Front Cover with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation

I am very pleased to report that one my Black Skimmer images made the front cover of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation annual report on conservation investments. While the initial talk was around some of my better known Spoonbill images, the final choice came to this unexpected photograph 🙂

Black Skimmer - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer in flight – 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 and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

While publishing in magazines, even very well known ones, does not pay much anymore, it is always a pleasure to get the front cover. This photograph was created in the early morning after having noticed a consistent pattern of Black Skimmers flying along the shore. The trick here was to wait for the waves to be flat in order to avoid a distracting background. See below the actual cover:

Black Skimmer - National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Cover

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Steven

Black Skimmers in flight with the Canon EOS 7d mark II

The only one morning I spent at the Indian Shore Black Skimmers breeding ground was very rewarding! On top of the nice chick images I shared in a recent post, I had the pleasure to photograph some pretty good flight stances.

Black Skimmer banking in flight with prey - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer banking in flight with prey – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 500 | 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.

A classical banking shot from the Black Skimmer above, with the fish in the beak as an added bonus. As often, I placed myself in a way to work on only one portion of the sky: the only place where I could reach optimum sun angle. This tends to work better than hunting birds flying left and right. First recognize the good situation, then calmly wait for a subject to enter “the good situation”. While there were birds flying all over, my attention was set on a particular spot where conditions were suitable to my requirements. Every so often, some birds would pass by, giving me all the opportunities I needed 🙂

Note that I took care of keeping the horizon with the sea water to help anchor the image.

Black Skimmer banking in flight - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer banking in flight with prey – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | 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 while kneeling on the ground. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Another really good banking shot! Keep in mind that banking shots are possible only when the bird turn in flight. With a good eye, it is not that difficult to recognize the pattern and wait for just the right moment.

Black Skimmer landing - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer banking in flight with prey – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | 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 while kneeling on the ground. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

And after a few banks, here is the landing! Actually, having the subject closer to the breeding ground is a bit tricky. The reason is there were a lot of distracting objects to deal with: fence to prevent people from getting to close and other breeding birds amongst others. It took a lot of Photoshop cleanup on the image above. Use your stamp tool to clone on a separate layer above your original layer, then use a layer mask to erase (paint in black) zones where you would have stamped over the subject. See below a before and after view:

Black Skimmer landing - image optimization

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Steven

Black Skimmer chicks at Indian Shores, Florida

Amongst the few Black Skimmer nesting spots along the Florida West coast, Indian Shores is one of the best! I went to pay a visit on the first weekend of July, which in retrospect was about a couple of weeks too late for very young chicks. Though most of the chicks were already reaching a decent size, there were a few newly hatched ones if you were to pay close attention. The nesting site is located in front of a pink hotel with a very visible fence around a patch of grassy sand. It is my second year visiting the site and though my visit was short, it was fruitful! 🙂

Black Skimmer chick chasing adult for food - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer chick chasing adult for food – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5 | 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 seating in the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The photograph above depicts a Black Skimmer chick harassing an adult for food. There was plenty of action at the nesting site that morning. Time and time again chicks would be harassing their parents to be fed as soon as they landed with food. The image above is a nice representation of a chick not having its immediate need met. Their wrath would be swiftly displayed! Almost reminds me of my own toddler…

Black Skimmer chicks - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer chicks – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 2000 | 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 tripod with gimbal head while seating in the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

My initial intent was to photograph young chicks and I was a bit disappointed to realize that most chicks were already fairly big. With a very careful scanning over the nesting site, I spotted this group of three fur balls poking their head out for a couple of minutes. Not wasting time, I created a few photographs until one of the parent came back and they spent the rest of the morning sleeping under the parenting protection deep in the hole, far from the glitters of fame.

Black Skimmer with big fish in its beak - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer chicks – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | 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 while seating in the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Black Skimmer with prey - Florida photography tour

Black Skimmer with fish from up close

Fortunately, not just the chicks got to eat! Every now and then, an adult would break from the group to swallow a fish in peace. The moment of peace usually did not last long, as either a chick would realize a yummy piece would not come to its beak, or a gull would give chase. I am pleased with both good head angles above. The close up shows a breathtaking action moment.

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $990

Feb 20th-21st 2016 / limit 6 people – 2 open

Apr 16th-17th 2016 / limit 6 people – 1 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

Black Skimmers with chicks at Indian Shores, Florida

Nesting Black Skimmers with chicks can easily be seen at Indian Shores, Florida. While my last visit was not perfectly timed and the chicks were a bit bigger than I would have liked, the shoot was definitely worthwhile and I created a few photographs that I am pretty happy with.

Skimmer feeding chick - Bird photography tour, Florida

Black Skimmer with chick – Indian Shores, 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 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 photograph above depicts an adult Black Skimmer having given a fish away to its chick for breakfast. I am very pleased with having all three subjects with good head angles and a very clean background. Note that this photograph was created very early in the morning in a shaded area, hence ISO 2000. The 5d mark III manages noise so well that a level ISO like this is not too much of a problem. My advice when you have multiple subjects is to take a lot of shots so that you increase your chances of having everybody with a good head angle. The image would have been even stronger if the beak of the chick did not overlap over the adult’s body.

Black Skimmer chick - Photography workshop, Florida

Black Skimmer chick running in the sand – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 1600 | 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) 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 chick photograph above is a nice back-lit situation. Sometimes the opportunity arises where one may create a rim of light around the subject thanks to the combination of the light coming from behind and a somewhat dark background. The effect can be seen above with the silhouette of the bird behind lit up with light. I really like the effect coming from the back-lit sand grains 🙂

Black Skimmer feeding chick - Indian Shores, Florida

Skimmer feeding young – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 1250 | 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 the 1.4x extender, 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 image above is a nice creation, but the 2nd image (running chick) is a much better back-lit image. Why? The fact that the background is not dark enough takes away a lot from the rim of light effect. Had I been able to find a different angle (lower on the ground) and get more shade in the background, it would have turned a lot stronger in my opinion.

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