Silver medal at the PPA International Photographic Competition!

I am proud to announce that my 4 photograph portfolio earned me a Silver medal at the Professional Photographers of America 2016 International Photographic Competition!! PPA is the largest association of photographers in the World, with some of the very top professional photographers from all specialties (landscape, wildlife, architecture, portraits, etc…). See below the portfolio I presented this year. Also, please sign the petition to protect our rights to freely access Florida bird rookeries!!

Vampire Wings - Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/5 | 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), the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with gimbal head while kneeling in the shallow water.

The Reddish Egret photograph above was created during an overcast day at Fort Desoto Park. Lately, I have worked at creating more black and white pieces. So, stay tuned to see more! Note that the color version went into the final round of the bird category at the prestigious 2015 BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition.

Roseate Spoonbill banking in flight

Roseate Spoonbills – 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 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 1D X on tripod with gimbal head while wading in the shallow water.

The Roseate Spoonbills photograph above depicts a full breeding color adult in perfect banking position seemingly joining a recently fledged youngster perched on a mangrove tree branch. This image was created during the 2016 Spoonbill tours. Join me quickly for the 2017 tour as it remains only 1 spot available!!!

On The Hunt - Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret – Fort Desoto, 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 the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with gimbal head.

Again, a beautiful Reddish Egret in full hunting mode with wings up against the blue Florida water.

Brown Pelican taking off

Brown Pelican – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 800 | f/7.1 | 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 the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on tripod with gimbal head.

Last, but no least, a stunning Brown Pelican taking off from the water. 🙂

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 Eagles photography tour

Florida Spoonbills photography tour – $1150

March 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – 1 open

A new date for April is now open, but hurry as there is a high demand!! 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

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

White Ibises at the Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery

At the right time of the year, the Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery gets invaded by White Ibises in breeding colors. The numbers observed can be quite impressive and early morning blast offs are spectacular. One of the many perks of joining me for a Florida Spoonbill Tour…

Spoonbill with Ibises blast off

White Ibises flock blast off – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 3200 | f/5.6 | 1/30 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM lens at 400mm, the Canon EOS 1DX hand held.

Where is Waldo? Early mornings can be very rewarding when you make it to the rookery on time for a White Ibis blast off. This seemingly lost Spoonbill is conveniently well placed for a dramatic composition. After having directed the group with proper settings, I was expecting something special based on the sheer number of Ibises in the mangrove trees that morning. I was not disappointed! 🙂

Note that I opted for hand holding a smaller lens: the new Canon 100-400mm. It worked out quite nicely, making panning a lot easier given the much lighter weight of the lens versus the 600mm..

White Ibis landing - Florida Spoonbill Tour

White Ibis landing to join the flock – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1600 | 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.

One afternoon, a flock of White Ibises had gathered in huge number on a sand bar. They kept coming one small group after the other. This situation gave us plenty of opportunity for beautiful landings against a dark background. I could not resist creating an incoming just above the flock on the ground. Can you see the intruder?

White Ibises in flight - Spoonbill rookery

White Ibises in flight – Tampa Bay Spoonbill rookery, Florida
ISO 1600 | 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.

And here is one of the small groups that kept coming to increase the ranks of the flock on the sand bar. It made for a very interesting photography session. In the end, I had position the group for one last blast off, but the birds decided otherwise and kept to the ground until after sunset… Another time!

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 Eagles photography tour

Florida Spoonbills photography tour – $1150

March 25th-26th 2017 / limit 6 people – 1 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

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

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 🙂

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. 🙂

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

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

Canon 300mm f/4 IS versus Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II comparison

When choosing a medium telephoto lens, one of the most common comparison is the Canon 300mm f/4 IS versus the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II with 1.4x extender. Few people realize that the Canon 300mm f/4 IS is about the best bang for your dollar in the whole Canon lens lineup. Why?

The Canon 300mm f/4 IS is a very versatile lens: sharp images, very light, fast AF lock, 2nd shortest Minimum Distance Focusing (MDF) and a good Image Stabilization mechanism. This makes it an ideal lens to capture action from a short distance, or from a moving boat.

White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird - Canon 300mm f/4 IS

Female White-necked Jacobin in flight – Mindo, Ecuador
ISO 1000 | f/9 | 1/250 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM review), the Canon EOS 7D handheld with flash. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The female White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird image above is a good demonstration of action stopping the Canon 300mm f/4 IS is capable of. Keep in mind, this image was not created with a fake background at a feeder, as most other Hummingbird images are made. Knowing that Hummers are actually the fastest birds in the World, it leaves one thinking… The AF is very fast and accurate. The biggest strength of this lens is the weight: only 2.63lbs!!

Laughing Gull taking off - Canon 300mm f/4 IS

Laughing Gull taking off – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/9 | 1/5000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens (Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM review), the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Another stunning action photography example with the Canon 300mm f/4 IS USM. Sold new, the lens is worth $1300 and remains the best value for the money. It was the very first lens I started with. I created numerous professional quality images with it while keeping my gear expenses very reasonable. Especially when coupled with a crop factor camera body such as the 7d mark II, you will have the cheapest pro starter gear possible with a reach of 480mm (1.6 x 300mm).

Bald Eagle - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II

Bald Eagle portrait
ISO 1000 | f/6.3 | 1/500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

What to think of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II then? This lens is widely recognized as the best portrait lens out there. It makes also for a very versatile lens, especially if you are a wildlife photographer who enjoys taking family pictures! Coupled with the 1.4x extender, the focal length is 280mm, very comparable to the Canon 300mm f/4 IS.

Wood Stork in flight - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II

Wood Stork in flight – Dit Dot Dash rookery, Florida
ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/30 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens with 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 7D handheld. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

It can be quite challenging to create a pleasing blur with the head of the subject sharp. Try to pan at the same speed of the bird!!

Advantages of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II:
– Zoom lens
– One of the very best portrait lens

Advantages of the Canon 300mm f/4 IS:
– Lighter (2.63lbs versus 4.04lbs for the 70-200mm with extender)
– Cheaper ($700 less)
– Faster AF
– Good macro lens with a MDF of 3.94ft

Image quality being very comparable, I will let you decide on which one to choose!! 🙂

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

Black Skimmers in flight with the Canon EOS 7d mark II

The only one morning I spent at the Indian Shore Black Skimmers breeding ground was very rewarding! On top of the nice chick images I shared in a recent post, I had the pleasure to photograph some pretty good flight stances.

Black Skimmer banking in flight with prey - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer banking in flight with prey – Indian Shores, 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), the Canon EOS 7D mark II on tripod with gimbal head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

A classical banking shot from the Black Skimmer above, with the fish in the beak as an added bonus. As often, I placed myself in a way to work on only one portion of the sky: the only place where I could reach optimum sun angle. This tends to work better than hunting birds flying left and right. First recognize the good situation, then calmly wait for a subject to enter “the good situation”. While there were birds flying all over, my attention was set on a particular spot where conditions were suitable to my requirements. Every so often, some birds would pass by, giving me all the opportunities I needed 🙂

Note that I took care of keeping the horizon with the sea water to help anchor the image.

Black Skimmer banking in flight - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer banking in flight with prey – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | 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 while kneeling on the ground. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

Another really good banking shot! Keep in mind that banking shots are possible only when the bird turn in flight. With a good eye, it is not that difficult to recognize the pattern and wait for just the right moment.

Black Skimmer landing - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer banking in flight with prey – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | 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 while kneeling on the ground. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

And after a few banks, here is the landing! Actually, having the subject closer to the breeding ground is a bit tricky. The reason is there were a lot of distracting objects to deal with: fence to prevent people from getting to close and other breeding birds amongst others. It took a lot of Photoshop cleanup on the image above. Use your stamp tool to clone on a separate layer above your original layer, then use a layer mask to erase (paint in black) zones where you would have stamped over the subject. See below a before and after view:

Black Skimmer landing - image optimization

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

Birds in flight photography tips: Banking shots

Many bird photographers consider banking shots the Graal of Birds in flight photography. On top of acquiring proper focus and all the other steps that make birds in flight photography difficult, we now try to create an image with full view over the upper wing or the under wing. Those situations are not as common as regular flight patterns for one who does not have an eye for it. I will gladly agree that banking views are a real notch harder, but so much more exciting to hunt for.

Spoonbill banking shot - Birds in flight photography

Roseate Spoonbill banking in flight – Tampa Bay 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 tripod with gimbal head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The Spoonbill banking photograph above was created during the 2015 Spoonbill photography tour. My number one tip is to look around you and not to keep your head in your viewfinder in front of you. Banking positions happen during a turning motion during flight. So, birds that are likely to turn in front of you while displaying full upper wing detail will be coming from behind you! You literally want to keep a close eye for those and start tracking very early on. If you have paid attention to flight patterns around you and noticed that the birds are turning within your shooting zone with proper sun lighting, then simply wait for the next birds coming from behind you as some of them will turn in front of you as well. If you are waiting to see a bird actually banking to think about acquiring focus, you are most likely already too late.

Brown Pelican banking in flight - birds in flight photography

Brown Pelican in flight – Tampa Bay rookery, Florida
ISO 400 | 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 tripod with gimbal head. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The bigger the bird, the harder it is to have a full upper wing view. Stay patient and keep trying as even the bigger birds will offer full banks every now and then. A tip that is true at all time, is to attempt to decipher a flight pattern. Birds behavior is repetitive and seeing one bird flying a certain way is a good hint at what the next bird might do. Based on the direction in which the wind is blowing, you should quickly understand the most likely trajectories.

Spoonbill banking in flight - birds in flight photography

Roseate Spoonbill banking in flight – Tampa Bay rookery, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/4 | 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 7D mark II on tripod while wading in the water. Have a look at the equipment I typically carry with me.

The birds in flight photograph above was also created during the 2015 Spoonbill bird photography workshop. Going vertical or staying horizontal? Most vertical views of full banking shots are crops from vertical captures. The reason is of course that one is ready for everything when shooting horizontally, versus being in vertical mode you are only hoping for a full bank and will most likely not get a good composition for normal flight. While I follow the herd on this, every now and then I do attempt to shoot vertical and just wait for the proper full bank position before firing the shutter.

Florida Spoonbills and Shorebirds photography tour – $990

Feb 20th-21st 2016 / limit 6 people – 1 open

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

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

End of a Florida Spoonbill Photography Season

We are now officially at the end of the good season to photograph Spoonbills with either breeding colors or young chicks in Florida. This year was pretty good as the Tampa Bay offered an amazing spectacle of pink feather life.

Roseate Spoonbill landing in the Florida water of Tampa Bay

Spoonbill landing – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 400 | f/6.3 | 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), 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 is a very nice creation of a Spoonbill with breeding colors landing in the shallow water at Alafia Banks, during one of my photography workshops in the Tampa Bay. I truly enjoy this unique aerial position that Spoonbills display a split moment before landing. The possibility often occurs when I am working on a small group already in the water. I try very hard not to focus all my attention on the subjects on the ground and look around whenever I can to spot possible new incomers. Because the new birds usually want to join the group it gives one a fairly good idea of where they will land. It is then a matter of acquiring focus early on while the bird is approaching 🙂

Spoonbill photography tour in Florida

Spoonbill landing – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 1600 | f/7.1 | 1/2000 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 landing Spoonbill photograph above was created in the same fashion, under a different angle and while it was overcast at Alafia Banks. Note that I did not hesitate to push the ISO to 1600 to have a shutter speed that would be fast enough to freeze the action. I tend to prefer to push the ISO as much as possible, relying on good post processing techniques. If I were shooting with the Canon 7d I might have lowered the ISO a bit though as this camera is known not to create a lot of noise with high ISO settings.

Young Juvenile Spoonbill in flight - Florida

Young Spoonbill about to land in the mangrove trees – Alafia Banks, Florida
ISO 400 | f/6.3 | 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), 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 landing image above is very different in its creation. Maintaining the whites while having a somewhat dark background on a sunny day will lead to a low key picture: dark background, almost black. It is a different mood that can be done quite nicely when well handled. My guess is next year will be even better!! Join me on one of my workshop to get your chance at creating such memorable photographs 🙂

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

Nesting Black Skimmers at Indian Shores, Florida

There is a very nice nesting zone for Black Skimmers along the Indian Shores beach in Florida. If you want to have the best chances photographing Black Skimmers skimming in the water this is the place!! Also, time your visit right and you will be delighted creating photographs of Skimmers with their young chicks.

Black Skimmer preening - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer preening – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 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) 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 photograph above was created at India Shores, Florida in the early morning. The Black Skimmers nest in a small colony straight at ground level in the sand depression. Individuals frequently come in and out to skim, stretch and bath. A small group detached itself from the colony for a few minutes with many of the birds preening for a bit. Skimmers are actually difficult to photograph properly while in a small flock because they tend to stay huddled very close together. Keep an eagle eye for the edges and you might get an opportunity as above. I decided to keep the left bird in the frame and not to Photoshop it out as I thought it gave a better story. 🙂

Black Skimmer skimming the water - Indian Shores, Florida photo tour

Black Skimmer skimming – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 640 | f/8 | 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), 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.

Now when most people think about Skimmers, they think about the bird skimming the water surface in quest of food. The birds really like shallow areas where the fish cannot go too deep hence avoiding the long lower part beak of the bird. In fact, you might be shocked to see that many birds skim right to the edge of the shore. My advice for this type of photography is to select frames where the bird has its wings up and where you do not have waves crashing in the background. It might take a few tries before getting there…

Black Skimmer skimming - Florida bird photography tour

Black Skimmer skimming – Indian Shores, Florida
ISO 100 | f/14 | 1/25 sec. | Tv 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. Click on the image above to see it at a higher resolution.

This an opportunity often missed! Arrive early, before sunrise if possible and work on artistic blurs. Results can be quite surprising with a good technique.

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