Shorebirds at Fort Desoto, Florida

Shorebirds are one of my favorite subjects to photograph! Often, beach goers do not pay too much attention to them, which is quite a miss. They are usually small in size, but if you come down to their World you might see a few amazing things.

Rudy Turnstone at Fort Desoto - Florida

Rudy Turnstone walking along the beach – Fort Desoto, St Petersburg, Florida.
ISO 640 | f/8 | 1/8000 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 handheld while laying flat on the sand.

When I photograph shorebirds, I strive very hard to be as low on the ground as possible. To the point that I would almost go to the point of digging a whole in the sand for myself! What I love with shorebirds’ images is a very low angle, which makes everything blurred but the bird. The photograph above is great example of what I aim for. I also try really hard not to lose the feet in the sand.

Sanderling Fort Desoto, Florida

Sanderling running in the surf – Fort Desoto, St Petersburg, Florida.
ISO 640 | f/8 | 1/8000 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 handheld while laying flat on the sand.

The creation above is another great example of the lay low approach. This Sanderling is in the middle of changing direction during its run, adopting a tilted position before heading the other way. You would not think, but shorebirds can run quite fast on the sand and keeping them in the frame is sometimes quite the challenge!

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Steven

Pleasing blurs, or something to do when there is nothing to do

The sky is overcast and there are no wildlife subjects in sight… What to do? It might seem like one of those times you wished you had stayed warm inside (or cool if you live in Florida!). Not so fast! When there is nothing to do, I try to think outside the box and look for artistic blurs. During our last Polar Bear safari in the Churchill area, one afternoon did not leverage many photographic opportunities. The sky was overcast, it was very windy and there were no bears in sight…

Mastodon Flowers, Hudson Bay, Canada

Artistic blur of Mastodon flowers in the wind in the Churchill area, Seal River, Hudson Bay, Canada.
ISO 50 | f/36 | 1/2 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) coupled with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld.

A good technique to achieve pleasing blurs is to work on Tv mode, where you set the shutter speed! I knew that 1/2 second was what I needed with the heavy wind blowing the tall Mastodon flowers (which can be used to make delicious salads by the way). I lowered the ISO to 50 and the camera figure out the aperture. Abracadabra and boom!! After a few try outs I obtained a few creations which pleased me.

Mastodon Flowers blur

Artistic blur of Mastodon flowers in the wind in the Churchill area, Seal River, Hudson Bay, Canada.
ISO 50 | f/36 | 1/2 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) coupled with the 1.4x extender, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld.

The creation above is a vertical capture. I added a slight side to side panning movement to give the effect I wanted.

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Steven

Aurora borealis and Northern Lights – Churchill, Canada

During our last Polar Bear safari in the Churchill area, I had a fantastic opportunity to photograph the Aurora Borealis or Northern lights in the Canadian sky. The green lights are born from charged particles of the solar wind colliding with our atmosphere. The results are breathtaking for countries around the Arctic circle. Contrarily to what some people think, one can admire the Northern lights all year round and not just during Winter. All it takes is a clear night!

The photograph below is a panorama of an Aurora Borealis:

Aurora Borealis - Churchill, Canada

Aurora Borealis in the Churchill area, Seal River, Hudson Bay, Canada.
ISO 800 | f/7.1 | 30 sec. | Manual Mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L USM lens at 17mm, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a tripod.

I was quite happy at my first try at creating a Northern lights photograph. In retrospective, I should have dialed in f/4 instead of f/7.1 to allow for more lights and a bit less noise. Note that the surface blur filter from Photoshop did quite a nice job at eliminating noise… The Aurora Borealis does not last all night long, sometimes just a few minutes in the middle of the night!

Northern lights - Churchill, Canada

Northern lights in the Churchill area, Seal River, Hudson Bay, Canada.
ISO 800 | f/7.1 | 30 sec. | Manual Mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L USM lens at 17mm, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a tripod.

The creation above is a vertical capture. The Northern lights are not very static and move in a cloud motion in the sky. One moment, you see them in full and the other they start to slowly vanish. I wish I had had more chances at this exercise! Next time…

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Steven

The Lilac-breasted Roller, an iconic African safari bird

The Lilac-breasted Roller is the national bird of Botswana. This beautiful multicolor bird is the African symbol of peace, or the equivalent of the White Dove. After a squabble between two villages, the chiefs would bury their spears along with a Lilac-breasted Roller bird as a sign of end of war. Quite the story!

Lilac breasted Roller - African safari

Lilac-breasted Roller standing on a branch. This photograph was created at the Savuti Game Reserve, Botswana.

ISO 1000 | f/4 | 1/2000 | Av Mode no manual exposure compensation | AI servo rear focusing

This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens, the Canon EOS 5D mark II handheld.

The Lilac-breasted Roller photograph above was create early in the morning, while the bird was fluffing its feathers to stay warm. During the dry season, temperatures are cooler in mornings and evenings. The lack of water at that time of the year creates a unique opportunity to see and photograph a lot of savannah animals while they head to water wholes to drink. On my first African safari, I remember calling out to our guide almost each time I could spot a Roller. Fortunately, I quickly realized that they are easy to spot thanks to their colors and number of individuals.

Lilac breasted roller in flight - Botswana

Lilac-breasted Roller in flight. This photograph was created at the Savuti Game Reserve, Botswana.

ISO 1600 | f/4 | 1/3200 | Av Mode no manual exposure compensation | AI servo rear focusing

This photograph was created with the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM lens, the Canon EOS 5D mark II handheld.

This Lilac-breasted Roller in flight with wings fully down is quite a nice creation. However, my regret is that the sun angle is really off. If my shadow had been pointing straight at the bird the results would have been even more stunning! Colors would have popped more and there would not be that wing shadow along the neck of the bird. Fortunately, the Detail Extractor tool from NIK Softwares did a great job at recovering that area. I also really like the position of the tail!

Lilac-breasted Rollers are quite the aerial acrobats, especially during breeding season as males try to impress females with beautiful stunts. They soar high in the sky, then dive in rolls to display their beautiful colors.

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Steven

2013 Florida Top Ten Photographer & 1st Place Wild Animals Awards

It is my great pleasure to announce that I won two awards and four merits at the 2013 Florida Professional Photographers (FPP) competition!! The first one is a first place winner in the Wild Animals category and the second one is the 2013 Florida Top Ten Professional Photographer award.

The photograph below received the 1st place Wild Animals Award:

Willet landing - Fort Desoto - Steven Blandin

Willet landing. This photograph was created at Fort Desoto, Florida.
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/2000 | 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 sitting on the sand.

I had the opportunity to hear the judges discussing about the scoring and they very much appreciated the pose, the sharpness and the tilt of the wings. Such a shot while requiring patience, requires technique! There is a way to position yourself to maximize your chances.

Red-billed Tropicbird flight - Galapagos Islands

Red-billed Tropicbird banking in flight. This photograph was created at South Plaza, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/3200 | 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 III, the Canon EOS 5D mark III handheld.

This Red-billed Tropicbird banking in flight photograph was possible thanks to the angle obtained while shooting from the top of a cliff. It is otherwise extremely difficult to achieve such a perfect banking pose.

Sally light foot crab on the lava rocks - Galapagos islands

Sally Lightfoot Crab on the lava rocks. This photograph was created at Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
ISO 1000 | f/6.3 | 1/250 | 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 III, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head and tripod.

And the forth one that received a merit below:

Roseate Spoonbill landing at Alafia Banks, Tampa Florida

Roseate Spoonbill landing on the mudflat. This photograph was created at Alafia Banks, Tampa, Florida.
ISO 400 | f/7.1 | 1/1600 | 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 III, the Canon EOS 5D mark III on a gimbal head and tripod while wading in the water.

The photograph above is one of many great creations from Alafia Banks. Join me next year to the Fort Desoto and Alafia Banks photography workshop in Tampa, Florida, if you wish to learn how to achieve such creations! 🙂

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

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