--by decorahnews.com's Paul Scott
"I don't want to make you nervous, but around 100,000 people are watching what you're doing."
So begins my session at the controls of the Decorah bald eagle web cam, the Internet sensation that has drawn 50 million visits from people all over the world.
Fortunately, the web cam comes with an automatic focus, so I doubt thousands of people are yelling at their web browser while I learn how to maneuver the camera.
It is controlled by means of a joystick--push the joystick to the right and the camera pans to the right; push it up or down and the camera goes up or down.
But after a few minutes of getting my feet wet, Raptor Resource Project Director Bob Anderson tells me the secret to keeping the worldwide audience happy--close-ups of the eagles. "Zoom in to show the eagle's feathers," he tells me, and I comply, even if I'm having trouble learning how to operate the zoom.
There are two cameras up in the eagle's nest--one with an infrared lens that enables video to be taken at night, the other that can be focused in several different directions, using the joystick in my hand.
A few times a day Anderson or another volunteer will sit down in front of the controls to take these close-up shots, varying the look of the display.
My background includes two stints as a TV station cameraman, so I hope I didn't offend too many eagle cam viewers. After all, I wouldn't want to be responsible for producing fuzzy video for the most popular attraction ever in Decorah.