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

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

3 for the price of 1 & the Canon 7d mark II

The highly anticipated Canon EOS 7d mark II is now available for pre-order!! Read below what my thoughts are on this new crop factor flagship. Make sure to place your order by clicking on your preferred provider link to the right (Adorama or B&H). It does not cost you anything and it helps keeping this blog lively 🙂

Canon EOS 7D Mark II with BG-E16

I loved the Canon EOS 7d with a high performance AF and 8 frames per second. However, I do prefer the Canon EOS 5d mark III mainly because of its even better autofocus system (the same as the Canon EOS 1dX!) and excellent high ISO/low noise performance. Things are about to change! The new Canon EOS 7d mark II is announced to perform as well as the Canon EOS 5d mark III thanks to the same AF system and equivalent high ISO quality. In other words, with 20.2 megapixels for the new 7d versus 22.3 megapixels for the 5d mark III, you will have the same image quality or very close, with an impressive 10 frames per second and the extra reach of a crop factor (1.6 times longer than a full frame). On top of that, the 7d mark II will be able to autofocus at f/8 with a 2x extender, allowing AF with the central point surround with a combo 600mm f/4 and 2x extender. We will now have a reach of 1920mm!!!!

On my side, I did not hesitate and placed a pre-order in order to be amongst the first ones to enjoy this new crop factor flagship in the Canon EOS camera body lineup.

Osprey with fish in its talents

Osprey with fish – Lakeland, 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 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a 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 is an Osprey flying away with an amazing prize! Look close (click on the image to see it bigger) and your eyes will widen as you count not 1, not 2, but 3 fish!! I was taking around a student who booked a private tour in the Lakeland area about three weeks ago. I know a peer that gives to a lake where one may witness Ospreys and even occasional Bald Eagles fishing nearby. We were in luck that afternoon, and within 30 min we created lots of great fishing action shots of Ospreys. If you pass by the Tampa Bay area do not hesitate to contact me to book a private tour as I will give you top notch instructions and take you to the best local spots!

Bald Eagle in flight - Lakeland, Florida

Bald Eagle in Flight – Lakeland, Florida
ISO 500 | f/6.3 | 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 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod and 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 is indeed a Bald Eagle in flight in the Lakeland area, Florida. This fellow was fishing a bit further away than the Osprey above and came out empty ended a couple of times. Still, it was a great pleasure creating a photograph of this beautiful creature! Pasco county, close to the Tampa Bay has the highest concentration of Bald Eagles in the state of Florida.

Used Gear for Sale!

Canon EOS 5d mark III with BG-E11 battery grip => Very good student Ejaz Khan is selling his Canon EOS 5d mark III with the BG-E11 battery grip for $2,500. This is an awesome deal, for a camera that has not been used much and Ejaz takes very good care of his equipment. Most of my images were created with this camera and I would not hesitate if I were in a buying position. Contact me at steven.blandin@gmail.com if you are interested!

Canon 400mm f/5.6 => I am personally selling a Canon 400mm f/5.6 in prestine condition at $950. This is a great deal for the lens that I call the lowest budget for professional results!

Note that you are welcome to let me know about your used equipment for sale 🙂

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

This African safari is a very nice combination between the Okavango Delta, the big cats in the Chobe national park and a finish at the Victoria Falls. Keep in mind, Botswana’s trails are a lot less crowded with vehicles as it is in Kenya…
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

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

Only 4 spots left now! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to create photograph of Spoonbill with breeding feathers in flight.
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

The perfect blue background

Lately, achieving a pleasing background has become a growing obsession of mine. A blurred light colored setting is often best. My preferred hue is blue, then green, then something soft. As a consequence, I often do my best to create a blue background when shooting along the beach shore. This is what I call the perfect blue background!

Willet shorebird - Fort Desoto photography tour

Willet stretching its wings – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 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 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III 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.

The photograph above is a Willet stretching its wings after a bath in the shallow water at Fort Desoto Park, Florida. For shorebirds, one thing is almost always true, stay as close to the ground as possible to create nice blurs around the subject. The birds were originally scattered across the sand with a few subjects going in and out of the shallow water either looking for food and for a quick bath. The situation might have looked a bit difficult to the untrained eye. When dealing with a big group of birds, it is often best to work with subjects on the edges, where your chances of isolating the bird are much greater. Every now and then, the Willets would stretch their wings after a bath. Recognizing the situation, I patiently positioned myself for success with one bird that seemed to be entering in that part of the cycle. After a couple of tries, I was able to capture the stretch in its full extent 🙂

Marbled Godwit - Florida photo workshops

Marbled Godwit ruffling its feathers – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 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 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III laying low 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.

The photograph above is a Marbled Godwit ruffling its feathers. This is another common variant after a bath. If you like action shot, you need to have a good understanding of your subject’s behavior and be ready for the right situation. Most importantly, it is much better to anticipate on the behavior when recognized versus pressing the shutter after something has already happened: this is 99% of the time too late!! Don’t be afraid to start taking sequential shots before you actually see the action. You will not have the time to react and with digital this is so costless.

Dowitcher - Fort Desoto photography

Short-billed Dowitcher hunting – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 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 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III 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.

The Short-billed Dowitcher above is looking for food in the shallow water at Fort Desoto, Florida. Another very nice blue background! The three creations above were done in less than 5 minutes apart from each other. It is usually more beneficial for me to move around in quest of different subjects or behaviors versus stalking like a cat for hours to get one shot.

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

This African safari is a very nice combination between the Okavango Delta, the big cats in the Chobe national park and a finish at the Victoria Falls. Keep in mind, Botswana’s trails are a lot less crowded with vehicles as it is in Kenya…
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

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

We all love those pink-feathered friends! 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

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

Brown Pelican Photography Tour in Florida, where to go?

If you are planning a Brown Pelican Photography Tour in Florida, there are many good spots, but my favorite two picks are in the Tampa Bay area. First off, it depends what you are looking for… If you are looking for diving and fishing action, I would recommend Fort Desoto Park in St Petersburg. If you are interested in full breeding color Pelicans with good flight opportunities, Alafia Banks is the place to go to!!

Brown Pelican photography tour - Alafia Banks, Florida

Brown Pelican flying with nesting material – Alafia Banks, Florida
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), 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 was created during a photography tour I organized at Alafia Banks. I was explaining to one of my students that Pelicans make for excellent practice for flight photography. It is a fairly slow bird in the air, which will give you a good chance at earning your flight photography skills. The Brown Pelican above was bringing a branch back to its nest as nesting material. The huge advantage of Alafia Banks is that Pelicans are nesting there, allowing the viewer to admire them with their full breeding colors. Adults have a white head, with a vibrant brown around the neck during mating season. They also come back and forth to their nests, allowing for many flight opportunities.

Brown Pelican diving - Fort Desoto, Florida

Brown Pelican diving – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | 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 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.

When it comes to diving, Fort Desoto tends to be a better place when the conditions are right. The Brown Pelican above is somewhat young and surely does not display breeding colors, but that is quite a nice diving pose! If you know where to position yourself, you might get a good chance at a nice dive photograph.

Brown Pelican photography tour in Florida

Brown Pelican blur – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 320 | 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 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.

Both Fort Desoto and Alafia Banks are good for pre-dawn blurs, but Alafia Banks is a tad better as many Pelicans leave their nests early in the morning to have their first flight of the day, which creates more opportunities. Blurs are typically harder to control and it takes a few tries before getting something that really stands out. However, one does come out with a photograph that is often quite unique. Try to pan with nice early morning colors in the background and you are in for nice results. 🙂

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

Join me and Robert O-Toole for an African wildlife safari to remember for years to come!
Wildlife photography tour - Botswana African safari

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds instructional photography tour / $880 / limit 5 people / March 7th-8th 2015:

If you would like to get a chance to photograph at Alafia Banks, this is it…
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

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

Gallery Exhibition in New York this week!

I am very pleased to announce that some of my work is currently exhibited in an Art Gallery in New York. The exhibition dates are from April 22nd to May 13th of 2014, with a cocktail reception on May 1st, starting at 6PM, at Agora Gallery (530 West 25th Street, New York). Four of my pieces will be displayed and you will have the chance to chat with me on May 1st!

See below the four pieces that will be exhibited:

Flock motion - Fine Art Photography

Courtship Flight - Fine Art Photography

Florida Spoonbill - Fine Art Photography

Sunset Silhouette - Fine Art Photography

Each piece is a signed limited edition, framed top notch quality print on aluminum. See you soon!

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

There is nothing like an African safari for mammals’ photography.
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

Background correction with water drops

While taking an action shot of a bird splashing in the water, or shaking off water from its wings, sometimes I end up with not so desirable background elements trapped behind water drops. The traditional clone stamps techniques tend to be somewhat limited in those situations as the water drops often follow a pattern and cloning water drops to follow the existing patter often ends up being a lot harder than it seems. How to go about it?

Roseate Spoonbill - bird photography workshop

Roseate Spoonbill flapping its wings – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 500 | 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 on a gimbal head and tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This Roseate Spoonbill photograph was created during a private photography tour, at Alafia Banks, Florida. After a bathing session, the bird started to flap its wings to dry up its feathers. It resulted a very nice splash of water drops coming out from the wings. You will see in the photograph below that I took out a brown area to the left of the image. The brown spot was very distracting and took out the attention of the viewer from the bird itself.

Spoonbill - Alafia Banks

Before and after the brown spot fix

Eliminating that spot turned out a lot trickier than one would expect. The difficulty was to clone or paint the background while keeping the water drops in their original pattern. This is how I proceeded in Photoshop:

1. Create a copy of the layer with Ctrl+J
2. Add a layer mask to the upper layer. Paint in black at 95% over each water drop so that the top layer will have holes directing towards the water drops of the lower layer. This process can be lengthy and requires good attention to details.
3. Paint or clone over the brown zone in the upper layer so that it disappears. In this case, I painted over it.
4. Merge the layers with Ctrl+E

The painted layer mask allowed for the water drops in the lower layer to appear in the front layer! Knowing your way around some of those image optimization techniques can lead you a good deal further in your artistic creativity. 🙂

See below a zoom over the brown spot.

Water drops

Painting over the brow spot while keeping the water drops

What do you think?

Roseate Spoonbill - Florida photo tour

Roseate Spoonbill along the mangrove shore – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 400 | 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 the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head and tripod while wading knee deep in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

My favorite Spoonbill pictures are when I can have a blue background behind the bird! Spoonbills often stay close to the mangrove trees, giving the photographs more of a low key / dark feel. Positioning myself and my group of students on one side of the shore allowed for a blue background instead of rocks and mangrove trees.

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

If you like photographing mammals, there is no better place in the World than Africa! Join me on this exciting adventure.
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