PLANNING, PATIENCE AND perseverance paid off for Marc Deaver of Auburn, winner of the 2020 Seattle Times Reader Photo of the Year for his amazing photo of two bald eagles in a midair entanglement over Hood Canal. 

Five years ago, according to Deaver, he was “intimidated by DSLRs,” until he and his wife purchased one for their son. “After playing with his camera, I decided to buy one for myself and take a class to learn how to use it.”

He certainly learned well. Deaver’s work has been featured in Reader’s Lens four times over the past two years, and he has displayed impressive versatility — photographing eagles, bears and stars. “I like to roam through Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks looking for wildlife and anything that might make an interesting photo. I try to avoid falling into the snapshot rut and try to create images that are original. Sometimes, just the animals themselves make a shot unique enough to fall into the ‘not something you see every day’ category,” he says.

Asked about the winning photo, Deaver tells a story that should inspire any budding photographer:

“The eagles photo starts with a video posted on YouTube. I was looking for ‘how to’ photography videos and discovered this photographer who was using my same camera to take amazing eagle pictures in the Hood Canal area. He depicted eagles gorging on a weird little fish called plainfin midshipman during its spawning season, but he never disclosed his precise shooting location. It took two trips around Hood Canal on two separate weekends, but I was finally able to find the spot; I just had to wait another six months for the spawning season to begin.

“When the magical time finally arrived, I made a special trip to shoot the eagles feasting. It was amazing! Eagles swooped down to snatch fish and then landed just yards away to eat their catch. They challenged each other and attempted to steal each other’s prizes. I took more than 1,000 pictures that day and was dismayed the next day to see how few were in focus. I still had a lot to learn. I changed camera settings, tried a tripod, rented different lenses, went at different times of day and in different weather conditions. After six return trips, I was finally able to produce better-quality pictures with greater frequency.

“On my last trip, the eagles locked talons and danced in the sky. I was holding down the shutter and hoping for all it was worth that this would be the time they were in frame and in focus. A quick scroll across the LCD told me all I needed to know. These would be keepers.”

Keepers, indeed.

Be sure to revisit all the Reader’s Lens photos of 2020 (seattletimes.com/life/outdoors/readers-lens-2020), and get your shutter fingers ready for 2021!