St Augustine Bird Photography Workshop Report

Newborn Roseate spoonbill hatchlings in the nest Sigma 150-600 S @600mm Nikon D500 1/800 f/6.3 ISO 1600 manual mode Auto-ISO -1.7 EV

The St Augustine Alligator farm really is one of the best places, and one of my all time favorite places to hold a workshop, the location, with 700+ nesting birds in a small area makes it very convenient and easy to access. The conditions were super this year and the 5 participants all helped make the workshop a big success. 

Sigma 120-300 S @185mm Nikon D500 1/1250 f/4.5 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash

Cloudy skies at the farm turn it into the perfect place for flight photography. The birds are in breeding colors and plumage are all very active, displaying, maintaining nests, feeding their chicks, or battling over prime spots. It's hard to take a bad image here when the conditions are right.

Great egret and a glowing sunset Sigma 120-300 S @120mm Nikon D810 1/1250 f/5.6 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash

As the bird got closer and closer in the viewfinder I tracked the bird as it crossed right in front of the sun, I actually lost the bird in the viewfinder at one point as the strong sunlight caused lens flare that made the focus screen go completely white. This is not the kind of image you see made at the alligator farm as I am usually the only person I see actively shooting towards the sun when I am there.

Great egret incoming at sunset Sigma 120-300 S @120mm Nikon D810 1/1250 f/5.6 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash

Thanks to the warm glow of the sun causing a bit of lens flare, the color contrast with the warm and cool colors in the sky really makes for an interesting image. It's hard to believe this was all in camera and not created using filters, this is all natural!

Great egret air battle Sigma 120-300 S @195mm Nikon D810 1/1600 f/4 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash

With so much consistent predicable action at the rookery you can practice your flight photography and take time to experiment with new techniques. This is one of the few places that I still use, and will probable always use flash. My good old faithful quantum external battery recently brought back to life with new cells, worked perfectly all week with only one charge.

Great egret super flared transulcent wings Sigma 120-300 S @120mm Nikon D810 1/1250 f/5.6 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash
 

When properly balanced the flash will open up the shadows to reveal feather details and let the back light fill the translucent feathers. Backlit birds in flight have always been a favorite of mine especially high key flight photos like this.

Great egret backlit flash fill landing Sigma 120-300 S @120mm Nikon D500 1/1250 f/4.5 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash
 

The nesting birds were back in force this year and the balance of different species was just amazing, you could see 5 species nesting next to each other in the same tree. The cattle egret numbers were way down this year, which is a good thing since they are not a native bird species anyway, due to the staff's hard work removing some of the invasive plants around the rookery.

Roseate spoonbill banking in early morning light Sigma 120-300 S @120mm Nikon D500 1/1250 f/4.5 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash

The spoonbills were one of the highlights this year. It's great to seem them all around the farm now. Spoonbills like to nest farther back in the foliage than other birds so they are not the easiest to shoot but it's hard to beat spoonbill hatchings.

Great egret low key Sigma 120-300 S @175mm Nikon D500 1/2000 f/5.6 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash

When faced with harsh afternoon light, which happens a lot in Florida, I like to get creative and hide harsh details with underexposure and darkening creating a low key effect. It can work very well sometimes as an alternative to normal exposure and processing.


Great egret gathering twigs for the nest Sigma 120-300 S @120mm Nikon D810 1/2000 f/5.6 ISO 400 manual mode SB800 flash

This great egret was busy gathering nesting material just a few feet above the heads of half a dozen photographers. I didn't see a single photographer even look up as the bird flew back and forth to the nest a dozen or so times. It's always worthwhile to back up and take a look around to look for a new fresh angle and way of looking at the same scene.

If you like the images you see here and would like to learn more about the techniques I used to make them you can join our 2018 workshop at the farm. The Alligator Farm workshop is always a very productive and rewarding time. Any questions or comments please leave them below or email me.

Thanks.

Follow this link for more info on mu 2018 workshop: http://www.robertotoole.com/workshop/florida/

Bosque Fall Color Tour Report

This year was unusual to say the least, instead of the 18 degrees F that we saw last year, which is about normal, we had daytime temps close to 70 degrees F and morning lows were around 40 degrees.  The downside to the unusually high temperatures were insects. The mosquitos would crash into your car windows as soon as you pulled up at the crane pools and go for blood when you stepped out to shoot. The upside to the warm temperatures (and lots of rain) were green, reddish, and orange growth everywhere that looks great in images, and none of the normal dead brown grass you normally see everywhere at Bosque this time of the year.  

Crane and geese numbers look decent this year and coyote and bobcat sightings were way up and just about everyday. We had an interesting coyote and bobcat confrontation near the flight deck!

My group and I all had a great time with some memorable shooting sessions. Thanks to everyone that made it over to spend time with me. Even if this is my 12th year in a row going to Bosque,  I cant wait to get back there next year! Registration for 2017 is open so check out more info here:

http://www.robertotoole.com/bosque-tour/

These are my favorite images from last week, the colors this year were just unreal and nothing like I have ever seen before at Bosque. 

Alaska Brown Bears 2016

2016 Year End Wrap-up

Cubs wrestle in the meadows at Hallo Bay. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 250mm, 1/1000 sec at f/3.5, manual mode, ISO 280. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

After leading my three tours this year in June, July and August I feel really lucky to have been able to see and experience so many amazing moments in Katmai and even manage to capture a few alongside tour participants.

Lone Wolf creek crossing. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 270mm, 1/1600 sec at f/3.5, manual mode, ISO 1600. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

One of the highlights this year had to be wolves. We had multiple sightings at just about every spot we visited. The wolf in this image had no fear of humans and crossed in front of my group so close in fact I had to zoom out to 270mm just to fit it in the frame! This wolf hung out at Geographic for a few days just doing laps looking for stranded salmon or photographer's backpacks, whatever was available first.

Cub chomping on it's sibling at Hallo. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 150-600 mm

Sports lens @ 400mm, 1/1250 sec at f/8, manual mode, ISO 450. EV -0.7. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography

Overall this year the action was great but it seemed like every spot we visited the opportunities for cubs seemed to be almost non stop. The most interesting action was with adopted bears and their new or at least temporary families. I have seen this kind of behavior a few times in the past but for some reason it was common this year making it hard to keep track of what was gong on in some cases.

Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

At Hallo anytime is the best time for playing. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300

Sports lens @ 300mm, 1/1250 sec at f/3.5, manual mode, ISO 250,

EV, -0.7. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

The amount of time the bears spend playing varies in direct relation to how calm and cool the bears are. Light overcast with drizzle are always my favorite conditions for bear photography.

Out of all the spots at this river mouth this bear decided it wanted to sit on our gravel bar. Geographic, Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 Sports lens @ 300mm, 1/2000 sec at f/4, manual mode, ISO 400. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

The bear photography opportunities really have been excellent over the last few years in Katmai so you should think about joining us next year, you wont regret it. My 2017 small group photo tour dates are available with a two spots left on each of the August tours, for more information follow this link for more information

:

http://www.robertotoole.com/workshop/brown-bears/

Shoot me an email, Robert at Robert OToole Photography.com,  if you have any questions.