June 2017. Wildlife Photography Project Using floating blinds Dedicated to the Birds of La Dombes
In May 2017, for four weeks, we photographed the birds on the ponds of La Dombes in France. We have used new floating blinds that are lighter, more maneuverable and easier to set up. In a future blog, we will revisit their use.
Every year since 2012, we carry out a photo project in this region. This way we can now make more artistic and creative photographs that will help us to create collections of fine art photographs. As wildlife professional photographers, we have understood for a very long time that it is not the quantity of photos but the quality of the work that makes up a good photographer. No matter how many projects we process, the important thing for us is to produce works that express our photographic vision.
La Dombes is a damp region located in the department of Ain in France. It is about thirty kilometers north of the city of Lyon. It is a flat area where there are over one thousand ponds. They are mainly used for raising fish. Farmers raise carps, northern pikes, and common ruds, which are then resold for breeding or for human consumption.
These very shallow ponds attract many birds such as wading birds, waders, passerines or diving birds. These migratory birds generally spend the summer in La Dombes breeding and enjoying the abundant food (fish and frogs) in the ponds. Not all birds are migratory and some spend the entire year in this area. This annual four-week appointment is important for us because it is the only time we can use floating blinds. Indeed, all the ponds of La Dombes apart from two or three are private. We rent several ponds to fish farmers in order to possess the right to put our hides on the ponds. It is a rare privilege that we are given. We must follow very strict rules so as not to disturb the birds or approach the nests. These are not constraints for us because our photographic approach is devoted to both artistry and environmental concerns. We are obliged to always emphasize the decors before attaching to the birds. So, going to photograph a bird in a nest is not a subject we will linger on. We do not have a naturalistic photographic approach.
The floating blind as we described in this blog allows us to photograph at the water level and to approach the birds without scaring them. We do not make noise and our progress is always very slow. The word “hide” is not at all overused. Indeed, most of the time, we do not move and we wait for the birds in the scenes that we have chosen. The wait can take hours. But in most cases, it is successful. In wildlife photography, patience is the main quality of the photographer. The floating blind, unlike the blind in the woods, allows us to choose incomparable points of view. We can choose our settings, the orientation of the light in the scene, and at what height to photograph the eyes of the animals. This enables us to create the deepest impact on our viewers, portraying the animals' unique expressions and attitudes.
This year in La Dombes was very special. Temperatures have been very high, sometimes reaching 37 or 38 degrees Celsius (near 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit). The level of the ponds dropped by one centimeter per day when it was very hot. When it was very hot during the day, the birds did not remain on the banks of the ponds. They often chose to take shelter in shady areas below the tall trees bordering the ponds. The advantage of these days when the sun is shining is that we can have much faster speeds of 1/3000th to 1/4000th seconds to freeze take-offs, flights, or landings of the birds. We even photographed at 1 / 8000th of a second. These are very fast speeds for the regions of France.
But we also had rainy days. During these times the birds stayed longer on the ponds but the lighting conditions were less favorable. Moreover, it becomes difficult to have fast speeds to freeze the movement of the animals.
We experienced wonderfully misty mornings. We made very good photos in these mysterious atmospheres, ultimately deciding to devote a whole collection to this theme. We will always remember this morning which began with a little fog that continued to thicken until visibility was only a few meters. We were clueless as to what direction we should go. The wait lasted a little more than an hour before the sun began warming the ambient air, caused the fog to disappear. Despite this challenge, we had an extraordinary experience. We felt unusual emotions while we were in the middle of a pond.
As we often say, photography is always a game of compromise. There are never ideal situations. It is necessary to adapt constantly to the natural conditions to discover the best photographs possible.
2017 was marked by the substantial number of wading birds and, for the first time, many chicks of northern lapwings. For us, it was extraordinary news. We spent hours in a few centimeters of water and mud waiting for the birds to come out from the reed beds. Adults are very protective and very suspicious when protecting their offspring. We learned this at our own expense. When we were near their place of residence, the adults screamed loudly and the chicks ran to the protective reed beds. Sometimes we had to wait an hour before the chicks came out again. It took us more than three days before making some interesting photos. We wanted to use the creative technique of the sparkling bokeh and of iridescence to highlight the juvenile northern lapwings. Choosing the point of view was a prerequisite. Then we had to wait for the chicks to come out. Fortunately, our patience was successful with the creation of very beautiful shots.
The second pleasant surprise of this year was the presence of many Eurasian spoonbills. In this part of the world, it was a first time for us to sight them. We observed and photographed both adults and juveniles, especially feedings. It was a little tense to observe the young spoonbill putting his beak into the adult's throat to feed. It is impressive. We also focused our photographic work on their flights, as the spoonbills have unique flight characteristics that are very aesthetic.
Surprisingly, we saw many black-crowned night heron. In previous years of good fortune, we might be able to observe or photograph only one or two birds of this species. However, this year, dozens came to look for food on the banks of the ponds. We created some very interesting photos of their extraordinary attitudes and beautiful postures.
Finally, this project of wildlife photography of June 2017 has been a very beneficial one because we have produced several interesting series that will feed our different collections of fine art photographs whether in the them "lights and colors" or in the theme of "shades of blacks and whites".
All these photographs come directly from the cameras. Post processing and framing were done with the tools of the cameras. These photos will be developed more finely to feed the collections of art photographs.