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Roseate Spoonbill, Sarasota Florida - Greg Downing

"Since my first trip to Florida in the mid 1990's I have dreamed of a decent "spoonie" in flight shot but it has always eluded me. Thanks to favorable conditions during one of my workshops I was able to capture this one as the light was just getting good. Ironically I was fooling around with the 300 2.8 lens and my version II 2X teleconverter when this bird came flying in and I nearly cut off the wing tips!"

Equipment Used: Canon EOS Mark IV, 300 2.8 IS, 2X, 1/2000 @ f7.1, ISO 500.

From the Publisher:
I hope this letter finds you happy, healthy and enjoying Spring! The May issue is a little late this month as I have just recently returned from a month in Florida preceded by two weeks in Costa Rica where I conducted a series of successful and exciting workshops. Upon my return I found all the trees in Maryland to be fully leafed out and my yard alive with nesting and feeding birds - including my favorite resident bluebirds. This year I also have a pair of Baltimore Orioles who have been coming to my yard to pick up nesting material before flying back into the woods! It's good to be home but I am already getting antsy to get to Canada next month and photograph loons! If you wish to join me check it out on our NSN Certified Workshops page.
Florida 2011 I started my trip to Florida with a visit with my long-time friend and past workshop participant Ron Mayberry. Ron was the impetus behind my Rookeries by Boat workshop and I want to publicly thank him for all the effort he put forth to help me make these workshops a success. Ron and I spent a couple of days together and visited a number of off-shore rookeries in the area in order to scout the best activity for the upcoming workshop. We were treated to a variety of birds in high breeding plumage either building nests, sitting on eggs or brooding newborn chicks.

White Ibis in full breeding plumage. EOS Mark IV, 300/2.8 w/1.4TC, 1/2500th, f7.1, ISO 800.

This image demonstrates that side-lighting can enhance an image when handled properly. First, and most important, is still eye contact and light in the eye. As long as you have that you can work with the rest. Secondly is proper processing of the whites and reds and careful exposure. Here the light on top of the bird was stronger than the light coming from underneath. With a white bird one needs to be especially careful not to over-expose the whites on top and to bring out the underside whites in post processing. White birds when back-lit can reveal wonderful under-wing details as the light penetrates through.

We then headed to Vero Beach where we were to base the next 4 days conducting our workshop at Blue Cypress Lake for Osprey. Our first morning on the lake was mind-blowing as was each morning following. There were Osprey everywhere, many with young in nests and some at eye level. And the scenery on the lake was amazing. The entire west shore is lined with Cypress trees. These trees were topped off in the early 1900's and have grown back to look almost bonsai-like. The amazing thing about the lake is that every 100 feet or so you could see an Osprey nest - over 250 nests in all! The timing was perfect as most of the nests were occupied with either birds setting on eggs or with small young. Vero Beach,

Osprey with Fish. EOS Mark IV, 300/2.8, 1/1600th, f5.6, ISO 500.

During the workshop we were treated to bird after bird bringing in fish to their young. It was rare to find a bird with a full fish however as many were catching them in the shallows and bringing them back partially eaten. The morning light was fantastic!

We even took some time to capture dramatic landscape shots, especially when the clouds cooperated. During the afternoon I demonstrated some HDR techniques using NIK HDR Efex Pro software.

Cypress Trees and Clouds. EOS Mark IV, 24-105, ISO 400.

Blue Cypress Lake is amazing and, especially with some good cloud cover, you can capture dramatic landscape images! This image was a merge of two images taken in quick succession and then processed in HDR in order to capture detail in both the highlights and the shadow areas.

After we finished the Blue Cypress workshop we headed to Sarasota to start the Rookeries by Boat workshop. All 5 Osprey workshop attendees smartly elected to also attend the Rookeries workshops and were treated to a great variety of birds and opportunities during our 3 days together. We photographed the sought after Roseate Spoonbills coming in and out of their nests, Woodstorks, Great Egrets, Brown Pelicans and lots of other wading birds all nesting together in the safety of the islands. These birds nest out on the islands in order to protect themselves from nest predators such as foxes and raccoons and some islands can be packed with hundreds of birds practically on top of each other. The best opportunities were for flight shooting as they bring back nesting material and food for their young, but nest shots with chicks and parents, as well as fighting for space in the rookery were all captured as well.

Brown Pelican with nesting material. EOS Mark IV, 300/2.8, 1/1600th, f8, ISO 800.

Overall both the Osprey workshop and the Rookeries by Boat workshops were a huge success and we have already scheduled a repeat performance for next year!

Thanks again to Ron Mayberry and also Terry Frankford as well for the expert captain skills! And a big thanks for all those in attendance - it was a a great group and lots of fun and lots of learning!
Sign up for next year!

See details for West Coast Bird Rookeries By Boat »

See details for the Osprey By Boat Series »
Florida Testimonials:

"This is the 2nd NatureScapes Workshop that I have attended. Greg Downing is a great teacher & photographer. His trips are very informative & fun. The afternoon lectures are exceptionally good You definitely get your money's worth. I look forward to attending more of Greg's workshops in the future."

—Helen Jo P. - Florida

"I had a fabulous time.. both Florida workshops exceeded all my expectations I had imagined. I photographed more bird varieties in the one week with you than I have in my entire lifetime! Thanks for a great time and awesome learning experience!"

—Jim S. - Kentucky

"I did not know what to expect going into these workshops as I have not taken a workshop in over 20 years, but was pleasantly surprised at Greg's easy going, helpful yet unobtrusive and friendly manner. As a nature photography instructor, I would recommend his workshops to my students without reservation and hope to participate in future workshops myself."

—Richard G. - Georgia
St. Augustine,

9th Annual Florida's Birding and Photo Fest After my two workshops I attended the 9th Annual Florida's Birding and Photo Fest in St, Augustine. It was my 6th year there and the festival keeps getting bigger and better each year. This year NatureScapes was a sponsor of the event and not only did we have a great series of workshops but we also had a large booth chocked full of great gear near the registration desk. Attendees were treated to demonstrations of latest Gitzo Tripods, Wimberley Gear, ThinkTank bags and much more. Kari Post was on hand and worked extremely hard all weekend between the booth and co-leading field workshops. Be sure to read Kari's wrap up on the festival.
If there were not enough I also conducted a 3-day small group technical series after the festival at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm which was also a great success. I only had 3 participants and 2 others who decided to attend for just one day. All were treated to a series of programs on everything from flight photography to exposure and fill flash and we were able to walk out of the classroom and into the rookery to practice what I was teaching. It was a great 3 days and the participants walked away with some new skills!

I will also be offering a repeat of the technical series next year following the festival. Be sure to see the website for details and to register!

It is my pleasure to announce that Greg Basco is now a moderator in the NatureScapes Birds forum!

About Greg: Greg Basco is a resident Costa Rican professional photographer and environmentalist who enjoys a working relationship with Canon. He is a Nature's Best prizewinner, and his photos have been published by National Geographic and other magazines and have been used in many books, public exhibits, calendars, and other projects. Greg's latest work in progress is a coffee table book of artistic photos from the rainforest.

In addition to his own photography, Greg truly enjoys working with tour clients to help them improve their photography and capture great photos of their own in the challenging habitats of Costa Rica. Indeed, he liked it so much that a few years ago he founded Foto Verde Tours, Costa Rica's first and only travel company specializing in photographic tourism. Greg has been working for the past few years with NatureScapes co-founder Greg Downing to run hummingbird photography workshops in Costa Rica. Check out Greg's site at

Costa Rica 2012: Greg Basco and I have been working together in Costa Rica for years now and have done a number of highly sought after hummingbird workshops. Our personalities meld so well together that it shows through in how we teach each workshop as a team. Greg is likely the most knowledgeable and talented photographer I know in terms of Costa Rica birds, insects and wildlife. The two of us have perfected our hummingbird workshops and the "set ups" over the years to the point that we continue to sell out our annual March workshops well in advance each year. In fact we have already sold out March of 2012 until ONE space became available due to a cancellation. Please contact Erin Masters to sign up at

Greg and I are also proud to announce an all new workshop that comes as the result of a scouting trip we did this past March. We will be returning in July to photograph more hummingbirds but add in toucans, parrots and even macaws! This workshop is not to be missed and it is strictly limited to 6 participants and is less than two months away. Some spots are already sold and if you have already inquired about this workshop in the past you will be given first priority.

Workshop Dates: July 23-August 1, 2011 | Learn more »

Costa Rica Testimonials:

"This was a wonderful workshop not only were the leaders excellent but we could not have done without Jose. Everyone got along simpley great and that helped make this a great trip."

—Myer B. - Massachusetts

"I truly enjoyed the whole experience from start to finish. If all your workshops are as good as this one, you will definitely see me as a repeat customer."

—Richard H. - Canada

"The Hummingbird Workshop was a tremendous adventure with many wonderful opportunities for learning and photographing a multitude of beautiful birds of Costa Rica. Everything about the trip was of the highest quality. Thanks for this great opportunity. The leaders work well together, Greg and Greg and Jose were all WONDERFUL!"

—Elaine M. - Texas

"Even though I'm a birdwatcher and not a photographer, this was a great trip for me. I got to see a lot of beautiful birds (a total of 114 species, of which 85 were life birds), and most of them I got to see really well. I appreciated that all the workshop leaders - Greg Downing, Greg Basco, and our guide Jose Lopez - knew so much about birds and were always trying to help me find and identify them. It was a fantastic trip, and I'd go back to Costa Rica with you guys any time."

—Sharon K. - Wisconsin

"For me the workshop was simply outstanding. I thought it was extremely well organized and the pace/schedule was just right. The photo opportunities were even better than I had expected and the informal and friendly atmosphere created by the two instructors was very conducive to learning as well as exceedingly enjoyable. "

—Keith K. - Wisconsin
Tanzania Ultimate Safari - the trip of a lifetime!

This special Tanzania Africa safari was put together with great care for a workshop client who wanted "the trip of a lifetime" and it will be just that! This luxury safari is all inclusive and features luxury lodges or permanent tented camps throughout and at some of the most sought after locals in Tanzania. No roughing it will be taking place on this one...and older clients are encouraged to consider it as well as young photographers and even non photographer partners. We will spend 9 full days on the ground during the peak of the migration and wildebeest calving in the south and central Serengeti. As a photographic workshop each person will have their own row of seats in our modified land cruiser safari vehicles - the best in Tanzania! This affords participants 360 degree views and easy storage and access for all the necessary gear. I am looking forward to getting back to Tanzania and visiting the areas I fell in love with during my first visit almost 10 years ago. We hope you can join us! Learn more »

Other Workshop Dates:
Loons and More - Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada »

Openings remain for June - contact us for late registration discount!

PhotoTrap Workshops - Amado, Arizona »

Openings remain for June and September!

Coastal Brown Bears Adventure! - Lake Clark, Alaska »

ONE spot in August/September remains!

Puffins and More Adventure - St. Paul Island, Alaska »

Starting to fill up!

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