Florida thumbnails only

Swamp Love Swamp Love

Some of the best trip pictures require you to simply take the effort to stop and take the shot. While traveling in the Florida Everglades, I came across this Swamp Love mural painted on the side of a small store. With the PowerShot G1 X in the rental SUV console, I simply pulled in and took the picture. This shot turned out to be one of my favorites from this trip - and was well worth the small inconvenience of stopping. Especially with the extremely convenient G1 X by my side.

28mm  f/8.0  1/30s  ISO 100
Florida Keys Serenity Florida Keys Serenity

This incredibly serene location is found many miles west of Key West, Florida. When using a lens with no image stabilization and shooting from a rocking boat - with moving water, the minimum shutter speed selection becomes a bit more complicated. A circular polarizer filter was used to capture this shot.

25mm  f/10.0  1/60s  ISO 200
Roseate Spoonbill Roseate Spoonbill

It was -4° F (-20° C) this morning and the wind was howling. The meteorologist was warning of frostbite occurring to exposed skin within 15 minutes.
I can take cold weather, but wind chills approaching -30° F (-34° C) are getting uncomfortable enough to keep me and a large majority of other photographers indoors. What is the answer for someone wanting to photograph outdoors when weather conditions reach this extreme? Wait until warmer weather arrives or go somewhere that is warm. The latter is of course my preference. Where to go? Closer to the equator, of course. Or, cross the equator to find summer.
One example of a winter photography location is southwest Florida. This location is renowned for its bird photography and the weather here is very comfortable most of the time including the middle of winter. Take you long lens and migrate with the birds.
This Roseate Spoonbill was found at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida in late winter. The spoonbill was standing in place for a long time and I had taken plenty of shots of various standing poses – and insurance shots of the same. I was waiting, looking for a new and hopefully more interesting behavior. A preening session provided just that.

800mm  f/8.0  1/400s  ISO 100
Caspersen Beach, Venice, Florida Caspersen Beach, Venice, Florida

Along with being scenic, Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida has an unusually high number of shark teeth hidden in its sand. As with a significant percentage of my mid-day landscape photos, a circular polarizer filter was used for this shot.

25mm  f/14.0  1/80s  ISO 200
Florida Brown Pelican Florida Brown Pelican

A Florida Brown Pelican sitting on a pier preens in the late afternoon sun.
The relatively flat Captiva Island landscape means that the warm late-day sun reaches the island's eastern/bay-side dock piers - providing great lighting for photographing the pelicans that like to sit on these piers.
I carried the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens with the Canon EF 2x III Extender for my lightweight bird lens on this trip. The f/8 image quality this combo delivered is impressive.

600mm  f/8.0  1/640s  ISO 400
Cayo Costa State Park, Florida Cayo Costa State Park, Florida

Cayo Costa State Park is on an island north of Captiva Island, Florida. This island is accessible only by boat - and therefore remains relatively secluded. This seclusion makes it a good choice for photography. A circular polarizer filter was used for this photo.

25mm  f/11.0  1/60s  ISO 160
White Ibis with Shrimp White Ibis with Shrimp

This shrimp-hunting White Ibis was in a tidal pool at JN (Ding) Darling National Widlife Refuge in Sanibel Island, Florida. Bird photography at Ding Darling is hit or miss with tidal schedule being a key factor. Due to visitor restrictions, getting down to the bird's level is not possible at many of the better shooting locations in the refuge.
This White Ibis was looking forward with what I thought to be a not-pleasing eye position. A little Photoshop magic resulted in a centered eye.

800mm  f/8.0  1/500s  ISO 125
Florida Keys Flats Florida Keys Flats

A mid-day sun turns the white sand in the shallow Florida Keys flats into one of my favorite colors. This location is many miles west of Key West.
I had a Lowepro Pro Roller x200 full of lenses to compare and evaluate on this 2-day private photo charter. The water, sky and clouds were my favorite targets.
A CP filter was used for this shot.

24mm  f/11.0  1/100s  ISO 160
American White Pelican American White Pelican

In the right location (such as Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge) and on the right day, the biggest challenge to photographing American White Pelicans is to keep them properly framed and in focus - at the same time of course. But, always look for something more than a simple portrait of the species (after you have a few dozen of those). In this case, a tiny fish is about to become breakfast.

800mm  f/8.0  1/800s  ISO 160
Charter Boat Snorkeling in the Florida Keys Charter Boat Snorkeling in the Florida Keys

Need to get the entire small boat in the frame while you are in the boat? This task is no problem for the Canon 8-15mm f/4 L USM Fisheye Lens. Removing my left arm from the picture in post was much more difficult - thanks to the transitioning black circle. I used Photoshop to copy and flip an area of the right side to paste over my arm. I then used a soft eraser to remove the copied portion that was not needed. Yes, it would have been easier to remember to keep the arm out of the frame in the first place, but the issue is not unexpected when using this lens.

8mm  f/11.0  1/125s  ISO 100
Snowy Egret Headshot Snowy Egret Headshot

While this beautiful bird had its eyes on dinner, I focused on getting a tight headshot with blue sky framing. The bird was in constant motion, so I aligned myself with the sun and held the single selected focus point (one to the right of top center) where I wanted the bird to be in the frame. As soon as the head turned to align with my vision for the shot, I pressed the shutter release. While my timing and/or framing was not successful on every attempt at this image, I really only needed to nail one of them. Persistence paid off.
The sky was clear (late in the day) and that meant the required exposure was not changing quickly. Stable exposure needs combined with a bright white subject shout "Manual Exposure" to me. I selected a manual exposure setting that made the brightest whites nearly blown and reduced brightness by 1/6 stop during post processing.
The sharpness of this image, captured handheld on the pixel-dense 7D Mark II with the 100-400 L II at 400mm, is really impressive. I see a lot of images, including a lot of sharp ones, but what I see here catches my attention. I highly recommend this lens (and camera), especially for birding and wildlife.

400mm  f/8.0  1/500s  ISO 100
Snowy Egret Hunting for Shrimp Snowy Egret Hunting for Shrimp

This Snowy Egret is very intent on catching its shrimp breakfast. If the light is unchanging, I'm probably using manual exposure mode - especially when shooting a white subject on a dark background. I set the exposure so that there are no more than a few blinking highlights on the LCD with a Neutral Picture Style. Nearly every shot will then be properly exposed for ideal post processing image quality.

800mm  f/8.0  1/500s  ISO 125
Cormorant Picture Cormorant Picture

Cormorants, when fishing, spend much more time under water than above water. And where they surface is a big guess. Eventually this one and I got together for a shot.

800mm  f/8.0  1/500s  ISO 160
Channel in the Florida Key Flats Channel in the Florida Key Flats

Photographically cooperative clouds hover over a channel through the Florida Keys west of Key West. A circular polarizer filter was used for this shot.

16mm  f/11.0  1/160s  ISO 160
The 7D II, 100-400 L II and a Great Egret The 7D II, 100-400 L II and a Great Egret

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II, EF 100-400mm L IS II Lens and a great egret make a great combination. With the egret perched above me and the setting sun behind me, the remaining challenge was to catch the constantly moving bird in ideal positions with AF locked on the eye. The camera and lens performed really well on the latter requirement and my own performance on the former was good enough to land me a pile of shots that I like.
What are the ideal subject positions for bird photography? There are many, but side-on to the bird with its head straight forward or turned slightly toward the camera is a basic ideal position. While this bird was directly facing me, that long neck could position the head in a variety of positions and the sideways but turned slightly toward me position worked well in this situation. The gust of wind ruffling the egret's feathers added the extra interest I'm always watching for.
Compositionally, I like the two black legs (leading lines) coming up into the frame, positioning the bird at about 1/3 of the way into the frame. The bird looking into the frame adds the needed balance to the image. Cropping the legs (vs. including the entire legs and feet) in-camera allowed the bird's beautiful body to be larger in the frame and allowed me to avoid the background distractions that lower framing would have included. With the wide zoom range available in this lens, I had a large variety of framing options available and I used many.
The 7D II's top-center AF point was selected and placed on the on the bird's eye. That the 7D II's AF system covers an area that close to the edge of the frame made capturing this particular image very easy relative to the focus and recompose technique most other DSLRs require in this situation. The great egret's long neck was constantly moving the head to new positions and I had only an instant to catch any of these positions. By the time I would have recomposed after focusing, the bird would have been in a new position most of the time.
Though an f/10 aperture used with the 7D II will show some softening due to the effects of diffraction, I wanted as much of the close bird to be in focus as possible. A low sharpness setting of "2" was used in DPP with very light/fine sharpening added in Photoshop CC for a very sharp end result. Even with f/10 selected, I had enough light to use a 1/320 sec shutter speed (though marginal for the moving bird) at ISO 100.
My "great" image is basically straight out of the camera with a small amount of bill cleanup done and white balance cooled slightly as the light was extremely warm at the moment of this capture.

200mm  f/10.0  1/320s  ISO 100
Courting Blue Heron Pair Courting Blue Heron Pair

A pair of courting Blue Herons entertain in their Venice Rookery nest. Venice Rookery is a great location for birding, but a challenging location for photography. Getting a clean background is one of the challenges as you are basically shooting a small island full of nests in the middle of town complete with various structures.
I much prefer to shoot big lenses on the Wimberley Head II, but I had already limited out what I could get on a domestic flight - had to leave the Wimberley at home.

800mm  f/8.0  1/250s  ISO 100
Boca Grande Key, Florida Palm Tree Boca Grande Key, Florida Palm Tree

Boca Grande Key is a tiny, uninhabited key about 12 miles west of Key West, Florida. It has one palm tree.

70mm  f/11.0  1/100s  ISO 200
Anhinga Picture Anhinga Picture

One method of getting a clean background at Venice Rookery is to shoot into the sky. This Anhinga cooperated long enough for me to take advantage of the clear background.

800mm  f/10.0  1/500s  ISO 400
Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge

I carried a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM II Lens through Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge, but fortunately had the small Canon PowerShot G1 X with me for some interesting scenery shots along the way - including the lichens-covered boardwalk.
Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge is a great place to visit. Painted Buntings, Little Blue Herons, Egrets, Alligators of all sizes, a Cottonmouth Water Moccasin and more landed on my "what I saw list" during my short visit.

28mm  f/8.0  1/60s  ISO 400
Drying Brown Pelican Drying Brown Pelican

A Brown Pelican dries itself in the warm late-day sunlight.
For ideal bird photography lighting, I oriented myself so that I was between the sun and the pelican (or nearly so).

600mm  f/8.0  1/250s  ISO 160
Florida Keys Fisheye Picture Florida Keys Fisheye Picture

A fisheye perspective of the inviting shallow water in the Florida Keys.
Shooting with water on the horizon is always a challenge for my HLDS (Horizon Level Deficiency Syndrome), and barrel distortion elevates this challenge significantly. With a fisheye lens, the challenge comes down to making the water leave the frame at the same height on both sides.

15mm  f/11.0  1/200s  ISO 100
A 5-Step Recipe for Bird Photography Success A 5-Step Recipe for Bird Photography Success

Cookbooks are filled with successful recipes and successful bird photography is similarly not limited to a single recipe, but here is a recipe that works every time.
1. Start with a great camera and lens.
The Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens are excellent choices.
2. Find a beautiful bird properly posed against a clean background.
A snowy egret in breeding plumage easily qualifies for this main ingredient. A practically uninterrupted clear blue sky background frame keeps the viewer's eye on the main subject.
3. Time the bird meetup with an early or late day sun at your back.
Lighting is one of the most important ingredients to any photo. Early and late day direct sunlight, generally warm in color and slightly diffused in hardness, is a highly desired source of light. The 5:50 PM light was so warm in this case that I decided to cool the 7D II's AWB (Auto White Balance) choice very noticeably in post processing. Because the sunlight was directing my shadow toward the bird, subject shadows are very minimal.
4. Cue a side or tail wind to ruffle the bird's feathers.
Birds like to face the wind, keeping their feathers in line. When a side or tail wind presents itself, I like to take advantage of it. The ruffled feathers add a character to the image and in this case, the wind pushed the breeding plumage into better view.
5. Carefully time the shutter release
Birds are often constantly moving and timing the shutter release, in conjunction with balanced framing and accurate AF, is a challenge. With the 7D II's wide-set AF points, I was able to select a point that covered the bird's head without recomposing needed. When the bird turned its head to the side, I quickly pressed the shutter release and the 7D II's short shutter lag did not get in the way.
Compared to the effort required for many of my photos, this was a very easy photo to capture. Being at the right place at the right time to apply the recipe was all that was needed.

371mm  f/8.0  1/200s  ISO 100
Pied-billed Grebe Pied-billed Grebe

A Pied-billed Grebe swims across tidal waters in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
I liked the small wake showing motion, but the frame had a lot of nothing above and below the bird and its wake. So I cropped it to a wide format.

800mm  f/8.0  1/640s  ISO 200
Clouds over the Florida Keys Flats Clouds over the Florida Keys Flats

Really, it is hard to take bad pictures in the waters west of Key West. Just add a Circular Polarizer filter to a good lens mounted to a good camera.

21mm  f/11.0  1/60s  ISO 125
Snowy Egret with Shrimp Snowy Egret with Shrimp

A Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge shrimp breakfast is about to be had by this Snowy Egret.

800mm  f/8.0  1/500s  ISO 125
Willet Standing on One Foot Willet Standing on One Foot

Under a cloudy sky, the lighting was right at any subject angle and throughout much of this day at Blind Pass in Captiva, Florida. This giant softbox-like lighting permitted me to maneuver to the ideal angle for this subject (from the side) and the NatureScapes Skimmer Ground Pod II allowed me to comfortably work from right on the sand.
This low perspective caused the background content to be farther away. That distance, combined with a long focal length and close primary subject, meant that the background became significantly blurred. When it becomes a blur, the background's color and shapes become the primary concern.
In this case, the ocean was my background. The wave patterns, including breaking waves, supply the gently-changing color and shapes.
When the ocean is in your frame, shutter release timing often matters as the ocean is constantly changing. A wide variety of waves shapes worked well for this situation, but my final selection included not only the willet with ideal head and body angle, but also with most breaking waves (white color and shape) avoiding the bird's outline.
As I've said before, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Lens make a great birding combo.

400mm  f/5.6  1/320s  ISO 100
Roseate Spoonbill Feeding Roseate Spoonbill Feeding

A beautiful Roseate Spoonbill feeds at low tide in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida. The constantly moving back and forth head makes composition and critical focusing a challenge.

800mm  f/8.0  1/400s  ISO 125
Captiva Island Sunset Captiva Island Sunset

It is a lot easier to get up early enough for a west coast sunset than those eastern ones. Here the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico as seen from Captiva Island, Florida. This composition is an easy one. Level the camera with the sun about 1/3 of the way into the frame and allow horizontal rows of color to run through the frame - starting with the dark sand as the base.

112mm  f/8.0  1/400s  ISO 400
Tricolored Heron Portrait Tricolored Heron Portrait

A simple portrait of a Tricolored Heron. Nothing exciting is happening here, but the bird is beautiful and the clean blue background is complementary.

800mm  f/8.0  1/500s  ISO 100
Great Egret Headshot Great Egret Headshot

While you may or may not think this image is "great", the bird is undoubtedly a "great egret", and this beautiful bird is a great subject, especially at Gatorland, where they are acclimated to people.

Combine the permitted close proximity with the greatness of the Canon EOS R7 and RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens combination, providing an ultra-high-resolution APS-C imaging sensor and a tight angle of view at 500mm, and creative bird headshots become easy.

In this example, another egret behind the subject provided an all-white background, making the colorful bill and eye stand out artistically.

500mm  f/7.1  1/320s  ISO 320
Royal Terns at Cayo Costa State Park Royal Terns at Cayo Costa State Park

The Zeiss 25mm f/2.0 Distagon T* ZE Lens is not my first choice for bird photography, but it was the only lens I carried on my trip to Cayo Costa State Park. You of course use what you have available when you encounter a subject as beautiful as Royal Terns.

25mm  f/11.0  1/500s  ISO 800
Little Blue Heron in Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge Little Blue Heron in Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge

Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge is a great place to photograph wildlife - from Painted Buntings to butterflies to alligators to Cottonmouth Water Moccasins to various wading birds and much more. This Little Blue Heron was intently hunting below the boardwalk.
I carried the 300 f/2.8 L II and 1.4x III combination while exploring the boardwalk. And I carried them in a Think Tank Photo Glass Taxi when not actively shooting. Not long after this shot, I opened the pack - and a camera body cap with a rear lens cap attached rolled out, across the boardwalk and into the alligator-infested water below. While I was not happy about the loss of the caps, I was even more disturbed to have put litter in the water. at this great place. After finding a refuge worker, I was given permission to hang over the edge of the boardwalk (while being held onto) and retrieve the still-floating caps using two large, dead sticks (that I had to also-retrieve) as chopsticks. The retrieval was successful (and entertaining to those watching I'm sure). Phew.

600mm  f/8.0  1/100s  ISO 1250
Sanibel Island Lighthouse Sanibel Island Lighthouse

Essentially all lighthouses attract photographers and casual observers alike, but not all are similarly photogenic. While it is hard to take a bad photo of the Portland Lighthouse, I found the Sanibel Island Lighthouse to be more challenging (especially with the weather conditions I was given). If you search for images of the Sanibel Island Lighthouse, you will primarily find the normal from-the-side, from-a-distance variation. While some of these images are great, I was looking for something different.
The skeletal, pyramidal iron structure of this lighthouse is somewhat unique, and that uniqueness captured my attention. One way to emphasize part of a subject is to make that part closer to the camera than what is to be de-emphasized. Using a wide angle focal length is one key to de-emphasizing more-distant subjects and that is the tactic I used for this image.
To get this perspective, I was flat on my back under the lighthouse. For the record, no, I wasn't napping (but it was a comfortable shooting position). It is of course not possible to get under most lighthouses, but the design of this one makes that position possible and that makes the image even more unique.
While this shooting location and position brought my state of mind into question from other observers (I received some light-hearted attention), the wide 15mm focal length and careful framing made this image happen.

15mm  f/11.0  1/80s  ISO 100
Great Egrets in Love Great Egrets in Love

Venice Rookery is a great place to find Great Egrets (and Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets and Anhingas) in love. The birds are very easily found and approached, but the challenge is getting remarkable images. Here, a male Great Egret presents nesting material to a female.

800mm  f/10.0  1/400s  ISO 160
Florida Brown Pelican on a Pier Florida Brown Pelican on a Pier

The piers on the east/bay side of Captiva Island are great places to find Brown Pelicans - and late in the day is the ideal time to photograph these very interesting birds hanging out there.
With a mostly-still bird and adequate time to capture the shot, I was able to handhold this 600mm-effective lens and extender combination at a shutter speed of 1/30 second.

600mm  f/11.0  1/30s  ISO 200
Roseate Spoonbill with Mouth Open Roseate Spoonbill with Mouth Open

I don't remember why this Roseate Spoonbill has its mouth open, but I'll always remember the unique shape of the bill. Focus tracking these feeding birds is a significant challenge. They are never still - and their heads swing back and forth constantly.
This image was captured at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on a day when the tide schedule aligned with sunrise.

800mm  f/8.0  1/400s  ISO 125
Share on Facebook! Share on X! Share on Pinterest! Email this page to a friend!
Can we stay in touch?Free Newsletter
Bryan Recommends
Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Terms of Use, Privacy  |  © 2024 Rectangular Media, LLC  |  Bryan CarnathanPowered by Christ!