Florida is the undisputed Mecca of bird photography in the United States. The subjects and opportunities here are world renowned for good reason. Edging south almost right up against the Tropic of Cancer, Florida straddles two very different worlds. To the north, birds of temperate climates spill down into this continental promontory. To the south lies the tropics, whose exotic species associated with such latitudes we find creeping northward along the Gulf Coast to their northern most limits. This convergence manifests a truly astounding array of avian diversity. 

This workshop is a Tour de Force of all things bird photography. Nesting wading birds, shorebirds, seabirds, hawks, owls, woodpeckers, and much much more. We throw around the word diversity quite a lot when referencing this trip, but for good reason. Click on one of the photos to the left and scroll through the workshop gallery to get a taste of this diversity, and you will see why we consider this to be one of our favorite workshops.

Species you can expect to photograph on this workshop include, but are by no means limited to: roseate spoonbills, black necked stilts, burrowing owls, barred owls, sandhill cranes, black skimmers, oyster catchers, a host of different species of terns, various species of shorebirds, limpkins, reddish egrets, and just about every species of wading bird that lives in the United States. We will photograph birds on the beach, wade through shallow water back island lagoons ringed in mangroves, venture out to islands to photograph rookeries, explore the remains of Florida’s prairie region for burrowing owls, work the fringes of swamps to photograph barred owls, and trek through some of the most beautiful sub-tropical hardwood forests you can imagine. 

Of course, what trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida would be complete without photographing alligators? Certainly not this one. So you can also count o a very special night session photographing the big boys as well.

The Gulf Coast of Florida is a truly special place, and we hope that you will take the opportunity to escape with us to this photographer’s paradise. 

Workshop Details

Dates: April 23 – 29, 2017

Cost: $3100

Optional Single Supplement: $675. A limited number of single supplements are available. Please inquire if interested.

Location: based out of Sarasota Florida

Airport: Sarasota – Bradenton International Airport

Lodging and ground transportation are both included with the price of this workshop.

Skill Level: Beginner to advanced

Physical Difficulty: moderate (must be able to get up and down from kneeling and / or laying position)

Participants: This workshop will be limited to a maximum of 6 participants. 

 

What you can Expect

  • 5 full days of photography and instruction
  • An in depth review / classroom session
  • 2 days working rookeries that are only accessible by boat
  • Unparalleled opportunity to photograph the following species:
    • Nesting Rosette Spoonbills
    • Nesting burrowing owls and chicks
    • A variety of other nesting wading birds such as great egrets, little blue herons, wood storks, etc. . .
    • Reddish Egrets
    • Frame filling opportunities with a variety of shorebirds
    • Several unpublished local hot spots
    • Pre-trip educational material
    • Post trip notes in pdf form
    • A 1:3 ratio of instructor to participant (unheard of on bird photography workshops)
    • Hands on in the field instruction customized to meet your personal needs
    • A private online forum specifically for this workshop that you will have access to 2 months prior to the start of the workshop.
    • One heck of a good time!

As some of the locations that we will be visiting are very sensitive, and some are previously unpublished, we can only provide you with a generalized itinerary for this workshop online. Once you have registered for the workshop, we will happily provide you with a detailed itinerary upon request. The safety and wellbeing of the birds that we are photographing on this workshop is of utmost importance. Therefore we greatly appreciate your understanding.

Naturally this is all subject to change based upon situations and conditions during the workshop.

Day 1: Fly or drive into Sarasota Florida. For those flying into the area,we will provide shuttle service for you from the airport to your hotel. That evening we will all meet up for dinner and official meet and greet. During this time we will discuss the logistics of the coming days. We will also lead a thorough discussion on topics that will be of immediate use for in the field the following morning.

Day 2: We will leave pre-dawn by boat to access our first rookery filled with spoonbills. This location will give you an unlimited opportunity to photograph birds in flight. We will photograph at this location until the light is no longer good, or activity dies down enough to no longer warrant being there. Each day we will provide you with a midday break after our morning session of photography. Since this is Florida and temperatures can get hot, and the sun can be relentless even in April, this will provide you with a much needed break where you can download cards, recharge batteries, and catch a nap after lunch. On the first day we will then spend the afternoon back on the water photographing for a second session.

Day 3: We will travel to Fort Desoto to photograph waders and shorebirds.

Day 4: On this day we will switch gears and spend both a morning and evening session photographing burrowing owls with their newborn chicks. This is an incredible experience and will be a major highlight of the workshop for participants.

Day 5: This morning will be spent back out on the water photographing nesting spoonbills and other wading birds. The afternoon we will visit several other undisclosed locations that will knock your socks off!

Day 6: The morning of day 6 will be spent once again photographing at undisclosed locations. That evening, we will put together a blind critique of everyone’s images from the workshop. This session often runs late into the night and covers the entire gamut of photographic topics. From Lightroom and Photoshop to composition and technique – this often times proves to be one of the other major highlights of a workshop for participants, and many find that they prefer bring pen and paper to take notes during this even. We will provide pizza and  beer / wine for this session

The workshops that we offer are kept small so as to make the experience completely personalized. As many realize, workshops with 10-20 people are very common. By limiting the size of this workshop to 6 participants we are able to offer opportunities that simply cannot be found in larger groups.

In the Field Instruction

While we are in the field, each day brings something new. Every time we set down our tripods, conditions, lighting, backgrounds, action, etc. . . will offer us new and unique challenges. From the right brain creative aspects of learning to see the possibilities of composition and light, to the left brain analysis of exposure, there is a lot to keep up with out there. But don’t worry, that’s what we are here for.

Small group sizes allow us to devote significant amounts of time working individually with participants while in the field. As conditions are ever changing, the realm of topics to be discussed while on location is endless.

Technical aspects of photography such as exposure modes, metering patterns, histograms, auto-focus modes, ISO, f/stop, and shutter speeds will all be discussed with nearly every shoot. Why we recommend the settings that we do, how it applies to this situation, and what are the pros and cons of these different technical decisions that we are forced to make in the field.

Moving well beyond to technical parts of photography, while we are in the field together we will spend much of our time also discussing the creative aspects of photography as well. Understanding light and how to exploit it creatively sits at the heart of photography and this will be a key undercurrent throughout the workshop. You will learn the different types of light and how to properly handle them. You will learn how to control perspective and the relationship that this has with your viewers psychology. You will learn how to start seeing like a professional in terms of quality or opportunities as well as compositions.

The technical parts of photography are the easy stuff to learn. Though it may seem daunting if you are still learning, this side of photography is made simple when taught how each of these components functions in relation to real world situations and repetition. On the flipside of this coin however is the creative part of photography. This is the subjective, the art, the intangible stuff that takes cliché and uninspired technical perfection that is a dime a dozen and catapults it to a true work of art with the ability to make a lasting impression on your viewer.

This is our lofty objective while we are in the field.

Review and Critique

On the last day of the workshop, we will spend the evening in an extensive blind critique of everyone’s best images. Blind critique means that there will be no names attached to the images and everyone will have an opportunity to weigh in on strengths and weaknesses as well as suggestions for improvement. From composition to lighting, post processing to exposure, this critique will run the gamut of all aspects of nature photography and becomes one of the most important parts of the workshop for the participant. We will provide both pizza and alcohol for this review.

Pre-Trip Instruction

Prior to this workshop, we will set up a private Facebook group for which participants will receive and invitation to join. From this platform, we can begin discussions relevant to upcoming workshops starting several months out.

Post-Trip Instruction

Throughout the duration of the workshop, we are compiling notes based upon the days activities, concepts discussed in the field, obstacles, challenges, and successes. After the workshop, these notes are then compiled into a series of documents. The idea behind this is to take real world situations that you yourself were apart of  to use as an instructional resource for you to refer back to after the workshop. Photographic concepts are outlined in detail, and specific examples are used with in depth descriptions of how exactly the photograph was made including the reasoning and artistic aspects that went into the composition as well as the technical side and how the two are used in conjunction with each other to express your creative vision.

What kind of tripod and head will I need?

Not all tripods are created equally for wildlife photography. It is extremely important that your tripod is rated for carrying the weight of the gear that you will be using on this workshop. If you have questions about this you can either refer to the manufacturers specifications, or just shoot us an email and we will be more than happy to help you out with this.

There will be several situations during this workshop in which you will need to get your camera equipment to ground level. This means that the ideal tripod would not have a center column so that you can spread the tripod legs 90 degrees to the camera and therefore lower your equipment to within inches of the ground. If your tripod does have a center column, I recommend looking into a ground pod such as the Skimmer ground pod. This is a cost effective way to work at ground level if your tripod is not capable of going that low.

As for tripod heads, we highly recommend that you use a Gimbal style head. Fluid heads and pan / tilt heads are not suitable for this workshop. Ball heads are acceptable.

Remember that it is not necessary to purchase equipment for this workshop. There are a variety of companies that will gladly rent you what ever equipment that you need.

Will I need flash?

Flash photography in so many ways is almost synonymous with bird photography. However, given the locations and situations that we will be photographing on this particular workshop, flash will not be an absolute necessity. If you already own a flash and flash bracket, then by all means bring it. But it will not be necessary to rush out to buy or rent flash for this trip.

What size telephoto lens will I need for this workshop?

This workshop is all about photographing birds. Although we will be up close and personal with many of our subjects, we always recommend that you have the longest possible lens when photographing birds. For this reason, you will want something that can reach at least 500mm. This does not mean that you necessarily need to have a 500 f/4 lens. This length can be reached through a variety of ways such as zoom lenses digital crop factor cameras and teleconverters.

Please do not feel the need to pass this workshop by or rush out to purchase a lens for this trip just because you do not have a 500mm lens. There are a variety of places that specialize in renting gear like this and we can help you out with discounts through those companies in order to help you cut costs a bit. 

Let us know if you do not have the necessary telephoto power for this workshop and we will work with you personally to make it happen for you. 

Will we be working from boats on this workshop?

Yes we will! Two of our days will be spent working with boats in order to access otherwise inaccessible rookeries. Our boats will get us to some of the best locations on Earth to photograph spoonbills and other waders. 

How do I protect my gear while we are on the water?

The best way to protect your gear on the water is with dry bags. Pelican cases are great, but they are big, cumbersome, and take up way too much room on the boat. A roll top dry bag that is big enough for you to slip your big lens with camera attached and roll the top down 3 times, is all you will need. These are cheap and can be picked up online or at pretty much any big box outdoor shop and even Walmart!

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Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding this or any other workshop that we offer. To the left, you will find a simple contact form in place to make this process as simple as possible for you. We realize however that sometimes these sorts of onsite forms are difficult to work with when more lengthy questions and comments are necessary. Therefore, below you will also find the appropriate email, phone number, and even facebook account that you can contact us with if you would prefer.

e: [email protected]

c: 406-600-2047

Travel insurance

Fact: flights get canceled, airlines overbook, snow storms shut down airports, family members get sick, doctors occasionally deliver unexpected news. Life is what happens as we are busy making plans. John Lennon said that, and it’s about as true of a statement that can be made when it comes to travel.

The recent loss of power to Delta’s systems that led to the grounding and cancellation of thousands of flights drives home this point. With so many variables and possibilities out there that cannot be foreseen or planned for, we highly recommend purchasing trip insurance for this workshop. The costs are surprisingly low and well worth the small expense. Trip insurance gives you peace of mind and allows you to know that if one of those little inevitabilities in life happens to pop up, you will not lose your money spent on your workshop and flights.

CSA and Travel Guard are the two big ones out there. But you can get instant comparative quotes through www.insuremytrip.com