Wildlife Photography Workshop with Floating Blinds: The Dombes in the May of 2016

This wildlife photography workshop was unique in more ways than one. All of the participants were friends whom were used to traveling with one another. They requested us to organize this photography workshop, tailor made for the usage and incorporation of floating blinds, just for themselves.

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): Geoffroy, André, Jean-Pierre, Michel, Guy, Philippe, and Amar.

6 Friends for an Exceptional Gathering in the Dombes

Two participants, André and Philippe, had already sojourned in 2015. It was these two who persuaded Guy, Jean – Pierre, Geoffroy and Michel to come over and meet us. We’d like to thank them once again for the trust they’ve placed in us. For 7 days, we’ve enjoyed a very pleasant and creative experience. The quality of the snapshots were exceptional.

All of the photographers were equipped with Nikon brand equipment. This is the first time such an event has occurred. We have nothing against brands which produce quality cameras and lenses, yet this rare circumstance deserved being mentioned.

The Dombes: A Paradise for Wetland Birds

The region of the Dombes plays host to numerous species of birds. Nearly 130 different species annually visit so as to both mate and nest. 30 000 individuals regularly spend the winter season in the area.

The region of the Dombes is covered by over 1000 ponds. These ponds are of human origin. They are both shallow and used for pisciculture. Their particularity are that their bottoms are lightly inclined so as to allow their waters to slowly and regularly flow into the emissary. These fish filled ponds attract numerous types of birds. It is a zone of national important for migratory birds of the tropics.

During the months of May, June and July, it is possible to observe a few species emblematic 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 exclusively 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.

Acquiring a Solid Technical Expertise and Developing Creativity

For this workshop, all of the photographers were of an advanced level. However, some of them are not well versed in wildlife photography and even less in the usage of a floating blind. We had therefore prepared an instructive progression adapted to the group. We devoted a large portion to photographic creativity while all the while revisiting certain fundamentals yet without staying stuck on the basics. The act of unveiling the numerous secrets that makes our photography so successful was a real plus in the eyes of the participants.

A Strange Weather for Exceptional Snapshots

This year of 2016 will remain within the memories for all photographers as the weather was tremendously varied. During the first week of the workshop we never saw the sun emerge from behind the cloud cover. It was the first time since we’ve been to the Dombes that we experience such rainfall. In the beginning, the participants were a little worried that we would not have enough light in order to accurately capture the birds while in midair flight. However, we explained to them that cloudy weather are more certainly the best of times for wildlife photography as the contrasts of light are less extreme. In addition it renders the colors all the more apparent and places the subjects into the proverbial spotlight.

Once again, all of the participants placed their trust in us and despite the atmospheric conditions that were at certain times terrible along with torrential rainfall, the images that were captured were of an exceptional quality. We believed that without these incredible conditions, the quality of the clichés would not have attained this level. The slideshow of the participants that we included in our report will serve as testimony to this fact.

A Friendly and Relaxed Ambience for 7 Days

For us, a photography workshop is made up of three elements: Technical education, the discovery of hidden treasures within a region and good humor and conviviality.

Yet again, the recipe worked. We have chosen two locations for bed and breakfast were each participant had access to their bedroom and its commodities. The afternoon, we went to lunch in one of the restaurants typical of the region. Each village of the Dombes possess at least one restaurant. We were apple to taste at least one regional specialty per day. Breakfast and dinner were taken care of at the locations we stayed at for the night. Each participant brought along a regional specialty. We did not have enough time throughout the week so as to eat everything.

Finally, it was a great week in a both friendly and amicable atmosphere.

Some photos taken by the participants

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Testimonies of the Dombes Wildlife Photography Workshop – May 2016

Philip
Philip.

This was my second workshop with you in the Dombes. Last year I was enchanted by the beauty of birds, the lights out on the ponds. I learned a great deal of photography related techniques on these magnificent ponds. This year, I took photos that were completely different from last year’s.

I just lived through a new experience. This year, I applied everything that you had explained to me last year. For example, I tried to transcribe the beauty of nature in the manner of décor, to give my images space to then introduce the birds as secondary elements. I worked a lot on the composition of the decors. I tried to better manage the colors. I really worked on the framing.

Concerning the ambiance, this year was a bit special because I brought along some friends who were also photographers with me following last year’s workshop’s success. I’ve known them for a long time. I traveled with them. The ambiance was therefore very friendly. We were sharing an experience. For me it was a real pleasure to have them discover the region of the Dombes and photography through the use of a floating blind.

I greatly appreciated your kindness and friendliness. I thank you for the technical exhibitions as I once again learned a quite a few things.

If I had to preserve by memory a photo of this week it would be that made a few days ago by a beautiful morning despite the clouds and slight amounts of rain. To my left there were these sort of pink colored rings. All of a sudden I saw the head of heron that was emerging from the flowers. I realized the portrait of the bird. It was truly a beautiful photo filled with emotion.

This workshop is once again a beautiful experience in a French region not too far off from home. There’s no need to go off far away so as to realize beautiful images.

Andrew
Andrew.

No need to go to the other side of the Earth so as to experience culture shock and make exceptional shots.

The Dombes is a particular area with its 800 ponds, its little villages, its very good rural restaurants, plenty of wildlife, numerous birds. It’s really worth the act of coming here, in particular for photography. I love it.

Contrary to what we could think, we benefited from the cloudy weather, prone to rain and storms. The light being disseminated allowed for some beautiful view takes. And the rain ruined nothing, to the contrary.

The floating blind permits one to approach the birds from very up close and the light reflected by the water is unique, very exceptional.

One afternoon, in the pond, on my floating blind, all of a sudden an enormous thunderstorm, torrents of rainfall. At 30 meters, a grey heron, soaked, waiting for the downpour to pass.

I was able to slowly approach it until reaching the minimal distance need for lens focus and took a series of pictures under this unrelenting rain. Incredible memories!!

I want to thank Amar for his friendliness, his implication, his availability and his knack for teaching. He made us all progress.

The workshop participants of whom many return from one year to the next form a band of friends, happy to meet each other again and experience an enjoyable week together.

By the way, I’ll return next year, with other regulars, and for the fifth time…

So a really good atmosphere. And with each having brought a few specialties from their region, good drink and good chow…

In general, yet another excellent workshop. Thank you Amar and thank you to my photographer friends.

Until next time.

Michel
Michael.

I really enjoyed this wildlife photography workshop. It was my first time. I’ll come back next year. I really appreciated the technical instruction whether it be on the handling of backgrounds or the calibration of the camera’s enclosure. I am very satisfied.

By coming to this workshop, my goal was to realize photos from my floating blind. I had never done any. I’d do it again. The conditions for image captures are exceptional. We’re always at the birds’ eye level, in water. There is no better alternative to choose a good point of view.

This wildlife photography workshop will have taught me to pay closer attention to the décor and especially the framing. I am a sports photographer. I am more geared towards athletes. Now I’ll pay closer attention to what you call spatial awareness.

I had already come to the Dombes but for the avian park. This time, I was able to appreciate the region in greater depth. I hold nothing but pros coming out of this experience. I don’t know what else to say. I wasn’t cold in the water. It was really great.

The photo expositions and revues were very good. Plus I was with friends. I have no complaints. We experienced a great atmosphere.

If I had to hold onto a photo in memory only for the week it would be a grebe with a fish in its beak and its perfect reflection on the water’s surface. It may not be the most beautiful of the week but it’s the one that struck me the most.

Guy
Guy.

This wildlife photography workshop was a revelation for me. First and foremost photographic in nature as I was not expecting to discover this world of animals of which I had no knowledge. I encountered wildlife at a new level. I waddled in water like a duck. There was a host of subjects to photograph in motion in their natural habitat. And the whole backed by technical and photographic support on your part which is exceptional.

In coming on this workshop, I had no particular expectations. I enjoy going with the flow. I don’t enjoy predicting what is going to happen. I really enjoy the unknown. I thought I’d be meeting photographers far more technically adept than myself: That was the case. I wanted to learn. And I learned a great deal whether it was among the friends I was accompanying and especially from you. You have a real artistic and technical dimension. You communicated to me many lessons. I extracted much education from it. It’s very positive.

Shooting from a floating blind is a crazy experience. We are always at the birds’ level. I’m pretty tall because I measure more than 1.81 meters. When I look at a pond from the bank, everything is always in a diver’s point of view. With a floating blind, we’re at the water’s surface level. We really have a duck’s viewpoint, a grebe’s. We truly are in the animals’ we’re photographing’s place. I get the impression that I’m dissolving into the earth and into the water. I wanted to be even smaller so that I could slip into the reeds. It was absolutely extraordinary. It’s a true discovery. We really get into the ecology through this bias. It’s incredible to observe these familial scenes, these predators.

I came with friends who are people I like. It was fabulous. There is a lot of simplicity, of complexity, of laughs, of provocation. There is no setup. Everything is natural. We shared nothing but good times.

This workshop was intense. The organization was good. I have nothing to repeat. I brought a book; I didn’t turn a single page. I didn’t listen to any music. I was completely immersed in the photography, in the group. Time flew by very quickly. It was very well organized.

If I had to preserve one photo of the week it would be that from last night. For 5 days I heard talk of purple herons but was unable to capture one on camera. Yesterday, I saw one on the lookout. He had flattened himself to the limit in order to dive and brought back within his beak a perch that must have a kilogram. It was huge. He shock himself and then flew towards the reeds to savor his catch. It really is incredible.

Geoffroy
Geoffroy.

My impressions on this photography workshop are very positive. I really appreciated the area. I really appreciated your didactic character when it came to teaching your techniques, for your accompaniment.

Taking photographs from a floating blind permits one to relate with the birds directly at their eye level. It allows being in the middle of the fauna and the flora, truly in the middle of nature. We cannot realize these types of photos from a bank. The floating blind makes it possible to carry out silent approaches, softly towards the animals. It’s an enjoyable sensation.

I did not know the Dombes. It’s an extraordinary region whether it be for its avian fauna, its ponds. It’s magnificent.

I did not think that this photographic technique made it possible to approach the animals so closely. We do not bother the birds. It’s a noninvasive technique.

To describe what I experienced, here is the photo that I will remember for long after. It’s a parade of common pochards. The duck hen has displayed an extraordinary aquatic show. She had ash freckled beige plumage. She lifts her wings towards the sky in finally upon a pond covered in a light fog. It was an extraordinary moment.

I came on this photo workshop with friends. The ambience was very good. It was very friendly between the exposes and revues of photos. But it’s also very intense and very challenging because we invest ourselves a lot in the photos. When we are in a pong, we try to melt into the middle. We try to find the best setting to capture the best image. There is also the learning experience which is a little difficult for a first workshop. You have to come back.

I appreciated the organization of the workshop as we live as a community. We are isolated from the world. We talk only of the ponds in which we are 7 or 8 hours per day.

Peter
Peter.

I am very satisfied with this photography workshop in Dombes. I made photos in the middle of nature as closest I could to the birds. It’s really an experience very interesting to live through.

What surprised me when we’re in a stand, we hear nothing but the sounds of nature like the clapping of the water, the singing of the birds, the sound of the wind. We play witness to scenes of feeding, fights and the like at only a few meters. It was truly exceptional to live.

I am always interested to learn new techniques, new methods and to take the know – how of other photographers. This week I learned many new techniques that will be useful for my next images. For example this week, I learned to use the AF – ON button on my camera’s enclosure. It’s a technique I had heard of but had never put into practice.

The atmosphere in the group was excellent. I like finding myself with people who share in the same passion as me. This environment of photographers is truly inspiring. It was a real pleasure.

The photography workshop was very well organized. We had a one photography session in the morning and in the afternoon. There are the technical exposes and the photo revues. Everything was covered.

If I had to conserve into memory one photo, it would be that of a grebe carrying his chick on his back. He passed by 3 or 4 meters from my lens. It was really close. I experienced this moment in an intense manner. I wasn’t aware that birds could carry their young in this manner on their back. It was a grand moment.

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