Photography Workshop in floating blinds in Dombes in June 2016

For this second trip to Dombes in the year of 2016, the weather conditions were once again very erratic yet the participants were able to fully take advantage of the covered skies and rain to realize superb snapshots, quite saturated.

The participants in the  photography workshop dedicated to the floating blinds in La Dombes in France.
The participants in the photography workshop (from left to right) James, Gaston, Daniel, Josiane ,Annik, Francis and Amar.

A First-Time Experience in floating blinds for All Six Participants

None of the six participating photographers within this wildlife photography workshop had ever used a floating blind to realize photos. It was a memorable first.

The first day, after having circled around the various ponds and explained how to ease into the water while taking care of the photographic equipment, everyone left for their first three-hour session in search of the first ponds, Eurasian Coots and other Great Crested Grebes. Returning at nightfall, the feeling of satisfaction with the first successful snapshots set the tempo and ambience of the week that would follow.

Many photographers are afraid of using floating blinds as they are afraid of their cameras falling into the water. Many people are afraid of taking to the water in water proof chest overhauls, or waders, as well as not knowing how to return to the starting point. During our workshops, we give out every possible explanation to insure maximized personal security. If our directions are scrupulously followed then there are no issues that could possibly occur. It is an empowering photographic activity which allows one to live closely as possible among aquatic animals without ever bothering them. The hides permit the taking of exceptionally creative images that would be impossible to create otherwise.

This photography workshop once again confirmed what we believed: The floating blind is certainly the best method to capture animal habits that are otherwise impossible to realize on solid ground. The choice of point-of-view is certainly the most essential element in this technique.

Dombes: A Paradise for Wetland Birds

The region of the Dombes hosts numerous species of birds. Near 130 species nest and reproduce there regularly. 30 000 Birds migrate there regularly throughout the winter months.

The region of the Dombes is peppered by more than 1000 ponds. These ponds are of human origin. Their uniqueness is due to their slightly sloped bottoms that permit their waters to slowly and regularly trickle down towards the tributaries. These fish filled waters attract numerous species of birds. It is an important international zone for those migrating wetland birds.

During the months of May, June and July, it is possible to observe several emblematic species of the region: Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black – Necked Grebe, Red Crested Pochard, Whiskered Tern, Black – Crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Comoran, Eurasian Coot, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Common Kingfisher, Warbler, Western Marsh Harrier, Red Kite.

The Dombes does not solely attract birds. The Muskrats and the Nutrias are also mammals that we often come across on the ponds.

Dragonflies, green frogs and grass snakes are also part of the animal landscape.

The lights which flood the Dombes are exceptional. In the spring and beginning of summer, the early mornings are often bathed by warm and felted lights. What joy to observe the ducks or grebes moving themselves along the ponds in this magical setting.

Experienced Photographers in Search of Creativity

Even though the participants of this workshop had never used floating blinds, all were capable wildlife photographers. We had therefore chosen an educative learning curve based upon creativity.

After having gone over certain fundamentals of wildlife photography, we expanded on our take on the realization of heavy impact and message driven photography to the attention of our audience.

Certain participants whom had already participated in other workshops were very surprise by this theoretical and technical approach. They rapidly adapted to this approach thanks to the quality of their photos, their interest in the method and its ease of application while on the terrain.

The slideshow of several choice snapshots by the photographers will show you the quality of the image work.

Yet Again Strange Weather Conditions

For this second week of the workshop, the weather conditions were identical to those of the first week: Charged skies with clouds and rain. Yet once again, the interns measured the usefulness of the cloud cover so as to realize beautiful wildlife photography. The expositions are coherent and the colors saturated. There are never any bright illuminations. By applying the correct lighting techniques, it is possible to create very homogenous photos were the animals take on their true dimensions.

The blinds are designed to resist difficult climate conditions. Even when the rains are drenching, the photographers could stay protected in order to realize the images of birds whom remained totally paralyzed under the rain.

The exceptionally elevated water levels following the rains have seen certain species of Waders become rarer. However, the birds’ behavior has changed. We could witness fishing scenes where Heron’s took off from trees and gathered Carps from the ponds’ centers.

A Friendly & Relaxed Ambiance for Seven Days

This new workshop dedicated to floating blind based wildlife photography in Dombes was once again a very beautiful experience. It was based upon technical apprenticeship, the discovery of the region’s hidden treasures, good humor and group socializing.

The act of selecting hotels with private rooms and commodities for each participant adds a comfort that we judge as indispensable. The photo review sessions and daily technical exposes are assets which allow each photographer to broaden their photographic horizons in order for them to progress.

This manner of organizing photography workshops within small groups reinforces the idea that we are on the right path to take advantage of the greatest amount of knowledge and competence that we possess.

Some photos taken by the participants

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Testimonies of the Dombes Wildlife Photography Workshop – June 2016

Annik
Annik.

I am very happy with this wildlife photography workshop. I usually take photo trips. But this was a workshop where I learned a lot of technical things. Everything was good.

The week’s ambiance was very nice. All the other photographers whom I did not know were really friendly. The organization was top notch. We were never in the dark. Everything is synchronized, organized. Everything was clear. We never lost any time.

By coming to this workshop, I simply wanted to use the floating blind without really knowing what was behind it. I ended up on your workshop by chance. I have friends who went on a trip but it was fully booked. Via the internet, I ended up on your website. I listened to and read the comments by the participants. I looked at the pictures and I registered myself. Since I didn’t know anyone, I was a bit scared in the begging. But in the end everything went well.

This floating blind technique is awesome. I adore it. It’s an impression of total freedom. I can go where I want: I’m not stuck. I can compose my images how I want. The first time I was four meters away from a Grebe provided an incredible sensation. I didn’t bother him at all while he was taking a bath. By going slowly, we can very closely approach the animals. We observe them within their personal space. We can listen to their cries and their songs. It’s really super cool. The floating blind totally answers my expectations.

The Dombes is a very pretty region. I would like to come here on vacation with my family to do some biking. The ambience among the ponds is very particular.

During this workshop, I learned a lot from a technical standpoint whether it be concerning the camera or the landscape shots. The first day, after having listened to you, I told myself that I wasn’t going to change my habits. Then in the end, while experimenting I told myself that your tricks worked well. For the first time, I met someone who’d given me real advice. This structure manner of photography that you have please me. I am not someone who’s very organized when it comes to photography. I a bit more spontaneous in my snapshots.

Now, I can see the difference whenever I take a picture. In coming to this workshop, I was in a transitionary period. I was a bit unsatisfied with my images. They no longer brought me great satisfaction. I photographed animals. That was it. You taught me how to incorporate all the elements to produce photos that catch the eye. You helped me a lot on the technical and artistic side. I know better understand how to make beautiful pictures. I am really happy.

In fact, I’ll be coming back next year.

If I had to hold onto a photo for this week it would be impossible. On the other hand, I can talk about an image style that you made me discover. I like poetic photos about an animal within his natural habitat with a nice blur and a great lighting. I’m going to orient myself in that direction.

Josiane
Josiane.

I lived an incredible experience during this photography workshop in floating blinds. I was not expecting as much as there was. This is the first time that I reapply for an workshop before having finished.

In the floating blind, we are always at the birds’ eyes’ levels. The water backdrops are superb. We observe the animals’ lives. It is not photography. I was able to witness the tenderness the females expressed towards their chicks.

I discovered the Dombes, a region which I did not know. The act of being within the ponds has nothing to do with the pictures taken from an observatory from the shore. I now believe that I couldn’t do it anymore. For example, I had always scene Grebes chicks from far off and now I could do their portraits. It was, for me, incredible.

The workshops organization was, as always, exceptional. I knew what to expect. You were attentive to each of us. I really appreciate it.

On the technical side, I progressed in an extraordinary fashion. I learned about a lot of new adjustments on my camera. I learned how to better position myself to manage the different framings of a composition. Now I can say that I know how to compose an image of wildlife. Before I simply took only the subject. I work in an artistic fashion. I study my different plans in the most precise manner before framing. Now, there are photos I no longer do because I know that they aren’t interesting.

The act of being with other photographers for a week is very enriching from an inspirational aspect because the sharing of information is enormous. We shared a lot whether it be on the camera’s adjustment or the creation of images. When we look at the others’ photos during the image reviews, we take ideas of their composition to which we would have never thought of.

If I had to keep in mind a photo of this workshop, it would be without a doubt a Grebe’s chick. I had never been able to get so close to one. He is among the flowers and I find him magnificent.

James
James.

My impressions about this wildlife photography workshop are totally positive. I am by the way coming back next year. I just spent eight days in a countryside just how I like them.

I learned how to use a floating blind. It was new for me. Plus, I photographed some animals that I didn’t know. It was pretty frankly quite interesting.

When I’m in a floating blind, I really feel close to nature (You can’t get any closer). I hadn’t known that I could take such sensational photos. We are completely integrated within the surrounding nature. It’s an extraordinary experience because we’ve got water all the way to the torso.

I didn’t know the Dombes. I just discovered this region. In watching a panorama, I saw all these thousands of ponds and I was surprised. I knew nothing but Bresse chicken and that was it.

At the start, I was slightly afraid of being tired or devolving into all sorts of uncomfortable positions but that wasn’t the case in any way. When I was a little tired I’d go to a slightly shallower bottom and rest. Plus, we didn’t ever truly feel any heat. It was perfect.

Concerning the ambiance, it was excellent. I noticed that there were only good photographers. That’s not always the case in these kinds of groups.

I learned a lot during the technical exposes. I was immediately able to ably everything that you’d explained to me. The rhythm was like that for six days.

If I had to hold onto photo for this workshop, it would be difficult. But I’ll keep in mind that with the Heron dancing with a large Carp in his beak. I also have in my head another Heron whose neck is bent a bit like how the giraffes do.

Francis
Francis.

I am happy about having participated in this workshop. I knew a lot of emotions. I’m coming back next year.

I didn’t know the technique using floating blinds. It’s incredible but it permits for being at the heart of the action. We are surrounded by birds who don’t see us. We listen to them. It’s something fabulous. It’s indescribable for someone who’s never seen this before. I witness scenes of baby chicks feeding time. It’s emotional. I really inserted myself within the birds’ privacy.

I shot a lot of good photos this week. Those that touched me the most were when the adults fed their children whether it be Grebes or Coots.

I didn’t know the Dombes. It’s a fabulous region be it in its wealth in birds or its landscapes. I’m in the countryside. It’s a universe I can appreciate. I was happy here in the middle of all this nature.

I’m used to going on trips with groups reaching ten people tops. This time it was a bit more intimate as we were less numerous. I didn’t know anybody in this workshop. The ambiance was excellent. I’m glad that everything went very well. Everybody was really cool.

Your technical exposes and image reviews were a real plus for me. I learned a lot on my camera’s adjustments and on birds. For example, I’d never realized a tracking shot of birds’ flights. Now I know how to do it. I discovered my 500mm. I couldn’t imagine realizing such pictures with such a high zoom.

I’d add the fact that the image reviews are a real bonus because we can see what the other photographers realized. We can then copy them and inspire ourselves from their approach.

Gaston
Gaston.

My impressions on this workshop are very good. With you, Amar, I was expecting that it’d be top notch especially on the human and emotional elements. For me it’s an important aspect because we live as a group. I was expecting something nice and comfortable. I’m always searching for a little liveliness after days on the ground. This workshop really answered my expectations. Even the meals were excellent. You had everything well prepared and organized.

I came on this workshop to learn how to use floating blinds. For me it’s an ideal way to approach birds from very up close and to meet them in intimacy. I enjoyed it a lot because I caught onto some of their attitudes. They are always full of confidence with their children even when we aren’t far with the floating blind. We wouldn’t be able to get so up close in any other conditions. I’d already realized photos from the shore but it’s not at all the same type of atmosphere.

During this workshop, I felt myself symbiotic to nature. I was really touched. He answered all of my expectations. What was surprising and just like you’d said in the begging, you have got to be very patient. It’s just like being at the theatre. There’s the stage to our front and were waiting for the show.

The next two days were for me a true eye opener. I had the impression that the animals were accepting me into their universe. I had the impression of being part of the environment. It’s an incredible sensation. It took me a bit of time to understand that you had to be patient to be accepted by the animals and melt into the background. Once that you’ve understood, it’s magnificent.

I was rather surprised by the technical level of the photographers. The image reviews showed some beautiful takes. I learned quite a bit on the technical side during this workshop. I always worked in graphic design. It’s a world very close to that of photography. It was interesting to see our two universes come closer to one another with a different approach. That the workshop’s whole purpose.

If I had to preserve a memory from this workshop, it would be that of the Purple Heron I photographed yesterday afternoon. He was in the middle of catching a Carp. It was an incredible and magical act.

Daniel
Daniel.

I just spent a fantastic trip. I discovered the floating blind that I didn’t know of. The problem is that once you’ve discovered this technique, you don’t want to do anything else. Photographing aquatic animals from the shore from the top-down now longer present any interest. With the pictures shot from the floating blind we really show all three dimensions. From the shore, everything gets flattened.

Once again, your teaching method was exceptional. I’m not trying in any way to flatter you. I’ve got forty years in the photography business behind me and with you I’m still learning. You carry out courses in a manner where all of the concepts pass through alone and without difficulty. I’ve never seen that by the way. Don’t be bothered it’s just reality. I don’t know any coaches that work like you do. You are easy to talk to and especially very structured in order to demonstrate your suggestion. I’m trying within the heart of my club to use your remarks and your method and I’ve still got works to go.

During this week, I must have taken to kilos as we ate well. The workshop’s organization was very good. The ambiance was friendly. You feel yourself at home. It’s familial. I knew none other of the participants except Josiane who is my companion and by the hour, everyone knew each other. The appetizers’ and meals’ preparations are a way to get to better get to know one another. Just like if we were a band of friends.

I knew the Dombes in reputation only in terms of it’s great restaurants. It’s a marvelous corner as everything is serene. We are at the heart of nature. The little villages are quite and typical with plenty of charm.

When we walk in a pond with a floating blind we are in the heart of the water and of nature. It’s physical, it has to be said. It’s within everyone’s reach. I’m 73 years old and I didn’t have any problems. In a blind, you feel yourself like a hunter without a rifle. We’re hunting for the photographer’s prey. We can photograph scenes that would be otherwise impossible like the Heron who catches a Carp bigger than himself. We’re at the heart of the scene and the action.

If I had to keep in memory a photo, it’s that of the Purple Heron just barely visible among the grasses. For me it’s a snapshot approaching photography in a poetic manner.

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