Some photographs need a photographer to wait years to capture. This was the case with Portland-based enthusiast Rajiv Mongia, who waited patiently to capture an incredible image of two eagles with their talons entwined in mid-air. One of the birds is flying upright, while the other is mirrored and upside down. If it weren’t for the other bird holding it up, the inverted bird appears to be going to fall out of the sky.
Mongia began shooting animals in 2017 after visiting Patagonia. “I thought it fantastic to attempt to comprehend wildlife behavior, to try to grab that special’moment’ that one sees in the images of outstanding pros,” he tells My Modern Met. “I began practicing at that moment and immediately realized how much planning, patience, technical knowledge (light triangle, etc.), and sheer chance are required in achieving the ‘perfect shot.'”
The epidemic accelerated Mongia’s practice. He utilized photography to get out of the house—to shoot pictures and refresh. As a result, he began to consider certain specific photos he wanted to capture.
“One of them was the behavior of raptors like bald eagles,” Mongia explains. “It’s incredible to witness how bald eagles have returned to the skies in the Pacific Northwest.” I’ve gotten a lot of great shots of eagles perched and even some excellent shots of eagles snatching ducks/sea birds, but I’ve never been able to get any of them interacting with each other.” He’d seen images (from other photographers) of eagles soaring with their talons locked, but he wasn’t sure when or where he’d be able to get a shot like that.
Mongia eventually had his chance to take that famous shot. “I witnessed a series of classes from an incredible photographer, Mark Smith,” he remembers. “[Mark] has the most incredible eagle photographs, and I was expecting to develop techniques by attending his class in Washington.” [He] provided invaluable insight into how the eagles had been acting in recent days and what to look for when there is likely to be some exciting action.”
Mongia spent roughly four hours shooting images after working on certain technical concerns with Smith. “At that site, there were 20–30 eagles, 10–20 great blue herons, some crows, and some gulls, all flying about trying to catch fish.” The action was nonstop, and we were all at the workshop, firing away. Things were moving so quickly that you didn’t know what you caught and didn’t have time to analyze your photographs as you went because every time you glanced up, another eagle flew in from a different direction.”
Moniga shot over 5,000 photographs that day, and he was unsure how they would come out. “I go home that evening and start doing my quick pre-sort of images to see if I actually got something different,” he explains. “At one point, one eagle seized another and hurled it into the sea.” DANG, I forgot about that one. Another incident with two eagles—UGH, missed focus on that one.”
But then there was that magical moment. “I came upon this photo that I shared,” he says. “I had to blink for a second.” Yes, it was a little distant (I had to cut a lot), but the movement was perfect—two eagles linked talon to talon, each outstretched. One with its lips wide in a cry, the other intent on the first.”
It was the image he had been longing for, and given his enthusiasm for bird photography, it won’t be his last.
Rajiv Mongia has a passion for bird photography.
While waiting years for the perfect shot of two bald eagles interlocked in mid-air, he’s snapped many more photos of ferocious birds.
Rajiv Mongia: Instagram