Photographing wetland animals from a floating blind

Using a floating blind allows us to take very creative, unique photos. It enables us to get very close to all kinds of animals that live in the wetlands, from birds and mammals to insects. But a floating blind is more than a mere accessory. It allows us to take unique, creative photos and capture moods that cannot be found on land. Photography from a floating blind is its own field.

The floating blind allows us to make photographs in accordance with our artistic approach. Over the years we have developed a real photo project based on wetland birds in "Lights and colors" and "Shades of blacks and whites".

A photographer in a floating blind on a pond in La Dombes in France.
A photographer in a floating bling on a pond in La Dombes in France.

A tent mounted on an inflatable structure

A floating blind has two parts: a floating support made of an inflatable structure and a tent held up by poles. There is a door in the back of the blind so that the photographer can enter it, and an opening in the front for the lens.

On top of the polystyrene support, there is a board with a screw on it for the ball that supports the camera and lens.

The photographer pushes the floating blind as he walks around in the swamp. The only real enemy of this little house on the water is the wind. If it blows into the blind, the blind may fly away. When the wind blows hard, it is almost impossible to push against it and move forward.

However, the blind has two great benefits. First, it allows us to get very close to aquatic animals. Second, it provides a unique point of view.

Getting closer to aquatic animals

A floating blind can be used to take pictures of aquatic animals from a short distance. It is not rare to be 30 yards from a bird or mammal without any cover at all.

Animals tolerate the presence of a floating blind well, and the thick canvas tent muffles the noise emitted by the camera. However, when a photographer approaches his subject, he still has to be completely calm and silent. He should not make waves in the water or move the blind suddenly.

Some birds, such as purple herons, need more space than others. If a photographer gets too close, they immediately fly away. We always watch the animals to make sure that they are comfortable with where we are. If they start acting nervous, we stop moving. If we are too far away to take a photo, we wait a few minutes for the animals to get used to our presence. Once they are behaving normally again, we move forward.

A purple heron photographed from a floating blind.
A purple heron photographed from a floating blind.

Taking pictures from a unique angle

A floating blind enables us to take photos from a unique viewpoint. When photographing a marsh or wetland from a bank, there is always a slight "diving" effect in the photo. The subjects are always photographed from a slight angle.

In a floating blind, the photographer is always flush with the water. This gives the impression that the subjects are very close to the photographer. Very often, the pictures are taken when the subject is at the photographer’s eye level.

The pictures have more impact because the optical axes are always straight and pointed to the subjects.

A unique morning atmosphere captured from a floating blind
A unique morning atmosphere captured from a floating blind.

We always respect the animals

When we use a floating blind to observe and photograph aquatic animals in their natural environment, we always respect some important rules.

When we observe a bird sitting on a nest, we always remain at a good distance. If the bird gets up to leave the nest when we approach, we stop and gently move back.

We never get out of the floating blind when we are on a pond. Once, because of a strong wind, we had to get out of the tent. We had barely put our heads out when all the birds on the pond flew away. That day, we realized that the birds perceived us as a real danger. Since then, we have never gotten out of a floating blind while in the water for any reason.

We never chase or disturb animals, especially when adults have their young with them.

The day we flooded our waders

"Practice makes perfect." This adage can easily be adapted to using a floating blind: it is by practicing that a photographer learns the limits of the blind.

We have both flooded our waders to the armpits. In both cases, common sense warned us that we were going too far and that we would sink too deep, but each time we thought that we could find an unlikely way to go further.

Each time we sank too far and our waders filled with water up to the armpits. It is a very unpleasant feeling. The worst part is that it takes a long time to get back to the bank afterwards. Now that we know what it feels like to flood our waders, we always keep at least 8 inches between the water and the armpits of the waders.

A great crested grebe with a chick on its back. Photograph taken from a floating blind.
A great crested grebe with a chick on its back. Photograph taken from a floating blind.

An indispensable tool for capturing the wonders of nature

A floating blind is an indispensable tool for a wildlife photographer who wants to take creative photos of aquatic animals. Learning to handle one only requires minimal training. Every year, we spend two or three weeks taking photos on a level with the water. By practicing and learning about specific regions, we have gained technical mastery of an area of photography which enables us to capture a sublimely beautiful aspect of nature.

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Article published on Saturday, October 10, 2015 . Written by
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