I’ve had this idea for some time now. Sort of starting a journal in to my bird and wildlife photography. While it may seem sudden to some of you that I’ve been doing this type of photography, it’s actually been about 5-6 years now – my first trip to Costa Rica in 2016 really lit the fire for me. I’m typically very quiet about something until I feel comfortable talking about it.
But, bird and wildlife photography has taken over for me. I look forward to it more than I do any landscape trip and if you gave me my choice right now of any place to go, it would probably be something wildlife related… maybe bears… I’ve never photographed bears before.
Anyway, we’ll see how this goes. I was thinking of writing 2-3 times each week. I got the idea from reading Arthur Morris’s blog (Link Here). Art (I call him that like I know him) has a great website that I visit almost daily. He lives about 90 minutes from me and I’ve seen him out at Ft. Desoto Beach here in the Tampa area from time to time. Anyway, he writes a little something every day and I enjoy reading it. So I thought maybe I’d do the same thing (though probably not every day).
For my first post, I thought I’d share how I got skunked last night. I went to a place called the Dunedin Causeway about 20-30 minutes from me. I launch my kayak from the beach there a lot and it’s a wonderful place for bird photography – especially during low tide.
Last evening low tide looked like it lined up nicely with sunset following about 2 hours later. And the winds were coming from the west, which is even better for bird photography (sun at my back, wind at my back). I had hoped to photograph Osprey fishing – it’s a great area for that and a ton of Osprey nearby. But they must have got the memo that I was coming because I only saw 2 of them.
I got there about 5:45 and was in the water by 6. I paddled around for about an hour shooting once in a while, and then beached the kayak on a sand bar when I saw a group of Roseate Spoonbills nearby. It’s been a while since I’ve photographed that bird, so I sat on the wet sand and snapped some photos of them looking for food, hoping they’d fly.
I did everything right. I positioned myself with the sun at my back and the wind at my back. So I was ready. And positive they’d fly right at me when the time came. Well… an hour later the time hadn’t come yet. I then looked over at my kayak and saw it bobbing just a little. I realized the tide was coming in and I didn’t have an anchor. It’s about a half mile from shore, and in an emergency I could always wade to the nearby Caladesi Island, but that wouldn’t be fun. The waters aren’t deep there, but still – with camera gear and not really wanting to spend the night on the beach, I started getting ready to leave. I waited as long as I could but it was time to get back on the kayak. Sure enough, about 10 minutes after that, I saw them fly my way – but I wasn’t in position to get anything great.
But while I was waiting earlier, I did grab a photo of one Spoony jumping over to another area, while one of his friends squawked at him when getting too close. Definitely nothing great, and as they say “I ain’t winning any awards with this one”. But not every outing is perfect. Heck, I think more outings than not go that way right? But I figured what better post to start the series than with this one. What do you think?
What do you like or not like? (a question I don’t ask often when I post a photo, but in this series it’s fair game)
This photo was made handheld, with my current favorite winning combination setup of the Sony Alpha 1 and the Sony 200-600mm. Focal length was 600mm. I was on Continuous Auto Focus with the AF Area set to Zone (center), with Multi Metering mode. Sony’s Bird Eye AF did pick up on this while shooting too. I don’t use back button focus, as I favor the good old shutter release way, since my fingers are busy doing other things on the back of the camera while shooting.
There were minor edits in Lightroom and I ran Topaz DeNoise AI on it as well.
Below is the original uncropped photo. I did crop off the right too much while shooting. It all happened fast and I wasn’t ready for it. But honestly there were other birds and clutter there. So even if I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have included it in the final photo. I think the important part is what you see here anyway. I also included a couple of shots of the aftermath too.
Low tide is about an hour later today. I may give it a try again. Thanks for stopping by. Like I said in the title… you have to start somewhere. So here’s the start. Enjoy! 🙂
Have you considered doing a blog just on kayak photography? Locations and techniques, equipment and gear, advantages and disadvantages, or does and don’ts…
Hi Dave. I haven’t. I only take my kayak to one place so I don’t know many locations. Equipment and gear are the same. Advantages… you get to different vantage points than on land. Disadvantages… you’re on water and it’s a lot more work to get to shoe vantage points. Do’s… wear sunblock… Don’t…. drop your gear in the water 🙂
In all seriousness it may be something I could write about. It would be short (I just said it all) but could be a fun post. Thanks for the idea.
Good morning, Matt!
I am happy to see you started this blog! I have been doing wildlife photography seriously for about three years now. Your course “Secrets to Editing Wildlife Photography” is a real winner! I picked up several tips and have already applied them to my photos. I live about 50 minutes from the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna. It’s another great place to photograph Bald Eagles. Keep up the great work!
Great shot of a fascinating subject. Up north here (Maryland) we don’t get these guys at all. You hit on one of the comments I would make and that was about the tight right-bottom crop. The other thing for me is the really bright bokeh area to the right of the outstretched wing. My eye just went to that immediately. And I hate when that happens when I take a great shot! But, I just PS it out if possible.
Thanks for this journal!
Thanks Steve. I saw it, but the photo isn’t really worth spending any more time on it so I didn’t try to get rid of it. I guess it wouldn’t take long, but of all the things wrong with the photo, that’s probably the least of them 🙂
I’ve been a birder for 40 years, and bought my first camera 2 years ago. It sure has been fun taking pictures of them. I am partial to our migratory songbirds, but they are very time consuming to shoot. Learning to post process has been so important. Thanks Matt!
Thank you Matt! I’ve also been finding that photographing wildlife is what is really filling me up. Your classes, tips, tricks and videos have always inspired me and this day was no different. Love hearing you’ll continue to experiences with us a few times a week and really looking forward to the continued inspiration. I’m not in Florida so I don’t have the benefit of shooting water birds and eagles (love both!), but am getting some great practice photographing the red-shouldered hawks who have taken up residence in my back yard, along with the geese and their babies over at the Carter Center lake which is a stone’s throw away. Thank you for being such a great teacher!
Thanks Lisa. I don’t have many hawks around here so I’m jealous. I do have one that jumps from fence to fence in my backyard. I see it every time I’m out there. Sadly, it just sits on fences and doesn’t do anything interesting, so I haven’t got any good shots of it. I have a ton of just “sitting on the fence” shots that will never see the light of day. Hopefully one day I can be out there when something more interesting happens 🙂
Mine actually do a lot of that as well and I have oh so many shots of them sitting not on fences but on tree limbs as they patiently survey the yard for squirrels and chipmunks (boy can they stay in one spot for a long time!). I always keep in mind the tip you gave in one of your videos that you never know when they’ll move and so you have to be ready. Loved this guidance and practicing patience is allowing me to get a few good shots of them in flight, causing me to spend more time outside which is lovely, giving me more practice, and serving as a beautiful way to really see and connect with these magnificent creatures in a new way. A neighbor gifted me the book ‘The Peregrine’ and got one for herself as we’re both mesmerized by them. For anyone reading this, f you’re a bird lover, it’s a classic! Alright, off to dive into your ‘Wildlife Course’ so I can now process the successful captures. Thank you again 🙂
Matt: One can lament the images we didn’t take, or one can rejoice in simply being there. I have to remind myself of that with some frequency. 🤔
From 2013: Learning to See… Again
Awesome post and timely. Just moved to Panama City from Southern California. I was tired of photographing wild fires. COVID has given me a reset on my life. I day dream of kayaking early on quiet waters and photographing water birds but cringe at the thought of drowning my gear or trying to stabilize it on water while I try to focus. You have given me a bit of courage. I’ll look forward to more information on your journey into wildlife on the Florida Gulf.
Hi ReNae – thanks and I hope you do get out. My suggestion is get a big kayak. I can tell you that I have ZERO fear of tipping on my kayak. I guess maybe if I stand up in it, but I don’t do that 🙂