Great Blue Herons at the Venice rookery

Are you looking for a rookery on the Florida West coast that is easy to access and where you do not need a long lens to shoot? The Venice rookery is one of the possible answers! Comprised mostly of Great Blue Heron nests, it has long been a must go place for many bird photographers. There is still one open spot for the March 28-29 Florida Ospreys tour due to a cancellation, send me an email to quickly secure the last opening!

Great Blue Herons at the nest - Venice Rookery
Great Blue Herons at the nest – Venice Rookery, Florida
ISO 2500 | f/4 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

I paid a visit to the Venice rookery at the very end of December. Nesting activity had already started and the morning was quite overcast, not to say a bit gloomy. While I usually adore overcast conditions around low tide waters, I find it less attractive at rookeries in general. In any case, rookeries can be deceptively difficult to shoot at for the fact that it takes a keen eye to eliminate the typical chaos going on there. I hence worked a lot on the most distant nest, which gave me a clearer backdrop and some take off and landing actions.

Anhinga - Venice Rookery Bird Photography
Female Anhinga perched on a log – Venice Rookery, Florida
ISO 6400 | f/4 | 1/1600 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The Venice rookery is not all about Great Blue Herons, and Anhingas are counted as part of the party. The one above was posing on a log, at a bit lower viewpoint than most photographers were looking at that day. Any bird on a branch or log with a nice diffused background behind is typically a win. My tip here is to have the tip of the log as part of the frame if possible.

Great Blue Heron - Venice Rookery Photography
Great Blue Heron scratching – Venice Rookery, Florida
ISO 800 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Towards the very end of the morning session, the sun decide to half show up. I am looking forward to returning with sunny weather!

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 5 people – 1 opening

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake. Many nests are at eye level, allowing shooting from up close in a natural habitat. No big lens needed! An ideal setup for beginners… 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com to be added to the early contact list for 2021.

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,390

February 22nd-23rd 2020 / limit 6 people – Full

May 2nd-3rd 2020 / limit 6 people – Full

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com to be added to the early contact list for 2021!

Happy New Year! Bird Photography at Fort Desoto

Happy new year to all!! May you have success, happiness, love and good health 🙂 Bird photography at Fort Desoto has long been a must repeat for me. Though, I have not gone as often in the recent years it remains a prime location for top bird photography if you know where to look. While the location has changed quite a bit, with the elimination of the big trees and the apparition of new large bands of sand, there is quite a diversity of subjects to go after. Note that there are still two open spots for the March 28-29 2020 Osprey tour. Would you like to join?

Black Bellied Plovers - Fort Desoto Bird Photography
Black bellied Plovers with winter plumage – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Above, two Black-bellied Plovers with winter plumage eating sea shells in the low tide. Fort Desoto remains a top location for shore birds if you know where to look for them. In my experience, many people (bird photographers included) tend to overlook shore birds activity so to prioritize larger wading birds. Yet, there is so much to capture from the “smaller” world.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron - Fort Desoto Bird Photography
Yellow crowned Night Heron – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

There are not that many good opportunities to photograph Yellow crowned night Herons during day time. While, not being as difficult as working with Black crowned Night Herons, you really need to keep an eye open for those. I was delighted to spot this one on the hunt, and not too close to the mangrove trees for once. The result is a nice diffused background in a captivating stance. For this shot, I had to lay belly down in the muck so to create the very low angle perspective 🙂

Snowy Egret in flight - Fort Desoto Bird Photography
Snowy Egret in flight – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/6400 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Wings all the way down is definitely a stunning position for birds in flight. See the illustration with the above Snowy Egret. Having the bird flying close to the ground gives a fantastic sense of perspective in my opinion.

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 5 people – 2 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake. Many nests are at eye level, allowing shooting from up close in a natural habitat. No big lens needed! An ideal setup for beginners… 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,390

February 22nd-23rd 2020 / limit 6 people – Full

May 2nd-3rd 2020 / limit 6 people – Full

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com to be added to the early contact list for 2021!

Competition Results & New Degree

2019 was rich in good results at top competitions: two final round images at the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, three images in semi-finals at the Nature’s Best competition, one commended image at the BTO Bird Photographer of the Year and a silver medal at the Photographic Society of America competition, among other recognitions. 🙂 Note that there are still two open spots for the March 28-29 2020 Osprey tour. Would you like to join?

Hunters In White - Steven Blandin
“Hunters In White” – Two Snowy Egrets hunting side by side

With a silver medal at the Photographic Society of America competition and being Commended at the BTO Bird Photographer of the Year competition, “Hunters In White” is my best performing image this year! I am very proud of those two Snowy Egrets hunting side by side. I really love the white on white effect, which requires very precise exposure under a cloudy sky. The two birds side by side action is a real treat.

FPP Degree
Florida Degree of Photographic Excellence (FDPE)

After having earned more than 30 merits at the yearly Florida Professional Photographers competition, I am now the owner of the prestigious Florida Degree of Photographic Excellence. This is a very nice addition to the Master of Photography from the Professional Photographers of America association. It took me quite a few years to get those two degrees and I learned a ton in the process! Those associations cater to all kind of professional photographers: portrait, wedding, architecture, landscape, wildlife, etc… They tend to promote top notch photographic artistry, well beyond the mere documentary aspect that is often seen in wildlife photography. Those associations nourished a lot of my inspiration those past years.

The beautiful lady in red is my wife Judy!! 🙂 I owe many of my accomplishments to her support and love.

Hunters In White - Cafe Barbosso
Hunters In White at Cafe Barbosso

“Hunters In White” and five other pieces are currently being exhibited at Cafe Barbosso ( https://www.cafebarbosso.com/ ) in Sarasota. Come check it out if you are in the vicinity. It is a delicious Italian cuisine restaurant, owned by Joe Dimaggio Jr. Joe is top notch chef who cooks in front of you: reservation needed for this. Tell him I sent you! 🙂

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 5 people – 2 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake. Many nests are at eye level, allowing shooting from up close in a natural habitat. No big lens needed! An ideal setup for beginners… 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,390

February 22nd-23rd 2020 / limit 6 people – Full

May 2nd-3rd 2020 / limit 6 people – Full

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com to be added to the early contact list for 2021!

Reddish Egret In Dancing Action – Part 2

Since the last hunting Reddish Egret I had a chance to photograph gave such a show, I am sharing a few more images from the dancing action. As a reminder, whoever signs up for both a Spoonbill (Feb 22-23 or May 2-3) and an Osprey tour (Mar 28-29) gets a $300 discount on the Osprey one!

Reddish Egret Hunting In The Surf - Florida Bird Photography
Reddish Egret Hunting In The Surf – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

And here is the signature wing position of the hunting Reddish Egret. I can never get tired of admiring this dance. It can be tricky to capture the movement while not having the head under the wings shadow. It is a nice touch to have the head fully lit in the image above. You drastically increase your chances of properly lighting up the bird if shooting with your shadow pointing straight at the bird!

Reddish Egret - Florida Bird Photography
Reddish Egret Flamenco Dancing – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Another stunning pose from this very obliging subject. This stance is reminiscent of a flamenco dancer in my mind. Do you agree? I love the flair and the bird’s attitude. The water splashes around the left leg is a very neat addition to the overall energy of the image.

Reddish Egrets - Bird Photography Tour
Reddish Egrets In The Waves – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

It is not often that two Reddish Egrets meet. The result is usually a territorial dispute, followed by one the birds leaving the scene. While the encounter might not last very long, the resulting photography can be stunning. Great Blue Herons will typically display the same type of behavior. In short, if you see another of those birds coming in while there is already one on site, be sure to be ready for action shots!!

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 5 people – 2 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake. Many nests are at eye level, allowing shooting from up close in a natural habitat. No big lens needed! An ideal setup for beginners… 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. If you also sign up for a Spoonbill tour you are entitled to a $300 discount on this tour. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,390

February 22nd-23rd 2020 / limit 6 people – 1 opening

May 2nd-3rd 2020 / limit 6 people – 1 opening

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Breeding colors are a bit more intense in February, while May is likely to have new fledglings in the open. Also sign up for the Osprey tour and get a $300 discount on the Osprey one. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Reddish Egret In Dancing Action

From all the egrets and herons I have observed throughout the years, Reddish Egrets are assuredly the ones putting one of the best hunting shows. I recently had the chance to capture a long hunting dance in the Florida blue waters surf. As a reminder, whoever signs up for both a Spoonbill (Feb 22-23 or May 2-3) and an Osprey tour (Mar 28-29) gets a $300 discount on the Osprey one!

Reddish Egret Running - Sarasota Bay
Reddish Egret Running In The Bay – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

I have long striven to create the image above. The running motion has always been a well sought after prize in my book. The difficulty is to obtain a nice running motion with the wings up, fully extended and well lit. If you can get a front foot out of the water and a back foot water splash, you are golden! 🙂

Reddish Egret Landing
Reddish Egret Landing In The Waves – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

During their hunting dance, Reddish Egrets will run, volt-face and jump up and down. The image above is the short landing after a big jump in the air. This bird is extremely good at spotting fish in the shallow waters. For some reason, this egret was well at ease hunting in the surf. While not being what I have commonly observed, it made for impressive spouts of action among the crashing waves. I particularly enjoy the water splashes from the wave bumping the sand bar. Put together with the bird, there is a beautiful diagonal going from top right to bottom left.

Reddish Egret Flaring Wings
Reddish Egret Flaring Its Wings – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 500 | f/5.6 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The wings-flared-up hunting motion is the trademark of the dancing Reddish Egret! Whether the bird does this to better spot the fish or cox it into going into a specific direction, it is not all clear and there are different theories on the topic. In any case, it is always a very enjoyable sight.

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 5 people – 2 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake. Many nests are at eye level, allowing shooting from up close in a natural habitat. No big lens needed! An ideal setup for beginners… 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. If you also sign up for a Spoonbill tour you are entitled to a $300 discount on this tour. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,390

February 22nd-23rd 2020 / limit 6 people – 3 openings

May 2nd-3rd 2020 / limit 6 people – 2 openings

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Breeding colors are a bit more intense in February, while May is likely to have new fledglings in the open. Also sign up for the Osprey tour and get a $300 discount on the Osprey one. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

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