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Birds of the Rio Grande Valley

The Rio Grande Valley is recognized as one of the most important areas for birds in the world. Hugging the border with Mexico, this landscape plays home to a wide diversity of species more often associated with Central America than the United States. Though the vegetation may be a mix of mesquite and native thorn brush, the kaleidoscope of colors found in the birds here stands in stark contrast to the otherwise harsh and unforgiving landscape and climate. 

This workshop will take place on a private ranch in the Rio Grande Valley and includes both lodging and meals on the ranch. This allows us to create an intensive photographic workshop where you will have the opportunity to focus on only one thing: creating extraordinary images of South Texas birds. This workshop is timed specifically to capture the peak of raptor activity in the area, and you will fill memory cards full of caracaras and Harris hawks. Although raptors will feature prominently in this photography workshop, we will spend an equal amount of time photographing South Texas specialties such as roadrunners, desert cardinals, Audubon oriels, and that species that may very well be the most beautiful in all of the US, the green jay. There is also a high probability that a few mammals will factor into this workshop also, as both bobcats and armadillos regularly make appearances at the permanent photography blinds built on the property.   

The Birds of the Rio Grande Valley photography workshop is limited to 4 participants to ensure that each photographer has more than ample room inside of the blinds, as well as maximum one on one time both in the field and during classroom sessions. 

Workshop Details

Dates: Feb 18 – 22

            Feb 25 – March 1

Shooting time: 3 1/2 days

Price: $3,000

Lodging: Included

Meals: Included

Nearest Airport: McAllen, Texas (MFE). This is a smaller airport with limited flights, though Delta and American offer service. For a larger airport with more options, San Antonio is a 3.5 hour drive from the ranch. 

Transportation: Included from McAllen International for those that need it – limited space available so please check with us if you think you made need a ride

Single Supplement: very limited. Inquire if interested. 

Physical Difficulty: easy

Photography skill level: beginner to advanced

Participants: This workshop is limited to a maximum of 4 participants, thus giving everyone maximum one on one opportunities both in the field and in the classroom. 

What to Expect

  • All meals and lodging provided for during the workshop
  • A maximum of 4 participants
  • 3.5 days of intensive photography on a private ranch
  • Unique South Texas specialties such as: Caracara (a type of falcon), Harris hawk, green jays, Audubon oriels, golden fronted woodpeckers, pyrrhuloxia (desert cardinal), roadrunners, armadillos, and much more.
  • Photoshop and Lightroom instruction during midday breaks
  • Tol learn the ins and outs of your autofocus system from cross type sensors to focus settings 
  • To come away from this workshop with a rock solid understanding of photographing birds in flight
  • To learn the fine art of creating set ups for birds and how to attract them to specific perches
  • What makes a great setup and how to select perches that will guide your subjects right where you want them
  • A private facebook group before and after the workshop that will function as a public forum for education and the sharing of photographs
  • 7 different field sessions 

Day 1: Fly into McAllen International Airport and / or arrive at the ranch at 4pm. We will have a meet and greet dinner that evening followed by discussion on mastering histograms, what to expect over the coming days, and setting up your autofocus system for this particular workshop.

Day 2: On the first day in the field, we will begin by photographing raptors such as caracaras and Harris hawks. We will photograph until either the bird activities dies down or the light becomes to harsh to continue shooting – typically around 10:30 – 11:00 am. We will take a midday break for lunch. You will have time to eat, recharge batteries, download images, and take a nap. We will also have our first Photoshop and Lightroom discussion before going back into the field. That afternoon we will head to one of the sunken pit blinds for songbird setups and hopefully mammals such armadillos, bobcats, and javelinas – a.k.a. collared peccary. We will retire from the blind when we run out of light. 

Day 3: We will start the day in one of the pit blinds for songbirds, mammals, and the locally unique species of Rio Grande Wild Turkey – a subspecies of the Eastern wild turkey that most are familiar with. Like the first day, we will break when the light becomes to harsh, have lunch, download, and have another classroom session. That afternoon, we will photograph for a different pit blind for songbirds, roadrunners, quail, and bobcats. 

Day 4: Like the first day, we will begin this day in a blind designed specifically for photographing raptors. By skipping a day like this, everyone should have had an opportunity to review their images from the first morning and realized the type of images that they prefer and would like another shot at. Once again, we will break for lunch and a classroom session before heading back into the field for an evening shoot. 

Day 5: On the last day, we will return to one of the pit blinds for songbirds, roadrunners, quail, and turkey. After the morning shoot, we will depart for the airport and flights back home. Because of the morning shoot, you are advised to either find flights that leave after 4pm, or the following morning. 

What size lens will I need for this workshop?

As this is bird photography, long telephoto lenses will be necessary. All setups will be designed and placed at the perfect distance for a 500mm lens. So anything from 400mm – 600mm will be perfect for this workshop. Jared will be carrying both a 200-400mm and 600mm lens. 

Please do not feel the need to rush out and purchase a large telephoto lens for this workshop. You are welcome to use us as an excuse for doing so with your spouse, but this is not necessary. If you do not own a lens that will reach out to this range of focal lengths then we highly recommend that you RENT a lens for the workshop. Jared Lloyd Photography can assist you with discounts from both www.lensrentals.com and www.borrowlenses.com. 

Additionally, you do not necessarily need a large prime telephoto lens for this workshop. An example of other lenses that will work great for what we are doing include, but are not limited to:

Sigma 150-600mm

Tamron 150-600mm

Nikon 200-500mm

Lenses such as the Canon 100-400 will be great for flight shots but you may find it necessary to crop for perched shots of both songbirds and raptors. That is, unless you are using a crop sensor camera such as the Canon 7D mark 2. The same goes with Nikon’s lenses such as the 80-400 for which if you are shooting with a body like the D500 0r D7200, both of which are crop sensors, your 400mm zoom lens will be just fine. 

If you have questions about your equipment and whether or not it will be suitable for this workshop, please do not hesitate to reach out to us and ask. 

How will lodging and meals be handled on this workshop?

We will provide both lodging and meals for workshop participants at the ranch itself. Once you arrive, you will have no need to leave the property. Lodging will be in a 4 bedroom guesthouse and the price is based upon double occupancy. There are two shared bathrooms, and shared common areas. The house is quite nice and perfect for conducting a workshop from. 

As for meals, we will have a private cook that comes in to fix three meals a day for us. We will also provide water, sodas, and beer for participants. If there are specific dietary needs, please let us know in advance so that we can notify the cook. Additionally, the town of McAllen is quite large with many grocery stores where personal items such as snacks can be picked up before heading out to the ranch. 

The idea behind this workshop, is that it is to be all inclusive. This means that once you arrive, we will take care of everything else so you can focus all of your attention on creating incredible images. 

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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 direct contact information. 

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