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

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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

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 😉 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

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

White on white & upcoming Spoonbill workshop at Alafia Banks

Color contrasts between your subject and the background can help depict stunning stories. See below a couple of examples with Great White Egret photographs.

Great White Egret - Florida photography workshop

Great White Egret – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/5.6 | 1/250 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 handheld while seated in the water with waders. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The Great White Egret photograph above was created at Fort Desoto, during an overcast day. The white on white effect comes from overexposing to expose properly for the white feathers, resulting in a background a bit overblown. Overcast days are really good situations to create this specific dreamy atmosphere. It is all about properly exposing for the subject and picking a very clean background situation. A white bird in the still water is a very good start.

Great White Egret - Florida photography tour

Great White Egret – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 320 | 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 5D mark III handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

In the Great White Egret photograph above, I created an opposite recipe than the first one presented. Instead of white on white, a good way to create white on black, is to properly expose for a white subject in the bright sun, while having the background in the shade. The contrast white subject on a dark background will lead to underxposing in order not to blow the highlights. This will make for a background even darker, often almost black! I did not edit the background whatsoever… Understanding proper exposure techniques helps finding creative situations. 🙂

Roseate Spoonbill - Florida Alafia Banks photography workshop

Roseate Spoonbill blur – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 250 | 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 5D mark III handheld while on the boat. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The Roseate Spoonbill blur photograph above was created at Alafia Banks during the Spoonbill workshop. One of the rare spots where it is somewhat easier to create Spoonbill in flight blurs is Alafia Banks. Given the fact that you will see a large number of the beautiful pink birds over there, and this from pre-sunrise to sunset.

Spoonbills and shorebirds instructional photography tour / $980 / limit 5 people / Feb 28th to Mar 2nd:

Only 2 spots left! We are now two weeks before the date, so hurry if you want to join me on this one of a kind workshop!
Spoonbills photography workshop - Alafia Banks, Florida

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