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9 brave souls and I were part of my 2012 Florida’s Bird Photography Tour. We gathered in Sarasota, Florida to enjoy a good dinner courtesy of yours truly and to introduce ourselves. We talked about itinerary changes, weather, gear, clothing, and everything else needed to have a successful tour. Participants were from all over the United States including Boston, Florida and Massachusetts to mention few. Everyone was happy, excited and ready to go.
We gathered at the hotel early morning and headed out to the Ft. Myers area. I car pooled with Kathy from Orlando. Once we got to Ft. Myers we spent some time setting up our equipment, sadly a participant’s 500mm lens attached to a Canon 7D felt to the ground in the parking lot. The head he was using was the 4th Generation Designs (VS 3). I had the chance to use this head with my 500mm lens few years ago. However, I never felt my equipment was securely attached and never got a "piece of mind" with it. Therefore, I never bought one, instead I’m using the Wimberley II head. The lens survived the impact. However, the camera was damaged. Luckily a back-up camera was available to him.
We walked down the beach looking for opportunities to photograph. It was early and still dark. We were able to create few silhouettes images thanks to a friendly Blue Heron posing for us.
Once the light got harsh we got something to eat at a near-by restaurant and headed back for our classroom seminar. The class was all about what I do in the field. From approach all the way to natural elements. The goal of the seminar was to educate everyone right away so they can use these techniques during the remaining 4 days of the Tour.
During the afternoon hours we headed back to the beach. We were able to photograph different species including Brown Pelicans, Plovers, Gulls, Reddish Egret, Sanderlings, Great Egrets, and one gorgeous sunset. I created some images with my 70-200mm f/4 IS lens but I also created some close-ups of the sun with my 800mm f/5.6 IS L lens attached to a 1.4x Tele-converter. See the image below.
We had a long day in Ft. Myers but everyone was exciting to continue. Day #2 was all about photographing Burrowing Owls. We got to our destination early and dark. My goal was to allow enough time for the owls to get used to our group. However, we didn’t have much success. Some participants were patient enough to wait for the owls to fly to the perch. Their patience paid off!
Sometimes I believe bird photographers think that wild animals POSE and do what they expect. That’s certainly not the case. We, as bird photographers must learn how to behave in front of wild animals and expect nothing in return.
After the morning session was over, we headed back to the hotel for a well-deserved nap. For the afternoon session, I decided to head to another location with more owls. The owls were very cooperative for everyone this time around. We were able to create images of all kinds including a nice but rather quick copulation. That was awesome!
During our first introduction dinner, I told everyone about new locations I was told days before the Tour began. We decided as a group to change the original itinerary and explore these new locations. One was during the morning hours in the Clearwater area and another one during the afternoon hours in Sarasota.
The morning session was a terrific opportunity to learn how to use your flash and Better Beamer. We had a cloudy and windy morning. Cloudy days are perfect to learn fill flash because the light is nice an even allowing the flash to lit the subject nicely. The Great Horned Owlets were very cooperative for us.
Once we got back to the hotel, Tim Grey started his Lightroom classroom seminar. The class was very informative for everyone including myself. While I don’t use Lightroom, I learned some of the great advantages of using Lightroom.
The afternoon session was all about photographing at very close range Sa andhill Crane nest in the Sarasota area. This was a terrific opportunity for everyone!
By now some folks were extremely tired but at the same time some were hanging on and ready to continue! Tour participants were also calling the Tour “Maxis’ Book Camp”. I wasn’t kidding when I said we were going to shoot a LOT!
It has been a long journey but we still had two full days of shooting. We headed out at 4:45am to the St. Petersburg area to photograph the sunrise. We had a magnificent sunrise.
Once we finished using our small lenses, we soon moved to photograph birds. This wet session was very productive for everyone. We had a pair of Oystercatchers feeding within feet’s from us. We also took advantage of the cloudy morning and used our flash and Better Beamer to help enhance our subjects.
I must admit that I didn't want to see the last day come. I was having so much fun that I didn't want the Tour to end. We headed to the Kissimmee area (Gatorland) to photograph nesting birds. The weather was perfect to learn even more about flash and fill flash. Tour participants were exhausted but happy to be there. Cloudy days are perfect to photograph at Gatorland because the even and flat light. Fill flash really makes a difference by adding color and "life".
After our morning session, we grabbed some burgers and headed to the classroom for one last time. I talked about what I do using NIK software (15% discount by using promo code "maxisnik"). Soon after our classroom seminar we headed out back to the rookery for more.
Everyone headed back to the hotel/home by 4pm including myself.
Overall, the Tour was a total success with many happy participant, images and learning experience. I would like to thank you all for your endurance and for your participation!!
I'm taking reservations for 2013. Contact me if you are interested.
Enjoy the images.
White Egret Eye Contact, Central Florida -
Maxis Gamez, All Rights Reserved
Canon 5D MKII, Canon 800mm L @ f/8, 1/320 sec, ISO 800, 580EX II with Better Beamer
Nik, Manual exposure, Induro CT414 Tripod
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