Spoonbill Photography Workshop: 1 open spot!

Yes, that is right, there is still one open spot for the April 22-23 Florida Spoonbill photography Tour! Are you in?

Florida Spoonbill Workshop

Roseate Spoonbills in breeding colors – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/5.6 | 1/2000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens coupled with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

If you have been following the Best Bird Photography Tours blog for a while, you now know that the Tampa Bay is home to the absolute best place to photograph Spoonbills with breeding colors. The photograph above depicts two adults running in the shallow eater after a quick landing. The secret to capture images with multiple birds in action is to back up from you usual shooting point. It is difficult to do as we instinctively want to be closer and closer to our subjects. However, this is key in order not to crop wings and have a chance at including more than one subject. 🙂

Spoonbill Photography Tour - Florida

Roseate Spoonbills in breeding colors – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/5.6 | 1/2000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens coupled with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

Towards the end of April, one will start seeing the newly fledged Spoonbills as they venture out of the nests. See how the two above are testing their metal in the open. Note that is is difficult to see them in their nests, since the nests are behind mangrove trees and on the island where the rookery is located. Since we shoot at a distance from the water, we get to photograph them only when they start discovering the outside World.

Florida Spoonbill Photography Tour

Two newly fledged Spoonbills in action – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/5.6 | 1/2000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens coupled with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

Note the beautiful red and rusty colors in the plumage of this adult running in the very shallow mangrove waters. Hurry up as there is only on spot left!!

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour

TBD / Email For Info

This is the best Alaska Bald Eagle tour out there!! Next run’s dates are not set yet, contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,000 deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagle Photography Tour - 2019

Florida Spoonbills photography tour – $1150

March 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – FULL

April 22nd-23rd 2017 / limit 6 people – 1 opening

3 boat rides to the Spoonbill rookery and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included.

Florida Spoonbill Photography Tour

Support the Best Bird Photography Tours 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

Alaska Bald Eagle Photography Tour coming soon! 2 spots left

There are still two spots available for the incredible Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour of February 2017!! Contact me fast not to loose the opportunity to photograph the most sought after bird in North America. We are going in a fishing town south of Anchorage, where Bald Eagles are observed diving for fish from very close. You will go back home with an astounding portfolio of our favorite bird of prey.

Alaska Bald Eagle silhouette

We will have 10 boat rides across 5 full days.

Alaska Bald Eagle banking

Since the birds tend to come close, you will enjoy spectacular flight shooting angles.

Alaska Bald Eagle in Flight

I do not know of a better place to create action shots of Bald Eagles, period.

natures-best-monopix-steven-blandin

I am also very pleased to announce that twelve of my images were selected for a multi page publication in the Nature’s Best Monopix international magazine of October 2016. You may see the magazine here: https://issuu.com/dickvisser/docs/monopix_oct_2016

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – now $3600

February 13th-17th 2017 / limit 5 people – 2 open

Note that there is a $300 price reduction here (from $3900 to $3600), making this tour quite competitive given the location and the service! The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! 10 boat rides across 5 full days. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,000 refundable deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagle Photography Tour

Florida Spoonbills photography tour – $1150

March 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – FULL

3 boat rides to the Spoonbill rookery and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. The tour is now full but contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com to be put on the waiting list in case of cancellation or for 2018.

Florida Spoonbill Photography Tour

Support the Best Bird Photography Tours 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

White Ibises at the Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery

At the right time of the year, the Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery gets invaded by White Ibises in breeding colors. The numbers observed can be quite impressive and early morning blast offs are spectacular. One of the many perks of joining me for a Florida Spoonbill Tour…

Spoonbill with Ibises blast off

White Ibises flock blast off – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 3200 | f/5.6 | 1/30 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM lens at 400mm, the Canon EOS 1DX hand held.

Where is Waldo? Early mornings can be very rewarding when you make it to the rookery on time for a White Ibis blast off. This seemingly lost Spoonbill is conveniently well placed for a dramatic composition. After having directed the group with proper settings, I was expecting something special based on the sheer number of Ibises in the mangrove trees that morning. I was not disappointed! 🙂

Note that I opted for hand holding a smaller lens: the new Canon 100-400mm. It worked out quite nicely, making panning a lot easier given the much lighter weight of the lens versus the 600mm..

White Ibis landing - Florida Spoonbill Tour

White Ibis landing to join the flock – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1600 | 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) with a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

One afternoon, a flock of White Ibises had gathered in huge number on a sand bar. They kept coming one small group after the other. This situation gave us plenty of opportunity for beautiful landings against a dark background. I could not resist creating an incoming just above the flock on the ground. Can you see the intruder?

White Ibises in flight - Spoonbill rookery

White Ibises in flight – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1600 | 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) with a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

And here is one of the small groups that kept coming to increase the ranks of the flock on the sand bar. It made for a very interesting photography session. In the end, I had position the group for one last blast off, but the birds decided otherwise and kept to the ground until after sunset… Another time!

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – now $3600

February 13th-17th 2017 / limit 5 people – 2 open

Note that there is a $300 price reduction here (from $3900 to $3600), making this tour quite competitive given the location and the service! The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! 10 boat rides across 5 full days. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,000 refundable deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagles photography tour

Florida Spoonbills photography tour – $1150

March 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – 1 open

3 boat rides to the Spoonbill rookery and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com

Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Support the Best Bird Photography Tours 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

Last Florida Spoonbill Tour of the season

So fast! The third Florida Spoonbill tour of the year was recently concluded and I cannot wait to bring new participants to next year’s tours! Note that there are only 3 spots left for the Alaska Bald Eagle workshop, where you will have the best chances to create pure flight action photography 🙂

Spoonbill landing - Florida tour

Roseate Spoonbill landing – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 2000 | 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) with a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

Following my wife’s encouragements, I have been working harder at incorporating more than one subject in the frame lately. The big difficulty, besides having both or more birds doing something interesting at the same time, is to have everybody in focus while shooting with a long lens. The depth of field is narrower and you absolutely need to have all photo stars well aligned within the depth of field. An alternative is to simply accept that one or more participants will be blurred as above. I usually prefer when the blurred guy is in the back, rather than the front, but the photograph above works as is.

Brown Pelican taking off with a branch

Brown Pelican taking off with a branch – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | 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) with a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

This last Spoonbill tour of 2016 was full of action with Brown Pelicans! The one above was quite comical as it had dropped a fairly big size branch in the water. After a long search, the bird finally recovered the lost treasure and graced us with a beautiful take off with branch in its beak. The original image had the horizon crossing the top tip of the wings and I decided to increase the blue water surface to cover the entire wing span and avoid the “cut”. I find that clean backgrounds become more and more important in my photography.

Glossy Ibis blur

Glossy Ibises blur – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 400 | 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 1DX handheld.

In the eluding quest towards dazzling blurs, I was very pleased with the one above. Created early morning, a bit before sunrise, it has multiple participants with beautiful colors. To top it off, the participants are Glossy Ibises with breeding colors. 🙂

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – $3600

January 30th – February 3rd 2017 / limit 5 people – 3 open

The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! 10 boat rides across 5 full days. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,000 deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagles photography tour

Florida Spoonbills photography tour – $1150

Mar 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – 3 open

3 boat rides to the Spoonbill rookery and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com

Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Support the Best Bird Photography Tours 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

Action Bird Photography with the Canon 7d Mark ii in the Sarasota Bay

This post could have been titled three squawks for three poses!! I always enjoy photographing in the Sarasota Bay, and that 2 hour shoot in the Bay last month did not disappoint. Yet another demonstration of action Bird Photography with the Canon 7d mark ii for sure.

First, as this is likely to be my last post before the holidays, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!!!!!!!

Snowy Egret landing - Sarasota Bay

Snowy Egret landing – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 320 | f/4 | 1/6400 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 7D mark II on tripod with gimbal head.

The Snowy Egret image above is quite striking with the diagonal side way landing. The situation was that this particular Snowy Egret is known to me as quite feisty. So, I usually pay close attention to possible new comings in the vicinity to see what kind of chase is going to follow. The key is to not have your eye stuck to the view finder and look around every so often. Surely enough, my favorite feisty Egret spotted a new comer and propelled itself sideways in the air to land close in a furious squawking demonstration. 🙂

Roseate Spoonbill squawking - Sarasota Bay

Roseate Spoonbill squawking – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 320 | f/4 | 1/6400 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 7D mark II on tripod with gimbal head.

While the image above was not taken in the Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, I find it extremely pleasing with a bright blue grey blurry background. In this case, the bird had approached too close to me for proper horizontal framing, so I switched to vertical to still make it fit! Then, the pleasing background is a result of careful shooting angle, sun angle, background angle and head angle. Once you understand the four angles of success, you will re-think your photography in a very different light.

Great White Egret banking in flight - Sarasota Bay

Great White Egret banking in flight – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 320 | f/4 | 1/6400 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 7D mark II on tripod with gimbal head.

This spot in the Sarasota Bay can be a bit challenging for banking shots. There is in fact a narrow window of opportunity when some birds turn around with decent sun angle. The way I see it, instead of following and shooting the bird in flight wherever there is a flying movement, I look for a shooting zone and wait for a bird to have a flight course that is likely to cross it. I much rather take less shots and wait for the right moment…

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $990

Feb 20th-21st 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Mar 19th-20th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com to be put on the waiting list for possible cancellations or for 2017. Cancellations do happen, so it is not excluded you might still get to join me in 2016.

Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – $3900

January 16th-20th 2017 / limit 5 people – 3 open

The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,950 non refundable deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagles photography tour

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

Canon 300mm f/4 IS versus Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II comparison

When choosing a medium telephoto lens, one of the most common comparison is the Canon 300mm f/4 IS versus the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II with 1.4x extender. Few people realize that the Canon 300mm f/4 IS is about the best bang for your dollar in the whole Canon lens lineup. Why?

The Canon 300mm f/4 IS is a very versatile lens: sharp images, very light, fast AF lock, 2nd shortest Minimum Distance Focusing (MDF) and a good Image Stabilization mechanism. This makes it an ideal lens to capture action from a short distance, or from a moving boat.

White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird - Canon 300mm f/4 IS

Female White-necked Jacobin in flight – Mindo, Ecuador
ISO 1000 | f/9 | 1/250 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM review), the Canon EOS 7D handheld with flash. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The female White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird image above is a good demonstration of action stopping the Canon 300mm f/4 IS is capable of. Keep in mind, this image was not created with a fake background at a feeder, as most other Hummingbird images are made. Knowing that Hummers are actually the fastest birds in the World, it leaves one thinking… The AF is very fast and accurate. The biggest strength of this lens is the weight: only 2.63lbs!!

Laughing Gull taking off - Canon 300mm f/4 IS

Laughing Gull taking off – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/9 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM review), the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Another stunning action photography example with the Canon 300mm f/4 IS USM. Sold new, the lens is worth $1300 and remains the best value for the money. It was the very first lens I started with. I created numerous professional quality images with it while keeping my gear expenses very reasonable. Especially when coupled with a crop factor camera body such as the 7d mark II, you will have the cheapest pro starter gear possible with a reach of 480mm (1.6 x 300mm).

Bald Eagle - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II

Bald Eagle portrait
ISO 1000 | f/6.3 | 1/500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

What to think of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II then? This lens is widely recognized as the best portrait lens out there. It makes also for a very versatile lens, especially if you are a wildlife photographer who enjoys taking family pictures! Coupled with the 1.4x extender, the focal length is 280mm, very comparable to the Canon 300mm f/4 IS.

Wood Stork in flight - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II

Wood Stork in flight – Dit Dot Dash rookery, Florida
ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/30 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

It can be quite challenging to create a pleasing blur with the head of the subject sharp. Try to pan at the same speed of the bird!!

Advantages of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II:
– Zoom lens
– One of the very best portrait lens

Advantages of the Canon 300mm f/4 IS:
– Lighter (2.63lbs versus 4.04lbs for the 70-200mm with extender)
– Cheaper ($700 less)
– Faster AF
– Good macro lens with a MDF of 3.94ft

Image quality being very comparable, I will let you decide on which one to choose!! 🙂

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $990

Feb 20th-21st 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Mar 19th-20th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com to be put on the waiting list for possible cancellations or for 2017. Cancellations do happen, so it is not excluded you might still get to join me in 2016.

Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – $3900

January 16th-20th 2017 / limit 5 people – 3 open

The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,950 non refundable deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagles photography tour

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 photography with the Canon 7d mark II in the Sarasota Bay

Visiting family close to the Sarasota Bay has its perks. The other day, I slipped in about an hour of delightful photography before everybody woke up for breakfast. While starting my short bird photography adventure with the Canon 5d mark III to work on blurs, I quickly switched to the Canon 7d mark II for the rest of the hour. With low tide conditions, some parts of the Sarasota Bay attract many wading birds, including Spoonbills. Every now and then I witness flocks of 20 to 30 individuals of the stunning pink feather colored bird. Ideally, you want the tide low enough to attract the birds to come feed, but not so low that the grass type algea shows. When the algea shows, it makes for less pleasant backgrounds with brown patches here and there.

Little Blue Heron with prey - Sarasota Bay, Florida

Little blue Heron with breeding colors – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 250 | f/4 | 1/6400 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 7D mark II on tripod with gimbal head while wading in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The photograph above depicts a Little blue Heron with bright breeding colors keeping a snake like invertebrate snared in its beak. When I spotted that the bird seemed close to strike at the water, I positioned myself a bit closer and decided to go vertical for potential head shots with prey. Bingo! The wading bird snatched a snake like prey and fussed with it for a couple of minutes to put it in a proper position for a big gulp. The other advantage of going for a tight shot here was to avoid some brownish green patches of algea in the background. I am very pleased with the excellent head angles of both predator and prey. Plus, it is not often one may create an interesting photograph with a little blue Heron with breeding colors.

Great White Egret landing - Sarasota Bay

Great White Egret landing – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/5.6 | 1/6400 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 7D mark II on tripod with gimbal head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

When the wind is blowing in the right direction, from your back and straight towards your subject, the chances of creating a squarely frontal landing are dramatically increased. The Great white Egret photograph above is a nice landing over the blue water. I would have created a lot more of those during my short outing, but few would have come out with a clean background since the tide was a bit too low and there were not that many spots that offered a non clustered blue backdrop. I preferred not to go for the obvious and focus for a situation where the conditions would be good, meaning the 4 angles of success would be met!

Snowy Egret - Sarasota Bay

Snowy Egret – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 250 | f/4 | 1/6400 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 7D mark II on tripod while wading in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This is a very fun situation if you know how to recognize it. A white subject brightly lit up with a background in the shade will turn into an almost completely black background once you have set your camera settings for proper exposure on the subject. As you will have to under expose in order not too blow up the highlights, the backdrop will turn even darker. Play with the curves in post production by giving it a bit of a S shape and here you are!

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography tour – $990

Feb 20th-21st 2016 / limit 6 people – 4 open

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – 4 open

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com and $250 non refundable deposit to book your spot. Note that we will be wading in the water, about 50 feet from the point of highest tide in order to follow the Audubon society guidelines and help protect those beautiful birds during the nesting season.
Florida Spoonbill photography tour

Alaska Bald Eagle photography tour – $3900

January 16th-20th 2017 / limit 5 people – 3 open

The very best Bald Eagle tour hands down! Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com for questions and reservations. $1,950 non refundable deposit to book your spot.

Alaska Bald Eagles photography tour

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

American Oystercatcher photography with the Canon 7d mark II

American Oystercatchers are quite catchy in the big family of shorebirds, with their long orange-red beak made to open up shells. While you may find them all along the American coast, they are often present with one or two individuals at Fort Desoto, Florida. Thanks to the added reach of the Canon 7d mark II shorebirds photography is made a bit easier… as long as you stay low on the ground!

American Oystercatcher banking in flight - Florida photography tour

American Oystercatcher banking in flight – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 400 | f/4 | 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 7D mark II on tripod in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

One of the best ways to create flight photographs of shorebirds is to spot a flock on the ground and to wait for new comers. So taking flight shots of shorebirds that do not tend to stay in a flock, like the American Oystercatcher, can be a lot more tricky. I was working with this one above, when it took off, seemingly going away. I acquired focus and did not lose faith that the bird might turn around… Luckily enough, the Oystercatcher did just that: a big turn to come back where it took off, offering a very nice banking angle during its landing approach. Nice!!

American Oystercatcher with horseshoe crab in its beak

American Oystercatcher with horseshoe crab in its beak – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 400 | f/4 | 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 7D mark II on tripod in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

And here we come to one of the Oystercatcher’s specialty: getting invertebrates out of shells! The prey in its beak is a small horseshoe crab without its shell. As always, think of the 4 angles of success before pressing the shutter! Special attention to the background angle is how I create clean blurry backdrops. Did I say that I favored blue backdrops? 😉

American Oystercatcher - Fort Desoto, Florida

American Oystercatcher – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/4 | 1/6400 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 7D mark II on tripod low on the ground. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

Striving for action shots! The Oystercatcher above is clapping its beak after having thought catching a prey. No luck for this time… but the horseshoe crab was already a nice catch. I really enjoy action shots with water splashes as it gives a lot of life to the image. Beware though, for those unexpected moments to be captured as if time had frozen, you will need to work out your setup with a very fast shutter speed.

Used Gear for sale

Canon EF 300mm f/4 L IS

I am putting my 300mm for sale at $950. Quite a saving versus the price in store for a lens in mint condition that delivers pro results for a very small price. You may contact me by email at steven.blandin@gmail.com if you are interested 🙂

The Canon EF 400mm f/4 L IS is now sold!!

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $890 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

SOLD OUT!! You may also book a private tour weekend, when I take you twice to the Spoonbill rookery during two days of intensive learning and fun => only one weekend available April 18th-19th. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com
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

Canon EOS 7d mark II AF settings for bird & wildlife photography

What are the best AF settings for bird & wildlife photography with the Canon EOS 7d mark II? The new AF system of the Canon 7d mark II is inherited from the Canon EOS 5d mark III and the Canon EOS 1DX. In other words, it is the best AF system available today! Bird & wildlife photography have specific AF setting needs and I am going to walk you through what I personally use 🙂

First off, I mostly shoot in AI servo mode with the AF point expansion points (8 surrounding points). That allows me to place the focus point where I want while having the surrounding points picking up focus when the central point loses my target.

Canon offers six pre-sets cases for you to choose from, and while they are quite alright on their own, I have my own special recipe:

AF settings - Canon 7d mark II

As you may see above, there are three dimensions one my play with when fine-tuning the Canon 7d mark II AF settings:

1. Tracking sensitivity => how fast the AF system reacts to a new object entering the scene. You want to have this one not being very reactive to new subjects entering the frame. Otherwise, a bird flying in between you and your target might trigger the AF to switch and you would lose focus on your target. So, -1 is my recommendation here.
2. Accel./decel. tracking => The higher setting is best as it will be more sensitive to subjects that stop and start quickly. Perfect example is a bird taking off in your direction, going very fast from stopped to flying speed.
3. AF pt auto switching => speed at which the AF system changes from one point to another when having AF point expansion activated. I put this one to 1 as I want to stay focused for quick lateral moves, but not to the max to avoid loosing focus on the head towards focus to the wing while panning with a flying subject. As nobody that I know of can pan at the exact speed of a fast flying subject, it is good to have the focus somewhat locked on the head. If it does not seem to lock where I want, I simply pump the rear button to re-acquire focus.

For full detail on the Canon EOS 7d mark II AF system, you may visit this Canon link: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2014/eos7dmk2_afGuidebook.shtml

Nothing is as good of a demonstration as a few action photographs!

Spoonbill in flight - Canon 7d mark ii AF settings

Spoonbill with breeding colors banking in flight – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 500 | f/4 | 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 7D mark II on lowered tripod in the water with a Jobu Design Gimbal Head.

The Spoonbill photograph above is a nice illustration of high performing AF system. Once the AF system is locked on the subject you may maintain excellent tracking throughout the flight.

Spoonbill landing - Canon 7d mark ii AF settings

Spoonbill landing – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/4 | 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), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on lowered tripod in the water with a Jobu Design Gimbal Head.

This photograph was created with an overcast weather during one of my Florida Spoonbill tours. It is a very good illustration of an AF system that can keep focus with quickly accelerating or decelerating subjects. And this is why Accel. / Decel. setting is pushed to the maximum sensitivity at +2 🙂

Spoonbill landing - Canon EOS 7d mark II AF settings

Spoonbill landing – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 400 | 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 a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D mark II on lowered tripod in the water with a Jobu Design Gimbal Head.

Another landing Spoonbill created during one of the Florida Spoonbill tours. This one came from the side and the quick, but not too abrupt change of focus point from the AF auto PT switching setting at +1 was useful here.

Used Gear for Sale

CANON EOS 5D MARK III => $1,650 in very good condition with battery grip (BG-E11 worth $260 new) included. As you would have noticed, I created some of my very best images with this body!!

CANON EF 300MM F/4 IS USM => $900 in excellent condition. I did a lot of my early bird photography with this undisputed best value for your money in the Canon pro lens lineup.

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $990

Mar 19th-20th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – FULL

Mar 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – 6 open

May 5th-6th 2017 / limit 6 people – 5 open

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com to be put on the waiting list for possible cancellations or for 2017. Cancellations do happen, so it is not excluded you might still get to join me in 2016.

Florida Spoonbill photography tour

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

Canon EOS 7d mark II & Wildlife Photography – first impressions

At last! I was able to give a good try to the new Canon EOS 7d mark II. Based on my first impressions I can say without hesitation that the Canon EOS 7d mark II performs as well as the Canon EOS 5d mark III in many ways. My view is of course one of wildlife photography and the Canon EOS 7d mark II does not disappoint in high ISO and fast autofocus performances. Add to that a 10 frame per second speed and you have an almost 1dX at a much much cheaper price.

Willet foraging - Fort Desoto, Florida

Willet foraging – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/4 | 1/500 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 7D mark II on lowered tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

The Willet photograph above was created near sunrise time. Shooting at ISO 1600 then, I was very pleased with the level of noise, which is very similar to the Canon EOS 5d mark III and a LOT better than the prior version of the 7d. I did my best to create a pleasing back lit situation with beautiful early morning colors. When well controlled back lit exposed image can be very interesting.

Piping Plover scratching - Fort Desoto, Florida

Endangered Piping Plover scratching – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/5300 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 7D mark II on lowered tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

I thoroughly enjoy the frame per second speed, which was my only issue with the Canon EOS 5d mark III. As a wildlife photographer I am always very eager to capture stunning animal behavior actions and having a fast 10 frames per second rate really helps freezing the ideal moment where the bird is not only doing something interesting but also displaying good head angle and so forth. The endangered Piping Plover above is a good illustration as shorebirds tend to have very fast action and it is not always that simple to capture the right moment. For instance, a bird scratching will often have its eye closed, so creating 10 to 20 frames is great to have a few frames with the eye open.

Sometimes, you see some of those birds with so many rings and colorful flags tied to their legs that you really cannot miss the banded ones. I am not sure I fully agree with the purpose of the bands on threatened species though…

Snowy Egret in flight - Florida photography tour

Snowy Egret in flight – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/5300 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 7D mark II on tripod while wading in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

And last, a flight shot of a Snowy Egret. The AF performs very well, which is no surprise as it is the exact same one than the 1DX and the 5D mark III. Note that no other body is going to outperform the 1DX as the higher battery power of the 1DX will allow for acquiring AF faster no matter what (especially when coupling your lens with extenders).

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $7,900 / limit 6 people / September 10th-20th 2015:

A luxury African safari in the country where nature is the best preserved, at an extremely competitive price!
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $890 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

Only 3 spots left! This is the best spot in the state of Florida, at the right time of the year.
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