Bald Eagle Tour Photographer Spotlight: Otis Sowell

January 18, 2012.  One of the best things about working on the river is truly the people I meet.  I have met outstanding folks from all over the Commonwealth, and really, all over the U.S.A.  What is easy to see is that there are scores of people who care deeply for the James River and preserving its heritage.  Caring individuals from all parts, and folks from organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The James River Association, the Center for Conservation & Biology at William & Mary, Friends of the James River Park and the list goes on ... assure that the future of the James River is looking good.  To learn more about the organizations, click the names to link to their website. 

Getting back to my favorite part of working the river ... the people ... that is what I love most.  You never know when a guest who steps onto the Discovery Barge II will knock your socks off with something they say, or have done, or in this case photograph.  Otis Sowell recently stepped onto my boat for his first Eagle Tour and I hope it won't be his last.  In early January 2012, he took a series of images of the Duke ... Bandit's new mate.  Something about them hit me deep, especially the one to the left.  These images knocked my socks off, they are some of the most wonderful images of a bald eagle on the James River.

A little about Otis ... he is a native of Charlottesville and currently lives in Fluvanna County, VA.  Fascinated with nature, and especially birds, Otis states, "My favorite bird is the American Robin because it signals the arrival of spring and warm weather."  A story he shared was from his childhood.  When he was five or six years old, Otis asked his dad how to catch a robin so he could keep it as a pet. His father said, "All you have to do is sprinkle salt on it's tail and it won't fly away."  Otis tried to sprinkle salt on a robin's tail just about all day when he realized he was not fast enough and could not get close enough ... no matter how hard he tried.  His father kept at him stating, "Keep trying son", who was probably getting the biggest kick out of his son and the robins that day.

In the 1970's when Otis lived in Houston, TX with his wife, Wanda, he began to get serious about photography.  Returning to his hometown in Charlottesville in 1980, he began photographing weddings, groups and portraits.  He found photographing nature was his true love, and began 'focusing' on all things wild, but 'discovered' wild bird photography gave him the most satisfaction.  At the advice of a good friend, "Just use your imagination", Otis took his photography another step further and began exploring deeper and creating images that satisfied his soul.  The three images you see in this blog satisfy my soul. Thank you Otis! 

To see more of Otis Sowell's work, go to

To see his series of Eagle images, click here.


The Photo's Story:  Above Left, Middle Right, and Bottom Left:  These images are wonderful.  They are of an eagle that took the place of another bird in Bandit's life.  The Duke became Bandit's new mate at some point in September of 2011.  After Hurricane Irene took out the third of Bandit & Smokey's nest something happened and this bird worked it's way into the lives of Bandit & Smokey.  Eventually Bandit chose the Duke over Smokey.  The last time I saw Smokey was after a magnificent aerial chase and talon locking session between the two former mates ... then Bandit flew downriver towards the 295 Bridge, into the Eastern sunrise.  -- All Photos by Otis Sowell