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 đŸ˜‰ 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

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Steven, Suzanne and I had a great 30 day vacation in Paris. Only one day of rain and that was the day that we left the city to visit the chateaux in the Loire Valley. It should be a good year for the vineyards. Anita was a superb host as always when we met with the rest of the family. Your photo of the peacock reminds me of my days at Royal Roads. In 1964, the Commandant of the Military College introduced them ( a pair ) to the campus. Their calls became part of the charm of the place. The last reunion we attended was a real treat because they have multiplied and now think that they own the place especially during mating season. FYI, there was a fascinating photographic display at Les Jardins du Luxembourg featuring high resolution shots of marine life that I have rarely seen. Francois’ passage was a reminder of the fragility of life and the need to value each day as the gift that it truly is. I hope that we can get a visit in this winter. I will contact you when we are in Florida.

    André

    Reply

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