Vote for my Spoonbill image in the BBC People Choice’s category!

Happy new year to all!! I strongly invite you to vote for my Spoonbill image, “Reach For The Sky”, in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of The Year People Choice’s category => http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/wpy/community/peoples-choice/2017/16/reach-for-the-sky.html
24 images are lined up for a final vote from the public.

For this post, I am going to give you some context around this BBC finalist photograph. See below a set of five images that will give you an idea of how the scene unfolded.

Once upon a time, during an overcast early morning…

The scene takes place three years ago, during an early overcast day, while leading one of the Spoonbill photography tours in the Tampa Bay. While it was a very overcast morning, I was excited for the group as the wind was blowing in the right direction and the tide was very low. When the latter occurs, the birds are more likely to forage further from the shore, creating better chances for unobstructed backdrops. Plus, the overcast weather helps creating high key images with a beautifully lit up background.

After properly positioning our group at a good distance from a small cluster of Spoonbills foraging in the low tide waters, I cautioned everybody to look out for potential new incomers. This is one of the very best ways to capture dramatic landings. Also, please make sure that leave plenty of space between yourself and foraging birds, so that not to disturb the natural behavior of your subjects. In addition, staying at a good distance is a way to ensure you do not clip the wings in case of unexpected landing or take off.

Roseate Spoonbill Landing 1 of 5 - Tampa Bay

Roseate Spoonbill Landing 2 of 5 - Tampa Bay

Roseate Spoonbill Landing 3 of 5 - Tampa Bay

“Reach For The Sky” RAW (uncropped) – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/4.0 | 1/2500 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, while wading in the shallow water with tripod and a Jobu Design Gimbal Head (use promo code “steven” for a 10% discount).

Roseate Spoonbill Landing 4 of 5 - Tampa Bay

Roseate Spoonbill Landing 5 of 5 - Tampa Bay

It is not every day that all the conditions are right! So, when it happens you want to be ready for any opportunity. As it turned out, I called out a few Spoonbills flying from afar. Not to disappoint, we had a few landings with most of the birds facing us square thanks to a good wind. While the other images from this set are all impressive, the perfect symmetry of the middle one immediately stood out to me as the strongest photograph. I titled the image โ€œReach For The Skyโ€, to reflect the upward motion of the wings. We have a rare view at the underwings and body structure of the bird. After some further consideration, one may also have titled this photograph โ€œSymmetry In Colorโ€ to emphasize on the strong U-shape stance combined with the beautiful pink color of this emblematic bird often admired along the coast of Florida.

I hope you may all appreciate the beauty of this landing action sequence. Capturing the exact moment when both wings are stretching to the sky in a stunning U-shape is of the greatest satisfaction to me. May this inspire us to work diligently at preserving the beauty of mother nature.

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

Competition results from BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year, Nature’s Best and PPA

I am very pleased and honored to report that 2017 has been a very rewarding year from an international bird photography competitions standpoint!

BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year

By far, the most prestigious one! Four of my images were qualified for the final round this year: three in the Birds category and one in the Black & White Category. See below the latter:

BBC Wildlife Photographer Of The Year - Final Round Bird Category

Reddish Egret hunting – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 640 | f/5.0 | 1/1250 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 5D mark III, while wading in the shallow water with tripod and a Jobu Design Gimbal Head (use promo code “steven” for a 10% discount).

While the color version got qualified for the final round in a previous year, it was a delight to see the Black & White version being distinguished as well. This image was created during an overcast day. When properly exposing your subject during overcast days, one typically needs to overexpose which results in having an almost white background. The result may give the impression that the image was simply drawn on an empty canvas.

While three of the images did not receive an actual award from the final round, one of them (one of my favorite Spoonbill ones) is selected to be displayed in London during the coming January 2018 reward ceremony. A new “Public’s Choice” category was created and five images will be awarded from a group of twenty five thanks to a vote from the public. Wish me luck!!!!!

Nature’s Best – Windland Smith Rice International Awards Competition

For the first time, three of my images were qualified for the final round of the second most prestigious international competition! All three images are Spoonbills ๐Ÿ™‚ See below “Pink Symphony”:

Pink Symphony - Spoonbills Orchestra

Adult Spoonbills – Tampa Bay Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/5.6 | 1/4000 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 1D X, with tripod and a Jobu Design Gimbal Head (use promo code “steven” for a 10% discount).

The image above was created after the two adult Spoonbills above were done bathing in the shallow mangrove waters. The subsequent wing flapping on both sides makes this image very unique. Also, I had placed my group against the light during an overcast day. This is how you see the light through the wings plumage and how the background came out very dark. I named this piece “Pink Symphony” as the two birds make me think of an orchestra in action.

Professional Photographers of America International Competition

My portfolio of four images granted me a Gold medal this year, thanks to two images with a Merit and two images making it to the Loan collection. See below “Morning Reflections”:

Morning Reflections - PPA Competition

Tricolored Heron hunting – Fort Desoto, Florida
ISO 3200 | f/5.6 | 1/400 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 5D mark III, with tripod and a Jobu Design Gimbal Head (use promo code “steven” for a 10% discount).

This competition is designed to appeal more to the image artistry of semi-pro and pro photographers. After winning twenty five Merits during the yearly international competition, one receives a Master degree from the renown association. I am getting close ๐Ÿ™‚ The image above was also created during an overcast day!! Next time you stay home because it is not sunny, think twice ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

Best Gimbal Head For Bird Photography: Jobu Junior & Heavy Duty review

I have now owned an older version of the Jobu Design heavy duty gimbal head for more than five years. Recently, I had the exciting opportunity to review the young brother of the Heavy Duty version: the Junior 3. First off, I have always thought that Jobu Design was first in class when it comes down to quality. For having seen and tried out many brands thanks to my tour participants, I still think that the Jobu Design Gimbal heads come on top of the competition. You may enjoy a 10% off discount on the entire Jobu Design website with the promo code “steven” ๐Ÿ™‚

Gimbal Head for Bird Photography - Jobu Junior 3

Jobu Design Gimbal Head – Junior 3 => enjoy a 10% discount with the promo code “steven”

Gimbal heads are the best answer for the bird photographer shooting with heavy lenses. It provides fluidity of motion and a weightless feel while maneuvering your gear that is essential so to create bird in flight photographs.

Not only the quality is top notch, but my preference goes to the Jobu gimbals for another key reason: the design and placement of the knobs to lock the gimbal. Gimbal heads typically have two knobs: one for vertical motion and one for horizontal motion. One needs to lock both so to completely freeze the weightless motion of the head. Most other brands place both knobs on the left side of the head, which I find problematic… Why? The answer is simple, it takes twice as much time to unlock your gear to be back in the action. Since bird photography is a lot about responsiveness, this is less than ideal.

Gimbal Head - Jobu Junior 3 with 600mm and Canon 1dX mark II

Jobu Design Gimbal Head with 600mm and 1dX mark II – Junior 3 => enjoy a 10% discount with the promo code “steven”

The Jobu Design heads have one knob on each side! So, one may untwist one with one hand and the other with your other hand at the same time!! This is how, I go from having my gear locked to back into the action in less than a second.

While I had initially opted for the older model of the Heavy Duty IV, I have long been eyeing the much smaller and lighter Junior 3 version. At only 1.5 lbs, it is a very sturdy piece of equipment, capable of enduring even the heaviest lenses. I tried it out with the Canon 1dX mark II and 600 mm IS II combo. The overall combination is very stable and reliable. The only small downfall that I could see was that the gear tended to loose its weightless ability when inclined at more than 45 degree angles. This is actually not surprising as the laws of physics require a minimum size to properly balance big and cumbersome equipment. Replacing the foot of the lens with the one Jobu Design recommends offsets a bit this phenomenon.

Gimbal Head - Jobu Junior 3 vs Older version of Heavy Duty IV

Jobu Design Gimbal Junior 3 vs former Heavy Duty => enjoy a 10% discount with the promo code “steven”

And as per the specs, the Jobu Junior 3 is stellar with 400mm lenses and shorter. It could be quite the lethal combo with a 400mm DO II, or for whom that is very weight conscious with equipment. I am expecting this gimbal to be just right with the new Canon 600mm DO when it comes out too.

If you do not mind a heavier load, the Jobu Heavy Duty IV is the way to go and for which my preference goes to when compared to all other sturdy gimbal heads out there!! For having tested quite a few models from my clients, the quality and weightlessness capabilities are killer.

Gimbal Head - Jobu Heavy Duty with 600mm

Jobu Design Gimbal Heavy Duty (former generation) with 600mm => enjoy a 10% discount with the promo code “steven”

Front Cover with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation

I am very pleased to report that one my Black Skimmer images made the front cover of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation annual report on conservation investments. While the initial talk was around some of my better known Spoonbill images, the final choice came to this unexpected photograph ๐Ÿ™‚

Black Skimmer - Indian Shores, Florida

Black Skimmer in flight – 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 and the Canon EOS 5D mark III.

While publishing in magazines, even very well known ones, does not pay much anymore, it is always a pleasure to get the front cover. This photograph was created in the early morning after having noticed a consistent pattern of Black Skimmers flying along the shore. The trick here was to wait for the waves to be flat in order to avoid a distracting background. See below the actual cover:

Black Skimmer - National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Cover

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

Steven

Another Florida Roseate Spoonbill Tour In The Box

This is a quick report on he first 2017 Florida Spoonbill photography workshop! As expected, the tour did not disappoint ๐Ÿ™‚

Spoonbill Taking Off - Photography Workshop

Juvenile Roseate Spoonbill taking off – 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.

The juvenile Spoonbill in the photograph above hatched last year and I was a bit surprised to see a few other young birds as well. This is a composite image depicting three different stages during a take off. The key to capturing take offs is to anticipate when it is going to happen. By now, I know very well the typical behavior of the Spoonbills at the Tampa Bay rookery and my predictions are often spot on. Better yet, I make a special effort to announce the possible take offs to my group, which puts everybody one step closer to getting the shot.

Roseate Spoonbill landing - Florida Photography Tour

Roseate Spoonbill landing – 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 coupled with a 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Landing shots, as above, are actually a lot easier to create than take offs. Keep an eye up, track the bird very early on and you are in good shape. I typically follow the bird in my view finder, than re-aquire focus just before the bird enters the “shooting zone”, take a few images in burst, then re-aquire focus and press the shutter for a second burst. This gives me two chances to have the camera locking on the fast moving subject and creating sharp images. As of now, there is no camera system that does not fail to acquire perfect focus every time…

Florida Spoonbills in flight - Photography Tour

Juvenile and Adult Roseate Spoonbills flying above the water – Tampa Bay, Florida
ISO 640 | f/5.6 | 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 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

It is always a treat to create images of Spoonbills while flying just above the blue water. The juvenile / adult pair here is quite the tandem.

Florida Spoonbill photography tour testimonial

Because I do my very best to get my participants very happy with their experience ๐Ÿ™‚

“During the many years of pursuing a career as a professional portrait photographer there were times when I was able to venture back into the type of photography I enjoyed most, landscape and wildlife. After retirement I decided to devote more time to photographing the bald eagle, one of the most photographed birds in the USA. Bird photography had multiple challenges and a friend who was also a retired photographer was attending workshops with Steven Blandin. Seeing his spoonbill and bald eagle photos on his Facebook page gave me the desire to attend Steven’s Florida Workshop the 22nd and 23rd of April 2017. Steven is a wonderful wildlife photographer who takes the time to answer any question, even the most simple ones no matter what your skill level. The classes are small, only 6 students at a time, so there is plenty of time for everyone. Be prepared to see beautiful birds, learning camera tips and settings, not to mention Photoshop techniques to bring your images to life. You won’t regret giving Steven a try.” — Sam A.

Florida Spoonbills photography tour – $1250

February 2018 / limit 6 people – NOT OPEN YET

The dates for 2018 will soon be announced! Stay tuned. 3 boat rides to the Spoonbill rookery and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included.
Florida Spoonbill Photography Tour

Support the Best Bird Photography Tours blog by following the 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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