Nesting Black Skimmers in Sarasota, Florida

There is a large size Black Skimmer nesting area in South West Sarasota, along the Florida Gulf. I had the chance to take a peek during this Summer and bird photography opportunities were quite good. The nesting season lasts about a couple of months, starting in June.

Black Skimmer In Flight - Sarasota Florida

Black Skimmer in flight with prey – Sarasota Bay, 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 (review) and the Canon EOS 7D mark II.

The advantage of creating images close to a nesting area is to catch some of the birds flying in and flying out, maximizing your chances for bird in flight photography. As in the above, you might even compile flight, great wing position and prey in the beak altogether! 🙂 The birds stay close to fish and feed the youngs with fresh catch.

Black Skimmer with chick - Sarasota Florida

Black Skimmer with chick – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/6.3 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (review) and the Canon EOS 7D mark II.

Plus, the young chicks are always very cute subjects. It is always nice to create a nice family portrait. If you want to have both birds in focus while using a long lens, you would want to have both birds parallel to you and in the same focus zone. Since long focal lenses will narrow the depth of field, it will be very difficult to have a sharp focus on both subjects if one bird is standing closer to you.

Black Skimmer open beak - Bird Photography Blog

Black Skimmer with open beak and tongue sticking out – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 250 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM lens (review) at 400mm and the Canon EOS 7D mark II.

Note that Black Skimmers have a longer lower mandible. This is how they can fly low and skim over the water surface. They simply clap their beak once the lower mandible feels a prey and voila!

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Steven

Best artistic blur techniques for bird photography

If you are more on the creative side than the documentary side, you surely have tried to create some artistic blurs along your bird photography adventure. Here are a few tips that I found most useful in this endeavor!

Which shutter speed for blurs in bird photography?

While the answer to this depends on the speed of your subject, I would advise anywhere between anywhere from 1/15s to 1/60s for birds in flight photography. Use a slower shutter speed when the light is very low or when the subject is fairly slow. The slower you go and the stronger the blur will be, making it harder to render anything sharp. Typically, I will work in shutter speed priority during low light conditions, whether a bit before sunrise or a bit after sunset.

Pan Blur_Florida Bird Photography

“Twiligt Blur” or Florida Birds in flight – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 640 | f/4 | 1/20 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

The image above was created a couple of minutes before sunrise, during one of those rare times when the pink from the near sunrise reflects beautifully in the water. I am still not sure why the reflection on the water gave out a more orange tone, but I love the result! In fact, this is my best selling creation 🙂

Which panning technique to use?

Yes, that is right… You need to pan your camera at the same speed that the subject is flying by in order to have a chance of having some body parts more sharply rendered. It is all about practice here… And this how you may have a decently sharp head with blurry wings!

Artistic Blur_Bald Eagle Photography

Bald Eagle fishing during a snow storm – South of Anchorage, Alaska
ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/25 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens at 200mm and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The Bald Eagle with a fish in its talents above was created during the 2017 Alaska Bald Eagle Tour. You may want to pan in the direction in which your subject is going. In this case, it is a slightly upward diagonal panning motion. I am really proud of the sharp head here!! It was heavily snowing and I had been trying to create an image with streaks of snow for a strongly movement oriented composition.

Other blurs?

Zoom Blur_Bird photography

Tricolored in breeding plumage – Orlando, Florida
ISO 50 | f/29 | 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 coupled with a 1.4x extender at 250mm and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

The idea is to stay motionless (no panning!), and create the blur effect while zooming in or zooming out. I find this easier to do while zooming out. Make sure your point of focus is dead center in your image though. The blur streaks will mechanically go out or towards the center. If you want the point of focus of center, as in the image above, you will need to crop appropriately in post production.

Ah yes… another type of blur is to keep your camera still, while having the birds passing by. This looks especially good if you have non moving environmental elements in your composition.

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

Buy Fine Art Bird Photography pieces: Matted Prints, Canvas, Acrylic, Metal prints

I recently launched a new website (www.stevenfineartphotography.com), with a clear emphasis on selling high end award-winning fine art bird photography pieces. Whether you would like to buy matted prints, canvas, acrylics or large top quality aluminum metal prints, make sure to check out the fine art bird photography collections:

FLORIDA SPOONBILLS

Fine Art Bird Photography_Florida Spoonbills

“Pink Symphony”

This bird photography collection is dedicated to some of my most successful Roseate Spoonbill images. You will find your favorite pink bird in many different Florida environments, whether with young birds or adults in full breeding colors. “Pink Symphony” was shortlisted at the 2018 BTO Bird Photographer Of The Year and was a semi-finalist at the 2017 Nature’s Best Windland Competition.

FLORIDA BIRDS

Fine Art Bird Photography_Florida Birds

“Twilight Blur”

For the Florida bird lovers, seek no further! This is a very diversified collection, but if you are looking for Spoonbills go back to the actual Florida Spoonbills Collection. “Twilight Blur” is one of my all time favorites. Commended at the 2018 BTO Bird Photographer Of The Year, I had always thought this unique image would have performed even better in competition. It is my best seller though!! And it is available in very large format.

ALASKA BALD EAGLES

Fine Art Bird Photography_Alaska Bald Eagle

“Snow Storm Landing”

This collection was born from the 2017 Alaska Bald Eagles tour! “Snow Storm Landing” was a finalist at the 2018 BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year.

BIRDS IN BLACK AND WHITE

Fine Art Bird Photography_Alaska Bald Eagle_Black and White

“Wing Span”

I have recently put more effort into creating a Black and White collection. Not often seen with birds, I hope to accomplish something out of the ordinary here.

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 minute Florida Spoonbill Tour for March 24th-25th / Are you in?

I am organizing a last minute Florida Spoonbill tour for March 24th-25th!! Do you want to join?

Roseate Spoonbill bathing - fine art

Roseate Spoonbill bathing – Tampa Bay, 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 coupled with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

There are very few places where one might have the chance to photograph bathing Spoonbills! While not being a guaranty, there is a decent chance to see some bathing action during each tour.

Florida Spoonbill Banking - Fine Art

Roseate Spoonbill banking above the blue water – Tampa Bay, 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 and the Canon EOS 7D mark II.

Banking shots are among the hardest flight photography creations. Make it happen just a bit above the blue water and you have a winner! 🙂

Juvenile Spoonbill Taking Off

Roseate Spoonbill bathing – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 800 | 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 coupled with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

When your tour leader can call out an imminent take off, you multiply your chances to capture the full take off motion. See above for a nice breakdown from a juvenile Spoonbill.

Florida Spoonbills photography tour

March 24th-25th 2018 / limit 6 people – 4 openings

3 boat rides to the Spoonbill rookery and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. Send me an email 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

Is the Canon 600mm IS II + 2x extender viable for birds in flight photography?

Is the combination of the Canon 600 IS II and the 2x extender viable for birds in flight photography? For the longest time I stirred away from the combination as it was only possible to keep the auto-focus on the central point on past body generations. In addition to the fact that I found the focus acquisition speed to be sharply less than with the 600mm + 1.4x extender. With the new Canon 1dx Mark II allowing for auto-focus on all focus points at f/8, I recently re-discovered the possibility during the February Florida Spoonbill tour.

Florida Spoonbill in flight - Fine Art

Roseate Spoonbill in flight – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 400 | f/8 | 1/2000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens coupled with a 2x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The Spoonbill above is on its downward trajectory from the top of the mangrove trees to land on the beach. I really like the “C” shape of the wings with a nice overview over the wing tops. It reminds me of many of the Bald Eagle images I created last year in Alaska… For some reason, I went back to try the 600mm+2x extender combo during the last Spoonbill tour and the results took my breath away! First off, the focus acquisition is very fast thanks to the superior 1DX mark II pro body. Second, it is quite enjoyable to being able to move the focus points around. Note that I typically have the focus point surround selected and placed one spot up from the center when I am photographing landing birds. This is a good way to ensure you keep enough space in front of the flight direction of the bird. And third, the image quality remains very good with sufficient light.

Florida Spoonbill in flight - Fine Art

Roseate Spoonbill in flight – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/8 | 1/1600 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens coupled with a 2x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Note how I do not hesitate to push the ISO pretty high in order to completely freeze the action. This is possible, thanks to shooting with a high end full frame, but not only. You will additionally minimize the high ISO noise with proper post processing technique. Shooting at an effective range of 1,200mm brings lots of reach, but it is true that it becomes harder to have the bird in the frame from such a long distance. Unfortunately, only practice makes perfect when it comes to quickly framing the bird from a long distance.

Florida Spoonbill landing - Fine Art

Roseate Spoonbill in flight – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 500 | 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 coupled with a 2x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The image above was created towards the end of the morning shoot. The last key point when it comes to create bird in flight images with the 600mm + 2x extender combo is to use a sturdy tripod with a very fluid gimbal head. Jobu Design has done an excellent job for me across the years!

Also, I would like to thank everybody who voted for “Reach For The Sky”, one of the People’s Choice Award nominees at the recent BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I regret to announce that the image did not make it to the top three. It was quite a nice run nonetheless!! 🙂

2018 Florida Spoonbills photography tour testimonials

“Thank you, Steven, for a wonderful experience. Your talent for teaching is almost as good as your spectacular photography. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with you and the birds. You made our first experience in shooting birds fun, exciting, and even successful! We’ll be back at our first opportunity.” — Nancylee M.

“Wanted to let you know how glad I am that I took your Spoonbill Workshop! Everything was so well organized. It was so nice that you spent time with everyone on the tour. The lunchtime editing was an eye opener. Can’t say enough about you and your first rate boat captain. I look forward to my next trip with you!” — Lynn L.

“I attended the spoonbill workshop and it was an incredible experience. You have multiple opportunities to photography this gorgeous bird. If you are thinking about taking this workshop, don’t hesitate you will not be sorry.” — Debra L.

Florida Spoonbills photography tour

February 2019? / limit 6 people – 6 openings

3 boat rides to the Spoonbill rookery and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. I am not sure when I will be running the next Florida Spoonbill tour, but I recommend you send me your contact information to be added to the waiting list. I typically communicate first to the waiting list, before reaching our to online promotion. Send me an email 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

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