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 πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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

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Steven

Where to find the White Morph Reddish Egret in Florida?

The Reddish Egret is a Near Threatened species and the white morph is an even rarer bird. Now, finding a white morph Reddish Egret with full breeding colors does not happen every day to say the least. However, I have seen the white morph Reddish Egret a few times at Fort Desoto and got to photograph one with breeding colors for the second time in my life during the March 2016 Spoonbill tour.

White Morph Reddish Egret with breeding colors

White morph Reddish Egret with breeding colors portrait – Fort Desoto Park, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/5.6 | 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 a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

When I look at the portrait above, I can only think of a top model photo shoot with the hair being blown with a blower!! πŸ™‚ What do you think?
The breeding colors are stunning and the hair-like feathers flowing in the air makes it a classic.

White morph Reddish Egret hunting - Fort Desoto, Florida

White morph Reddish Egret hunting – Fort Desoto Park, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/5.6 | 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 a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

I have a very similar image of a regular Reddish Egret and this stance just cracks me up! The species is well known for interesting acrobatics while hunting. My tip when photographing this kind of action is to step back to avoid clipping the very fast moving wings and keep your focus sensor to the middle column as the bird is likely to change direction at any time.

White morph Reddish Egret at Fort Desoto Park, Florida

White morph Reddish Egret hunting – Fort Desoto Park, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/5.6 | 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 a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

And here is the dunk to get the fish! I am pleased that the eye is not closed as it is often the case right before touching water during a spear head motion. This is one of the advantages of the very fast frame per second rate of the Canon EOS 1DX: you increase your chances of getting just the right moment in the action. I have just one regret… I would have loved to have the same bird, doing the same thing during a bright day with blue water in the background. Since the bird is white, you would not over expose not to blow the whites, which keeps the background a bit dark and distracting to my taste. The regular Reddish Egret tends to come out better when properly exposed during overcast days. In fact, one of my Reddish Egret hunting images made it to the final round of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition…

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $1050

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

Mar 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – 5 open

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

Enjoy a last minute sizeable discount on the April 2016 tour due to a last moment cancellation. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com

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

What to do with water reflections at the Spoonbill rookery?

First off, I am happy to report that three of my Spoonbill images have been selected for the final round of the 2016 BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition. Wish me luck! The past Florida Spoonbill tour has been full with think-outside-the-box photography. Fortunately, an overcast weather helped by giving more flexibility with sun angle. In fact, I many times placed the group against sun angle. Did I go nuts?

Spoonbill taking off with backlit lighting - Florida photography tour

Spoonbill taking off in a back lit scenario – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 800 | 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 a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

The overcast weather during the last Spoonbill tour allowed us to try out some crazy sun angle shooting. The diffused light helped having the front of the bird decently lit up, while having the beautiful pink transparency on the feather due to the bird being lit from behind. Not a traditional view point for sure, but it worked out very well as the background was in the shade, creating a beautiful nearly black background. Note that when it comes to dealing with reflections on the water, I believe there are two ways to deal well with them: you crop most of it out as above, or keep all of it as below, but avoid cutting it in the middle…

Roseate Spoonbill preening - Florida photography

Spoonbill preening – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | 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 a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

The image above displays a very long reflection in the water, which inspired the long vertical crop I adopted. The back lit gives a very specific ambiance here too. As time passes by, I try to pay special attention to situations that are not ordinary. Creating something different than the main stream is more and more in my mind.

Great White Egret with breeding feathers in flight - Florida photography

Great White Egret with breeding colors in flight – Woodstork rookery, Brandon
ISO 2500 | f/5.6 | 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 a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

I ended up taking the group to the Brandon rookery in one of the outings. We shot at sun angle, then against sun angle when the sky got very overcast. The combination of a white subject with a far background in the shade can create near black backgrounds with dramatic emphasis on the subject. Here, not only we have a magnificent bird with breeding colors and feathers, but the bird is also bringing a branch to the nest. Often the issue with shots incorporating branches being brought back to the nest is that the branch itself will cover part of the head of the bird.

See below the last Spoonbill tour group picture (Image courtesy James Shaddle).

Florida Spoonbill tour - group picture

Nice group again! Note that we wade mid-thigh in the water at the Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery and we stay at least 50 feet away from the point of highest tide to follow the Audubon guidelines.

Florida Spoonbill Tour Testimonials

Steven, I want to reserve a place in your May 2017 Spoonbill Tour! Last month’s tour was better than I could have imagined. I have tried to photograph spoonbills around Florida and south Georgia for some time, but this experience beat them all! During the first morning I had more opportunities for good pictures than in all of my earlier efforts combined. I am so pleased with what I accomplished! I expected the spoonbill rookery to be wonderful, and it was. Yet, I probably learned more from the sessions at Fort DeSoto. I may have been the least experienced member of our group, but you worked with us all as much as we wanted or needed. Your advice on how to observe and interpret the birds’ behavior was spot on. Thank you so much!! — Bill C.

I went on Mr Blandin’s tour, and I have to say that i was totally impressed. After 2 days I felt that I learned things that would have taken years. Figure out. I look at birds differently than I use to. I highly encourage anyone to give it a try. You won’t be sorry. — Stevie G.

Steven Blandin is the consummate photo professional. My recent trip to photograph the roseate spoonbills along with other Florida shore birds was incredible. Steven is organized, prompt, intelligent, artistic and caring. He works hard to ensure that all his workshop attendees get that one perfect shot. Thanks Steven, for a great time. You will be seeing me again! — Larry T.

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography workshop – $1050

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

Mar 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – 5 open

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

Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com

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

One Florida Spoonbill Tour down & dates for 2017 Spoonbill Tours

The first 2016 Florida Spoonbill Tour was a success with a great group of participants. Great weather, cooperative birds and an enthusiastic group made for a great recipe. πŸ™‚ I am announcing two dates for 2017. The likely dates are March 25-26 and May 5-6 2017. Reach out to me soon as there is high anticipation!

Roseate Spoonbill perfect banking in flight

Spoonbill with breeding colors banking in flight – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, 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 a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

And another perfect banking flight position to add to the collection! I always feel very excited when I get to create a very good banking stance as above. As I instructed my group of participants, look for the birds coming from behind you as some of them will turn to join the group of birds on the ground. That turn is your chance to create a similar image as above. Plus, since we are at the rookery, you get beautiful breeding colors on most of the Spoonbills on site.

Great Blue Heron banking in flight

Great Blue Heron with breeding colors banking in flight – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | 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 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

It is also good to mention that the Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery is one of the biggest rookery in the state of Florida and hosts many other breeding species. You will easily see Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons, among many other species. I like the image above as it is not so easy to create a banking flight image of a Great Blue Heron with a good inclination degree and the wings fully extended. Since, it is a big bird, it does not turn as abruptly.

Least Sandpiper - Fort Desoto, Florida

Least Sandpiper – Fort Desoto Park, 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) with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1DX on tripod with gimbal head.

The Least Sandpiper is among the smallest shorebirds at Fort Desoto, even smaller than Semipalmated Plovers and Sanderlings. Most people would not give them a second glance when walking along the beach. Yet, some of the smaller shorebirds can bring out quite a display if you take the time to lower your camera to their World. Many photographers underestimate the movement and the impressive action shots one can take with small shorebirds. My tip, wait for them to bath and be ready to capture the flapping action! πŸ™‚

See below the last Spoonbill tour group picture.

Spoonbill Tour group

Nice group! Note that we wade mid-thigh in the water at the Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery and we stay at least 50 feet away from the point of highest tide to follow the Audubon guidelines.

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 – $1050

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

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

The Canon EOS 1DX Mark II has arrived! Features and first thoughts

So, here it is! The new Canon EOS 1DX mark II is now available for pre-order. There has been a lot of talk around the exact specifications of the new Canon flagship body. To me the biggest disappointment is with the resolution of only 20.2 MP, when I was really hoping for at least 24MP. That being said, the new body improves on all counts over the Canon EOS 1dX of course. The biggest improvement from a wildlife photography perspective is the possibility to shoot with 61 AF focus points while being at effective aperture of f/8. This means that we will now be able to use many more focus points than just the central focus point when using extenders that modify the aperture to f/8 and larger. See below a video from Canon giving a nice rundown of the new features and specs:

At a glance the new Canon EOS 1DX mark II key bird photography specs versus the now old Canon EOS 1DX:
– 20.2MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor (vs 18.1MP)
– 14 fps Shooting, 16 fps in Live View (vs 12 fps RAW)
– 61-Point High Density Reticular AF II (new AF system generation with all focus points at f/8)
– DCI 4K Video at 60 fps, 8.8MP Still Grab (vs full HD 1080p Video Recording at 30 fps)

For what matters most to me, there is an appreciated improvement in fps and noise performance. Does this justify ditching the old Canon EOS 1DX to buy the new one? Not sure… I am still pondering on that one πŸ™‚

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

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