first golden eagle, one metre above the ground, swooping down from the snow-covered mountain side like an arrow to land on a pine tree. From there he observed the territory for a few seconds – hours to me. But when the eagle appears within the viewfinder of my camera, I suddenly feel warm inside and time does not matter anymore.
It isn’t only spectacular experiences like this that make a trip to wintry Flatanger worthwhile. The beautiful snowy landscape, the creeks, the ice and, finally, the fast starlit sky offer more than enough subjects for great photos.
Willi Rolfes, Germany