Bird Photography at Fort Desoto is bigger than ever!

Bird photography at Fort Desoto is bigger and better than ever! There is now a full sand bar that emerged from the water, West of the cove a bit further up from the North parking lot. I could not believe my eyes during my last visit this September. While there were some tracks of the long lasting red tide from this Summer, especially in the cove where many dead fish could be seen, there was a big congregation of birds of all sorts.

Bird photography at Fort Desoto - Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret with fish – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 4000 | 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 (review) and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

It was such a delight to work on white plumage birds against the pre-sunrise pink-grey background. This Snowy Egret was successfully fishing in the shade. When properly exposing a subject during an overcast day, or under the shade, you may create beautiful high key photographs such as above. Beware of the lurking blue cast though! When shooting in the shade, more often than not, you will need to de-saturate the blues in order to eliminate the blue cast. Note that you may also work with very high ISO levels and noise will barely be visible on the very light colors.

Bird Photography at Fort Desoto - Snowy Egrets

ISO 4000 | f/4 | 1/1000 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 1DX mark II.

The pink reflection on the water from the photograph above is the result on the pre sunrise colors. It does pay to wake up early… There were tons of fish running around and the birds were very successful in their hunting. For proof, see the two Snowy Egrets above with a fish in their beak, almost facing each other.

Sandwich Terns after a fish - Fort Desoto

Snowy Egrets with fish – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 1/8000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (review) with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

During the second half of the morning, a few Sandwich Terns were repeatedly bomb diving around the same spot. What an opportunity!! Every so often, they would throw the fish in the air and catch it again. This lead to occasional aerial confrontations as above. A good technique to capture birds bomb diving is to work vertical and position the autofocus point further up in the frame. Since we tend to be slower than our flying subject, placing the autofocus point further up allows for a higher chance to create photographs with enough space in front of the moving direction of the bird.

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,290

February 2nd-3rd 2019 / limit 6 people – Full

April 27th-28th 2019 / limit 6 people – Full

3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. While the dates above are full, do not hesitate to reach out to me to be added to the contact list in case of cancellation or additional date addition. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com
Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour

2019 Florida Spoonbill Photography Workshops dates!

The dates for the 2019 Florida Spoonbill workshops are February 2nd-3rd and April 27th-28th! Hurry, as after going through my contact list for this tour, they are very quickly filling up. Each photography tour consists in three boat rides to the rookery and two lunch working sessions. Shooting will be from pre-sunrise to mid-morning on Saturday and Sunday mornings, as well as Saturday afternoon from mid-afternoon to sunset. During lunch time, we will do some image critiquing as well as me walking you through my workflow and a couple of image optimizations on Photoshop.

Florida Spoonbill taking off - Photo Tour

Florida Spoonbill with breeding colors taking off – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 2500 | f/5.6 | 1/2000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (review) with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

During the tour, I will place the group for optimum shooting angles and most importantly I will explain everything I do. Every small thing has a rationale! Thanks to a sound experience with the Spoonbills behavior, I will call out when the birds are likely to take off. This will greatly improve your chances of capturing take offs such as above.

Florida Spoonbill taking off - Photography Tour

Florida Spoonbill with breeding colors taking off – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 2500 | 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 (review) with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

Besides being at the right place, at the right time, a key component of creating bird photography action shots is to anticipate on the action based on known bird behavior. Few tour leaders will take the risk to calling out actions before they occur for fear of ridicule if nothing happens. While I am not always right, most of you will greatly appreciate the pointers.

Roseate Spoonbill taking off - Photography Workshop

Florida Spoonbill taking off – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 2500 | f/5.6 | 1/2000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM lens (review) with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

Note that on take offs, I do my very best not to clip off the bird reflection on the water. The best way to achieve this is to step back a few steps and properly place your autofocus points. Join me to learn more!

You will learn how to nail down exposure, compose and position yourself in the best way possible each time. Understanding the light and making the most of your camera tracking system will be accompanied by taking into consideration wind direction and angling for the most pleasing background.

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,290

February 2nd-3rd 2019 / limit 6 people – 1 opening

April 27th-28th 2019 / limit 6 people – Full

3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com
Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour

New Canon EF 600MM f/4 IS III USM for bird photography

Incredible! Canon just launched a new EF 600mm f/4 IS III USM. Truly, I was waiting for the launch of the DO version instead. The 600mm f/4 DO has been announced since 2015! And we are still waiting… The 600mm lens is the gold standard lens when it comes to serious bird photography. In short, the new “regular” lens is a couple pounds lighter and offers an improved image stabilization over the prior generation. Does this justify upgrading?

Read the official press release from Canon.

Canon summarizes the main features below:

  • Upgraded Optical Image Stabilization from three-and-a-half stops to five shutter speed stops of correction over the previous f/2.8 lens
  • Improved, flexible focus control with a customizable electronic-focus ring
  • Two fluorite lenses and one super UD lens, helping to provide high image quality
  • Circular nine-blade aperture
  • 17 lens elements in 13 groups
  • Heat-shielding paint helps prevent lens temperature from rising during excessive exposure to sun
  • Fluorine coating on front and rear optical elements, helps to reduce smears and fingerprints
  • Inner focusing system with Ring Ultrasonic Motor

 

Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS III USM - Bird Photography

While, as any serious bird photographer, those new launches are very exciting, I am not sure I will spend hard earned money going through the upgrade… When looking at the impressive results of the 400mm DO II, I am more likely to wait for the 600mm DO to come out. The saving in weight will be even greater, making it so much easier to hand hold!!

It could also be that this new generation is a way to make us wait until the DO version arrives…

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

Support the blog by following the links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this bird photography blog lively!



Steven

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!

Support the blog by following our links for your purchases. It comes at no extra cost to you and it helps keeping this bird photography blog lively!

Steven

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

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.

Twilight Blur - Florida Photography Tour

“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 (Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II USM review) 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!

Bald Eagle blur - Alaska photography tour

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?

Tricolored Heron blur - Florida photography workshop

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.

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

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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