The Art Of Close Up Portrait In Bird Photography

Happy new year to all!! Many, many, many fantastic bird photography opportunities to you this coming year 🙂 While I tend to focus on creating action photographs, the art of close up portrait is not lost on me. Or so I wishfully think…

Snowy Egret with breeding colors - Orlando, Florida

Snowy Egret portrait – Orlando, Florida
ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 1/1250 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 5D mark III on tripod with gimbal head.

I absolutely love the fine elegant feather of this Snowy Egret with breeding colors. During mating season, many egrets grow longer feathers to be used during their seduction displays. Plus, Snowy Egrets do not keep their breeding colors for very long and it can be quite challenging to capture the orange around the eyes. Catch the bird while displaying and frame everything for a tight close up while having the beautiful green backdrop and voila!

Waved Albatross portrait - Espanola Island, Galapagos Islands.

Waved Albatross – Espanola Island, Galapagos Islands
ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 1/8000 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 5D mark III while seating on the ground with the lens on my bent knee.

I remember landing on Espanola Island as being a very exciting shooting day to come! And it did not disappoint: this portrait with the head coming out of the grass was a dream come true. Try to be at eye level with the subject, with the background as far back as possible while using your longest lens to maximize the very pleasing blur.

Young Juvenile Roseate Spoonbill - Tampa Bay, Florida

Young Roseate Spoonbill – Tampa Bay, 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) with a 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with gimbal head.

The Roseate Spoonbill above is a newly fledged juvenile which adventured closer to the outer ring of mangrove trees at the Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery than its recently born companions. This gave me the rare chance for a real close up. Note that I still stood at more than 50 feet away as I used the 600mm coupled with an extender. Also, I typically try to have the point of focus as far from the center as possible for close portraits.

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

Memories from Fernandina Island in the Galapagos Islands

For some reason this week I have been thinking about a past tour to the Galapagos Islands on several occasions. More specifically, the visit to Fernandina Island had been very rich in photographic opportunities. The Island is perfectly preserved and is the home of multiple very rare species. This is the favored spot for Flightless Cormorants to nest for instance…

Flightless Cormorant on its nest - Galapagos photography tour

Flightless Cormorant on its nest – Fernandina Island, Galapagos Islands
ISO 640 | 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), the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld while seated on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The Flightless Cormorant is a vulnerable species that nest from July to October, mainly on Fernandina Island, in the Galapagos Islands. The female stays at the nest while the male brings presents in form of sea weed of every color to help her decorate and fortify the nest. A big part of their courting happens in the water, where they swim after each other in crazy swirls. Quite the show! In the photograph above the female is patiently waiting on top of her nest. When creating a portrait photograph a good composition if often to put the head of the subject close to one of the corners.

Galapagos Hawk eating an iguana - Photography workshop

Galapagos Hawk eating a baby iguana – Fernandina Island, Galapagos Islands
ISO 640 | 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 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.

While creating the photograph of the Flightless cormorant above I noticed this Galapagos Hawk starting to come down from the sky with a big prey in its beak. After closer investigation, the Hawk had captured a baby marine Iguana. The bird chose a barren lava rock and went on with its meal.

Galapagos Marine Iguana with Lava Lizard - Photography tour

Marine Iguana with lava lizard – Fernandina Island, Galapagos Islands
ISO 640 | 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 while seated on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

In the photograph above you may see a somewhat frequent scene on Fernandina Island: a lava lizard hanging out on the head of a marine Iguana. I observed that behavior only on Fernandina Island. Note that each island of the Galapagos Islands tend to have distinct species that have evolved differently across the years based on the specificity of each island.

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

The dates for next year are now set! This is the very best African safari package you will find out there, with a memorable ending at the Victoria Falls in Zambia.
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

Creation of birds banking in flight

While flight photography tends to be considered challenging by many, creating photographs of birds banking in flight raises the bar one more heavy notch. By banking, I mean when the bird is turning during flight, displaying the full length of its wings whether from under or above. How should one go about capturing this very specific position? It is not as simple as predicting a straight trajectory in the air…

Brown Pelican banking in flight

Brown Pelican in flight – Fort Desoto, Florida.
ISO 800 | f/7.1 | 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 over tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The Brown Pelican banking in flight photograph above was created at my very favorite spot in Florida: Fort Desoto. Pelicans often join other members already floating on the water. In this case, this pelican was flying a bit towards me while another one was swimming in the water. I knew that there would be some chance that the flying one would join for a swim. So, I was pleased when it started descending towards the water, shifting direction to land and hence banking in flight! If you know of a spot where your subject is more likely to land, position yourself for it and wait for a flying subject to turn around to position itself for a landing. Those maneuvers often provide fantastic banking shot opportunities.

Red-billed Tropicbird banking in flight

Red-billed Tropicbird banking in flight – South Plaza, Galapagos Islands.
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. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This Red-billed Tropicbird photograph received a Merritt at the 2013 Florida Professional Photographers Association competition. Another good strategy to maximize your chances for banking positions is to be located above your subject… Above?? That is right, in this case the photograph was created from a cliff overseeing the ocean. Reaching a higher altitude perspective goes a long way into getting a full view of the wings span from above! 🙂

Botswana and the Victoria Falls instructional photography tour / $9,800 / limit 6 people / Sep 2014:

I am working on bringing in another talented co-leader to this wildlife photography workshop. More to come on the topic soon…
African safari in Botswana

Spoonbills and shorebirds instructional photography tour / $980 / limit 5 people / Mar 2014:

By following the blog, you now know that Fort Desoto is a fantastic hotspot with countless opportunities for award-winning photography.
Wildlife Photography Tour - 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

2013 Florida Top Ten Photographer & 1st Place Wild Animals Awards

It is my great pleasure to announce that I won two awards and four merits at the 2013 Florida Professional Photographers (FPP) competition!! The first one is a first place winner in the Wild Animals category and the second one is the 2013 Florida Top Ten Professional Photographer award.

The photograph below received the 1st place Wild Animals Award:

Willet landing - Fort Desoto - Steven Blandin

Willet landing. This photograph was created at Fort Desoto, Florida.
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/2000 | 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 while sitting on the sand. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

I had the opportunity to hear the judges discussing about the scoring and they very much appreciated the pose, the sharpness and the tilt of the wings. Such a shot while requiring patience, requires technique! There is a way to position yourself to maximize your chances.

Red-billed Tropicbird flight - Galapagos Islands

Red-billed Tropicbird banking in flight. This photograph was created at South Plaza, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/3200 | 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 III, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld.

This Red-billed Tropicbird banking in flight photograph was possible thanks to the angle obtained while shooting from the top of a cliff. It is otherwise extremely difficult to achieve such a perfect banking pose.

Sally light foot crab on the lava rocks - Galapagos islands

Sally Lightfoot Crab on the lava rocks. This photograph was created at Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
ISO 1000 | f/6.3 | 1/250 | 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 III, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head and tripod.

And the forth one that received a merit below:

Roseate Spoonbill landing at Alafia Banks, Tampa Florida

Roseate Spoonbill landing on the mudflat. This photograph was created at Alafia Banks, Tampa, Florida.
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/1600 | 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 III, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head and tripod while wading in the water.

The photograph above is one of many great creations from Alafia Banks. Join me next year to the Fort Desoto and Alafia Banks photography workshop in Tampa, Florida, if you wish to learn how to achieve such creations! 🙂

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

Flightless Cormorant’s courtship

The photograph below is a pair of Flightless Cormorant going through their courtship ritual.

Flightless Cormorant - Fernandina Island, Galapagos

Flightless Cormorants in love.

ISO 1600 | f/5.6 | 1/640 | Manual Mode | AI servo focus

This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens with a 1.4x III Extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III, handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This pair of Flightless Cormorants is swimming around each other in the cold water current of Fernandina Island, in the Galapagos Islands. What are they doing? Courting each other! 🙂 I was lucky to witness this superb display of chase and pursue in the ocean. Note that Flightless Cormorants are amongst the rarest birds with only 1,500 individuals left. This Cormorant lost the ability to fly and rely on efficient swimming.

Image optimization: As there was not much luminosity and I had to capture the action, I had to rely on a high ISO of 1600 in dark set up. Though the 5D mark III showed great ISO performance as usual, there was still some noticeable noise left. While I had lowered the noise with Photoshop Camera RAW, I decided to apply a second level of noise reduction. After creating a somewhat detailed selection of the pair of birds, I inverted the selection and pressed CTRL+J to copy and paste on a different layer. Then I applied a surface blur filter and voila!!

The photograph below is a pair of Waved Albatross preening each other during their courtship ritual.

Flightless Cormorant at the seaweed nest - Galapagos Islands

Flightless Cormorant portrait at the nest.

ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 1/2500 | Manual Mode | AI servo focus

This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS 5D mark III, handheld.

This adult Flightless Cormorant is covering its seaweed nest. The male will come with seaweed leaves as presents for the female, while the female use the gifts as building block for a nest about 50 meters away from the water.

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