As a fundraiser for the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, on Sanibel, FL, Don and I led a birding and photography tour through the refuge yesterday. This was a special treat for all as the refuge is closed to the public on Fridays. Ding is one of the crown jewels of the National Wildlife Refuge system, has incredible opportunities for birding and photography and is a safe haven for the birds.
Participants were first treated to a yummy breakfast buffet in the beautiful refuge headquarters.
Then we headed out in to look for some of the fabulous birds Ding has to offer, such as this Reddish Egret.
Our trams were provided by Tarpon Bay Explorers, who offer their own excellent tours. My tram was for the photography participants. My challenge was to teach photography to participants who hand many different levels of skill and kinds of cameras, some of them DSLRs, some point-and-shoots. I was helping people learn about the tools of photography like exposure compensation, Aperture Priority, ISO, etc. I also took photos myself with my Canon SX 50 HS, which is the new point and shoot super-zoom that can reach 24-1200mm in the digital range and up to 4800mm in the optical range. All the photos here were taken with that camera.
Photographing white birds in bright light is tricky as it is easy to overexpose the photo. Participants learned about using exposure compensation settings on their camera which can help avoid this.
There were opportunities for flight photography. This Magnificent Frigatebird, 3rd-4th yr., soared overhead at a distance. I zoomed in on it and used the SX 50's "Sports Mode" to capture these photos.
This is hardly cropped, that's how close the zoom got.
Don led the tram and taught bird identification. We made frequent stops to look for birds and photo ops.
A Yellow-crowned Night Heron was hunting for crabs and fish in one of the ditches. Even though birds in Ding Darling are very used to humans and allow close approach (unlike most birds in other places), we cautiously approached this bird. The American Birding Association has an excellent written code of ethics to help birders and photographers know how to treat birds.
Since the camera I was using has a powerful telephoto lens, I was able to get eyeball shots, while staying a distance. A big benefit of telephoto lenses is that you can keep a good distance and not disturb a bird, yet photograph it. The Canon SX 50 HS is also lightweight at 1.31 pounds.
This bird hunted slowly then exploded into action, catching this unlucky crab!
At the tower pond, many shorebirds were resting on the sand bar. Willets, a common shorebird with black and white patterns on their wings, kept flying in. I like this photo where it looks like angel's wings. Drama in the midst of dullness.
White Pelicans are some of the stars at Ding. Many of these beautiful, big birds winter there then return to their western breeding areas. This one was preening. Photo shot at 195x. For more on the SX 50 HS go here. Have fun with photography and continue to learn more and experiment with your cameras.
We are thinking of all of you in New England, our home, please stay safe in the blizzard!!