End of a Florida Spoonbill Photography Season

We are now officially at the end of the good season to photograph Spoonbills with either breeding colors or young chicks in Florida. This year was pretty good as the Tampa Bay offered an amazing spectacle of pink feather life.

Roseate Spoonbill landing in the Florida water of Tampa Bay

Spoonbill landing – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 400 | f/6.3 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The photograph above is a very nice creation of a Spoonbill with breeding colors landing in the shallow water at Alafia Banks, during one of my photography workshops in the Tampa Bay. I truly enjoy this unique aerial position that Spoonbills display a split moment before landing. The possibility often occurs when I am working on a small group already in the water. I try very hard not to focus all my attention on the subjects on the ground and look around whenever I can to spot possible new incomers. Because the new birds usually want to join the group it gives one a fairly good idea of where they will land. It is then a matter of acquiring focus early on while the bird is approaching :)

Spoonbill photography tour in Florida

Spoonbill landing – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/7.1 | 1/2000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) coupled with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The landing Spoonbill photograph above was created in the same fashion, under a different angle and while it was overcast at Alafia Banks. Note that I did not hesitate to push the ISO to 1600 to have a shutter speed that would be fast enough to freeze the action. I tend to prefer to push the ISO as much as possible, relying on good post processing techniques. If I were shooting with the Canon 7d I might have lowered the ISO a bit though as this camera is known not to create a lot of noise with high ISO settings.

Young Juvenile Spoonbill in flight - Florida

Young Spoonbill about to land in the mangrove trees – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 400 | f/6.3 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The landing image above is very different in its creation. Maintaining the whites while having a somewhat dark background on a sunny day will lead to a low key picture: dark background, almost black. It is a different mood that can be done quite nicely when well handled. My guess is next year will be even better!! Join me on one of my workshop to get your chance at creating such memorable photographs :)

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / September 10th-20th 2015:

Join me and Robert O-Toole for a true photographic adventure in Africa.
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $880 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

The best place to photograph Spoonbills with breeding colors, no questions asked.
Bird photography workshop - Florida Spoonbills & Shorebirds

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

Nesting Black Skimmers at Indian Shores, Florida

There is a very nice nesting zone for Black Skimmers along the Indian Shores beach in Florida. If you want to have the best chances photographing Black Skimmers skimming in the water this is the place!! Also, time your visit right and you will be delighted creating photographs of Skimmers with their young chicks.

Black Skimmer preening - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer preening – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) coupled with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The Black Skimmer photograph above was created at India Shores, Florida in the early morning. The Black Skimmers nest in a small colony straight at ground level in the sand depression. Individuals frequently come in and out to skim, stretch and bath. A small group detached itself from the colony for a few minutes with many of the birds preening for a bit. Skimmers are actually difficult to photograph properly while in a small flock because they tend to stay huddled very close together. Keep an eagle eye for the edges and you might get an opportunity as above. I decided to keep the left bird in the frame and not to Photoshop it out as I thought it gave a better story. :)

Black Skimmer skimming the water - Indian Shores, Florida photo tour

Black Skimmer skimming – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

Now when most people think about Skimmers, they think about the bird skimming the water surface in quest of food. The birds really like shallow areas where the fish cannot go too deep hence avoiding the long lower part beak of the bird. In fact, you might be shocked to see that many birds skim right to the edge of the shore. My advice for this type of photography is to select frames where the bird has its wings up and where you do not have waves crashing in the background. It might take a few tries before getting there…

Black Skimmer skimming - Florida bird photography tour

Black Skimmer skimming – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 100 | f/14 | 1/25 sec. | Tv mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

This an opportunity often missed! Arrive early, before sunrise if possible and work on artistic blurs. Results can be quite surprising with a good technique.

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / September 10th-20th 2015:

Join me and Robert O-Toole for a true photographic adventure in Africa.
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $880 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

The best place to photograph Spoonbills with breeding colors, no questions asked.
Bird photography workshop - Florida Spoonbills & Shorebirds

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

Brown Pelican Photography Tour in Florida, where to go?

If you are planning a Brown Pelican Photography Tour in Florida, there are many good spots, but my favorite two picks are in the Tampa Bay area. First off, it depends what you are looking for… If you are looking for diving and fishing action, I would recommend Fort Desoto Park in St Petersburg. If you are interested in full breeding color Pelicans with good flight opportunities, Alafia Banks is the place to go to!!

Brown Pelican photography tour - Alafia Banks, Florida

Brown Pelican flying with nesting material – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The photograph above was created during a photography tour I organized at Alafia Banks. I was explaining to one of my students that Pelicans make for excellent practice for flight photography. It is a fairly slow bird in the air, which will give you a good chance at earning your flight photography skills. The Brown Pelican above was bringing a branch back to its nest as nesting material. The huge advantage of Alafia Banks is that Pelicans are nesting there, allowing the viewer to admire them with their full breeding colors. Adults have a white head, with a vibrant brown around the neck during mating season. They also come back and forth to their nests, allowing for many flight opportunities.

Brown Pelican diving - Fort Desoto, Florida

Brown Pelican diving – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

When it comes to diving, Fort Desoto tends to be a better place when the conditions are right. The Brown Pelican above is somewhat young and surely does not display breeding colors, but that is quite a nice diving pose! If you know where to position yourself, you might get a good chance at a nice dive photograph.

Brown Pelican photography tour in Florida

Brown Pelican blur – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 320 | f/4 | 1/15 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

Both Fort Desoto and Alafia Banks are good for pre-dawn blurs, but Alafia Banks is a tad better as many Pelicans leave their nests early in the morning to have their first flight of the day, which creates more opportunities. Blurs are typically harder to control and it takes a few tries before getting something that really stands out. However, one does come out with a photograph that is often quite unique. Try to pan with nice early morning colors in the background and you are in for nice results. :)

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / September 10th-20th 2015:

Join me and Robert O-Toole for an African wildlife safari to remember for years to come!
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $880 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

If you would like to get a chance to photograph at Alafia Banks, this is it…
Bird photography workshop - Florida Spoonbills & Shorebirds

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

Young Spoonbills at the biggest rookery in Florida!

Since early May a bunch of young Spoonbills started to venture out of the nests at Alafia Banks. At the biggest rookery in the state of Florida, Alafia Banks, you may now admire the new generation of Spoonbills. They are almost all white, with a hint of pink on their wings and their heads are full of feathers. Needless to say, there are very few spots where one might observe such a display of youngs.

Young juvenile Spoonbill - Florida bird photography tour

Young juvenile Spoonbill landing – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 250 | f/5.6 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The photograph above was created early this month. Creating images of very young Spoonbills does not happen every day, even less capturing action! The one above was landing on a sand bar. Recognizing some key bird behaviors is often what is going to allow you to get the shot. A good way to create landings is to work on a small group, while keeping an eagle eye for possible new comers. Imagine this, you are focusing on your subject with your eye in the view finder, you relax a bit a before you know it there is a new bird in the group, which you barely noticed arriving. This often happened to me in my early days. Take a few shots and take your eye off the viewfinder to take a quick look at your surroundings: it goes a LONG way towards spotting new comers!

Young juvenile Spoonbill - Florida bird photography workshop

Young juvenile Spoonbill preening – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/16 | 1/400 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) coupled with the 1.4x III, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

In the photograph above the young Spoonbill is preening its newly grown feathers. Believe it or not, good portraits are actually quite tricky. Understanding head angle and composition is key! Also, it is a very good idea to decrease you shutter opening by increasing the f/, especially when working with a long lens. This will allow you to capture as much detail as possible while keeping a very pleasing background. This is one of those times that I urgently remind my students of the 4 angles of success before pressing the shutter.

Young juvenile Spoonbills - Florida bird photo tour

Young juvenile Spoonbills looking for food – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 250 | f/7.1 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) coupled with the 1.4x III, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

What is better than one young Spoonbills? …. TWO!!! Lately, I have been forcing myself to look wider and try to include more creations of multiple subjects interacting together. The difficulty is then multiplied! All of a sudden, both subjects should be sharp, with good head angles and so on. We live to learn!

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / September 10th-20th 2015:

If you like mammals, Africa is THE place you need to visit! Follow me and Robert O’Toole next year. :)
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $880 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

More Spoonbills? You now know what to do! Book soon as there is a lot of demand.
Bird photography workshop - Florida Spoonbills & Shorebirds

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

The best rookery to photograph in Florida?

A rookery is an area where the birds nest in a big group, with sometimes thousands of pairs nesting together. Rookeries are often a wildlife photographer’s paradise as the birds display vivid breeding colors along with elegant longer feathers. Best of all, the birds come and go to the same spots as they need to attend to their nest! A predictable place to find your favorite subject, what more to ask for? While Alafia Banks is the biggest rookery for Spoonbills in the state of Florida, there are two very successful rookeries in gator preservation theme parks: Gatorland in Orlando and Alligator Farm in St Augustine. I decided to pay a visit to Gatorland last weekend!

Snowy Egret - Bird photography tour in Florida

Snowy Egret displaying – Gatorland, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/1600 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with Gimbal Head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Snowy Egrets display stunning feathers during the breeding season. Their lore, bare skin surface around the eye, turns pink and they grow very elegant feathers that they flaunt during display. Note that the tough part of photographing in a rookery is to very carefully select subjects so that background are not too clustered! If possible chose a bird whose background is far away behind in order to maximize the blur behind ;) Unfortunately, few people actually think about that. In the photograph above the subject is in the shade, while the background is lit up by the sun, giving a very vibrant image overall. Subject in the shade with background in the sun is one of my very favorite scenario!

Cattle Egret - Florida photography workshop

Cattle Egret with breeding colors – Gatorland, Florida
ISO 400 | f/5.6 | 1/1600 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod and Gimbal head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Cattle Egrets have surprisingly very bright breeding colors! Note again that I chose an angle where there are no tree twigs flying left and right. Rookeries are chaotic places, where one need to pay very close attention to the layout in order to recognize good photography situations.

Great White Egret - Photography tour Gatorland

Great White Egret with green breeding lore – Gatorland, Florida
ISO 320 | f/13 | 1/640 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The Great White Egret above shows a very bright green color on its lore with red eyes. In a place like Gatorland there is no real need for a long lens as the birds are extremely tame and can be approached from very very close. However, you will still see me most of the time with my 600mm. Why? A longer lens yields stronger background blurs, helping to isolate the subject a lot better. Besides the fact that it is harder to use that type of lens in a confined environment, one needs to remember that the longer the lens, the narrower the depth of field. In order to get your entire subject in focus it is often necessary to decrease the aperture size by choosing f/13 instead of f/5.6 for instance.

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / September 10th-20th 2015:

Africa is a must go place for any serious wildlife photographer. Wanna join the perfect tour?
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $880 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

The dates are now set for the next Spoonbill tour to Alafia Banks! Book soon as there is a lot of demand.
Bird photography workshop - Florida Spoonbills & Shorebirds

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Steven

Gallery Exhibition in New York this week!

I am very pleased to announce that some of my work is currently exhibited in an Art Gallery in New York. The exhibition dates are from April 22nd to May 13th of 2014, with a cocktail reception on May 1st, starting at 6PM, at Agora Gallery (530 West 25th Street, New York). Four of my pieces will be displayed and you will have the chance to chat with me on May 1st!

See below the four pieces that will be exhibited:

Flock motion - Fine Art Photography

Courtship Flight - Fine Art Photography

Florida Spoonbill - Fine Art Photography

Sunset Silhouette - Fine Art Photography

Each piece is a signed limited edition, framed top notch quality print on aluminum. See you soon!

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / Sep 10-20 2015:

There is nothing like an African safari for mammals’ photography.
African safari in Botswana

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

Bird in flight photography with the Canon 600mm f/4 IS II

The Canon 600mm f/4 IS II is quite lethal for bird in flight photography. One of my outing to Alafia Banks, the best Roseate Spoonbill rookery in the state of Florida, is a great example… First off, that morning did not start well to say the least. The rookery is only accessible by boat, or a long kayak ride. At the time of assembling my kayak and getting ready to head in the water I realized that I had taken two half male ores that were not going to join together to form one solid shaft. I have two ores that split in two, and made the mistake of taking semi ore A of ore 1 with semi ore A of ore 2. The long ride promised to be extra long with just two halves that would not connect! I had a moment of hesitation and almost turned around. Finally, I decided that rowing harder will be a fair compensation for not thinking things through! “You have to be willing to do things in a harder way when you don’t think things through” is one of my grandma’s favorite sayings… :) Well, eventually arriving at the rookery, it dawned on me that I was missing my tripod!! At Alafia Banks, one needs to wade 100% of the time as one cannot step on the island itself since it is protected by the Audubon society and no one is allowed to trespass on the island. So no tripod means a not so comfortable hand-holding with a big rig. And… as icing on the cake I had left my 1.4x extender in the car. Yey!!!

Spoonbill in flight photography tour - Florida

Roseate Spoonbill banking in flight – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 320 | f/5.6 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This Roseate Spoonbill banking in flight photograph was created at Alafia Banks, Florida. Having left my tripod behind was a perfect opportunity to focus on flight photography using hand-holding techniques that give the best stability for the minimum effort. Wanna know my secret to successfully hand-hold a 600mm for flight photography? Well… it starts with the position of your feet on the ground: feet spread shoulder length apart and orientation at 45 degree versus target. Then what I like to do is to hold the foot of the lens with my left hand and tuck my left elbow against the higher part of my left hip so that my muscles work the less possible, rather having the weight on my body structure instead. The reason why I like to hold the foot of the lens instead of the lens itself is because it gives me the length I need to have my elbow resting on my hip, greatly alleviating the overall strain. This technique absolutely saved the day! Note that the image above depicts a young Spoonbill, as you may have noticed a paler shade of pink, a head not so bald and the wings tip with a bit of brown.

Brown Pelican - Alafia Banks, Florida

Brown Pelican in flight – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 800 | f/5.6 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The Brown Pelican above liked to take off from its mangrove tree perch to circle the area a few times before landing back in the trees. The creation above shows the last second brake before landing on a branch. It is a good idea to have your neck strap with you while hand-holding, so that you may give a rest to your arms as often as possible while keeping a sharp eye open for flight action. I keep repeating to my students, that being able to anticipate flight patterns and recognizing that a bird is likely to come in range early on is a key factor to be ready when the bird flies across the target area. Target area? That is right, in order to capture the bird with proper sun angle and head angle you will necessarily have a limited area that will result in good photography.

Bird in flight photography workshop - Florida

Little Blue Heron in flight – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 500 | f/6.3 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review), the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This 3rd photograph was also created on the same day! This little blue Heron with breeding colors made a couple of circles above the tree line, before landing out of sight. Hand-holding allows for a very quick reaction time while walking (in this case while wading). The precious seconds used to move the tripod from my shoulder to the ground and then put the bird in the frame is often the main reason for a miss, when I am walking to a different spot.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like to have my tripod and gimbal head with me while shooting with the Canon 600mm f/4 IS II, but it seems that taking the lens off the head every now and then is a good idea, especially when aiming at bird in flight photography.

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / Sep 10-20 2015:

Botswana is the best preserved African country when it comes to wild safari. An opportunity not to be missed!
African safari in Botswana

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

Background correction with water drops

While taking an action shot of a bird splashing in the water, or shaking off water from its wings, sometimes I end up with not so desirable background elements trapped behind water drops. The traditional clone stamps techniques tend to be somewhat limited in those situations as the water drops often follow a pattern and cloning water drops to follow the existing patter often ends up being a lot harder than it seems. How to go about it?

Roseate Spoonbill - bird photography workshop

Roseate Spoonbill flapping its wings – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 500 | f/7.1 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head and tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This Roseate Spoonbill photograph was created during a private photography tour, at Alafia Banks, Florida. After a bathing session, the bird started to flap its wings to dry up its feathers. It resulted a very nice splash of water drops coming out from the wings. You will see in the photograph below that I took out a brown area to the left of the image. The brown spot was very distracting and took out the attention of the viewer from the bird itself.

Spoonbill - Alafia Banks

Before and after the brown spot fix

Eliminating that spot turned out a lot trickier than one would expect. The difficulty was to clone or paint the background while keeping the water drops in their original pattern. This is how I proceeded in Photoshop:

1. Create a copy of the layer with Ctrl+J
2. Add a layer mask to the upper layer. Paint in black at 95% over each water drop so that the top layer will have holes directing towards the water drops of the lower layer. This process can be lengthy and requires good attention to details.
3. Paint or clone over the brown zone in the upper layer so that it disappears. In this case, I painted over it.
4. Merge the layers with Ctrl+E

The painted layer mask allowed for the water drops in the lower layer to appear in the front layer! Knowing your way around some of those image optimization techniques can lead you a good deal further in your artistic creativity. :)

See below a zoom over the brown spot.

Water drops

Painting over the brow spot while keeping the water drops

What do you think?

Roseate Spoonbill - Florida photo tour

Roseate Spoonbill along the mangrove shore – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 400 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head and tripod while wading knee deep in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

My favorite Spoonbill pictures are when I can have a blue background behind the bird! Spoonbills often stay close to the mangrove trees, giving the photographs more of a low key / dark feel. Positioning myself and my group of students on one side of the shore allowed for a blue background instead of rocks and mangrove trees.

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / Sep 10-20 2015:

If you like photographing mammals, there is no better place in the World than Africa! Join me on this exciting adventure.
African safari in Botswana

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

Bathing shorebirds with the Canon EF 600mm IS II

The Canon EF 600m IS II is quite an asset to create beautiful photographs of shorebirds while bathing! The reach helps not disturbing the tiny birds and make the background very blurry, while the extremely fast auto-focus allows for top notch action shots.

Short-billed Dowitcher bathing - Florida photography workshop

Short-billed Dowitcher bathing – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 400 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld while laying flat on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This Short-billed Dowitcher photograph was created during the previous Spoonbill / Shorebirds photography workshop, at Fort Desoto, Florida. Always careful to spot early on shorebirds bathing, I directed my students to this one, which seemed to have a blast cleaning up its wings in the shallow water. Though not everybody could get on the ground, the very best vantage point is as low as you can. Then make sure your auto-focus point is directed towards the bottom so that you don’t clip wings at the time of the flap or to capture most of the water splashes. Keep a very fast shutter speed and you are on the right track.

Semipalmated Plover - Fort Desoto photography tour, Florida

Semipalmated Plover – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 400 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld while seated on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

A few minutes after the creation of the first photograph above, this Semipalmated Plover decided to go for a quick bath as well. Still in the same position, this photograph portrays the nice flap that follows most bathing sessions. Creating great photographs is often based on recognizing wildlife’s behavior and anticipating on the right position to be at to capture the action. From the image optimization perspective, I did not have to clean anything in the background. I selected the bird, which I pasted on a separate layer (Ctrl+J after selection) in order to apply some of my favorite Color Efex pro effects: 70% Detail Extractor and 20% Tonal Contrast.

Herring Gull - Florida shorebirds photography

Herring Gull eating a crab – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld while seated on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Herring Gulls are amongst the biggest gulls! This gull has a very interesting technique to add big crabs on its menu. First the Herring Gull captures the crab, then flies up in the air with it to let it drop from 50 feet high or so, hoping to crack the shell. Then it is meal time! Of course, it is usually not quite the end of the story, as the gull still needs to chase away other shorebirds from its quarry: it is not rare to see 4 or 5 Rudy Turnstones harassing the gull until they get a piece of the crab…

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / Sep 10-20 2015:

This premium African safari will blow your mind.
African safari in Botswana

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Steven

Successful Spoonbill photography workshop in Alafia Banks, Florida!

I just lead a very successful Spoonbill photography workshop at Alafia Banks, Florida! With three boat rides over the weekend, including one to Dit Dot Dash rookery, everybody went back home with amazing Spoonbill with breeding colors photographs. Alafia Banks is currently hosting a very sizeable colony of Roseate Spoonbills nesting in the mangrove trees. One of the biggest gathering of this kind makes the place a heaven for Spoonbill photography! You are welcome to contact me for a private tour on site ;)

Roseate Spoonbill photography workshop - Alafia Banks, Florida

Roseate Spoonbill flapping its wings – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld while seated on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Now this Spoonbill photograph is something special! Mark my word. It was created during the 2014 Spoonbill photography workshop at Alafia Banks during breeding season. The only way to create this stance is to wait for the bird to flap its wings after bathing. While it is common to see shorebirds bathing in the shallow water, bathing Spoonbills are not as common. Recognizing the potential for greatness, I quickly moved the group from a corner that was more suitable for banks in flight, to this little cove full of algea. The green background came as an added bonus. We did not make it on time for the bathing itself, but I made sure my students did not miss the spectacular flap that followed. Recognizing behaviors in the field goes a long way towards award-winning picture creation. :)

Spoonbill photography tour - Florida

Spoonbill banking in flight – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld while seated on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Banking shots are amongst the hardest flight photographs to create. The recipe is to understand flight trajectories, some patience and voila! I wished this Spoonbill was banking a bit more though. Something to go after for the next tour I guess…

Roseate Spoonbill photography tour - Alafia Banks, Florida

Spoonbill calling with wings up – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld while seated on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

During breeding season, besides the beautiful feathers, Spoonbills display some very interesting behaviors. They will often lift their head to call to others for instance. This Spoonbill was calling while running and having its wings up, nice combination!

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / Sep 10-20 2015:

Live the ultimate African safari.
African safari in Botswana

Support our blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this photography blog lively!

Steven

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