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

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

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

Wildlife Photography Tour: Polar Bear Safari in Canada video

I have meant to share my last Polar Bear safari in Canada in its entirity for a while. So, I am happy to present a short video featuring this amazing wildlife photography tour. Besides still image creations, you will see a couple of videos from the tour. One of them features two male Polar Bears gently tussling in the Summer landscape. Enjoy!

This Polar Bear photography tour was a fantastic experience that I would love to renew in the future.

Polar Bear - Wildlife photography tour

Polar Bear sunset silhouette – Churchill area, Canada.
ISO 400 | f/4.0 | 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 a gimbal head over tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This bear looks like he is sniffing the light! Bears have a really good smell and often point their nose upward to detect interesting smells. Note that to make such a creation, onw wants to underexpose by at least two stops. The result can be quite dramatic. It is often your best option with a back-lit subject.

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

The African landscape is a must go place for every serious wildlife photographer. Wanna join?
African safari photography tour - Botswana

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

This photography tour will give you one of the very best opportunities you may have at photographing spoonbills with breeding colors in flight.
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

Water splashes and yawns

One of the aspect of wildlife photography I like the most is to be able to capture wild animals displaying their natural behavior in a relaxed environment. Thanks to a long lens, disturbance is minimal and animals are quite at ease. This allows for the creation of stunning behavioral moments. I can think of a couple of instances from my last Polar Bear trip that were quite memorable.

Polar Bear photography workshop

Polar Bear yawning- Hudson Bay area, Canada.
ISO 640 | 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), the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head over tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

This bear looks quite fierce if you ask me… However, he is simply yawning in the middle of his afternoon stroll. Nothing to be worried about! Yet, it is such a pleasure to witness those simple moments.

Polar Bear in the summer - Canada

Polar Bear splashing water to dry up – Hudson Bay area, Canada.
ISO 1600 | f/5.6 | 1/800 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 a gimbal head over tripod. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

It was a very rainy afternoon with a dark overcast. Note the high ISO I used in order to be able to capture any possible action. That male bear was soaked and seemed to put himself in position to do something… but what? He started to shake from nose to tail in an attempt to splash out the water out of his dense coat. The result is a ballet of water droplets while my subject seems to be smiling to the sky. What a nice action capture.

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

This is one of the very best combination for an African safari. Have a look:

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

Short and sweet, this 3 day workshop will take you to the best spot in the state of Florida to photograph Spoonbills in flight, and a top spot for shorebirds.
Spoonbills Photography Workshop

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

Wildlife Photography Workshops & Tours – Spoonbills & Shorebirds

The Spoonbill & Shorebird wildlife photography workshop was announced a couple of months back. In order to give it a fair presentation, you may watch the quick video below. This wildlife photography tour is a superb combination of two fantastic wildlife hotspots: Alafia Banks and Fort Desoto Park. Those of you who have been following the Bird & Wildlife Photography blog know that I have created killer photographs from those two spots. Do you want to learn my secrets?

Alafia Banks is the very best spot to photograph Spoonbills in flight with breeding colors! And the rookery is only accessible by boat, which makes this wildlife photography workshop very cost effective. Now if you are after shorebirds, there are few places like Fort Desoto…

Roseate Spoonbill in flight - Alafia Banks workshop

Roseate Spoonbill in flight – 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) coupled 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.

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

Have you ever dreamed of a superb African safari? Here it is…
African safari photography workshop - Botswana

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

As described in this post!
Wildlife Photography Workshop - 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