Photography Workshop in floating blinds in Dombes in June 2017
For this new season of training in floating blinds in the Dombes, we acquired new floating blinds, new lodges and new ponds. This first workshop was a complete success despite a weather a little bit capricious.
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 La 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.
The Floating Blind: an Unforgettable Experience for an Animal Photographer
The use of a floating blind always leaves an indelible trace in the memory of an animal photographer. It's a unique way to observe and photograph the animal world. This is the only way to photograph birds at the water's edge without disturbing them. The approach is an incredible way to go a few meters from a bird. We can spend hours in front of a heron ash to observe.
Our courses in floating blinds in the Dombes always obey the same ritual.
On the first day, after going around the various ponds and explaining how to launch the boat, taking care of the photo equipment, each photographer leaves for a first session of 3 hours in search of the first ponds, coots and others Great Crested Grebe. Returning at dusk, the satisfaction of the first shots successful gives the tempo of the atmosphere of the week that follows.
The floating blind scares many photographers who are afraid of dropping the camera into the water. Many people are afraid of taking water in the waders or not knowing how to get back to the starting point. During our courses, we give all the explanations to ensure maximum security. If the advice is scrupulously followed, no problem can happen. It is a safe photographic activity that allows you to live closer to aquatic animals without ever disturbing them. It allows you to create exceptional creative photos that would be impossible to create otherwise.
The floating blind is certainly the best way to freeze animal behavior that is impossible to achieve from the mainland. The choice of point of view is certainly the most essential element in this technique.
Acquire Solid Technical Expertise and Develop Creativity
During our workshops, we have either confirmed photographers with a very good photographic level. Either we have novice photographers who are not familiar with wildlife photography, let alone the technique of the floating blind. We always plan educational progressions adapted to the group. We always focus on photographic creativity while returning to certain fundamentals without dropping on the basics. The fact of revealing many secrets that make the success of our photographs is a real plus for the participants.
A Friendly & Relaxed Ambiance for Seven Days
For us, a photo workshop is made up of three elements: technical learning, discovering the hidden treasures of a region and good humor and conviviality.
The recipe still works We rent two large cottages so that each participant has his room and its amenities. At noon we will eat at a typical restaurant in the area. Each village of Dombes has at least one restaurant. We can taste a regional specialty daily. Breakfast and evening meals are provided at the cottages. Each participant brings a regional specialty. In general, the week is not enough to consume everything. But that ensures the good atmosphere. The ice is still broken very quickly.
Finally, our wildlife photography courses in floating blinds are big photo weeks in a friendly atmosphere.
Testimonials From the Participants in the Wildlife Photography Workshop in La Dombes - June 10th, 2017
My general impressions of this course in floating blinds in Dombes are excellent. I observed many birds. I photographed them quite easily. I was able to approach them very closely.
By participating in this workshop, I wanted above all to improve my techniques of shooting birds. Already I wanted to learn to use a floating blind to be at the height of animals. I also wanted to have better bokeh’s. I did not control the light measurements at all to correctly expose the plumages. Now I understand how to do and I realize better shots. I also wanted to easily track birds in flight with clear shots during my gusts. Now I know how to do it. These are technical elements around which I juggled constantly without knowing how to really do. Before this workshop, I was so busy with these technical settings that I forgot the shot. With your advice, I now master my case. I do not ask myself any more questions. Moreover, I know how to adapt to all situations. The case has become an accessory. I focus more on shooting to compose well and fit well.
This is the first time I use floating carts to take photos. The interest is that I can choose my points of view according to the decorations and the light. With a fixed blind, it's very frustrating because when I'm in place, I can not move. The floating blind provides complete freedom to create the photos I want.
I did not know the region of Dombes. It is a beautiful region with beautiful lights and beautiful surroundings. It's really good.
Regarding the organization of the workshop, everything is well balanced. The food is excellent. Everything is well balanced between the photo sessions, the nap, the technical presentations.
Your technical presentations were a real plus for me. Whether it's for shooting or post-processing, I've made a lot of progress. You answered many questions that I asked myself. I had not been able to find the answers alone.
The atmosphere during the week was very good. The level of the photographers was very high. I was pushed to excellence all week.
Choosing a good time of the week would be difficult. But I still have one. Yesterday morning, I was on a pond with a lot of fog. I was alone. It was very calm. I did not think about anything. I was good.
This is my second workshop with you in La Dombes. What has been very different this year is the morning mists. I looked forward to them. We were spoiled.
Also, this year, we saw new birds. Last year the waders were absent. This year, I photographed a lot.
For me the mists of the morning evoke the mystery. A bird wrapped in mist is very evocative for me.
But this year we had less water. Fortunately, you had bought the new floating blinds. They are much lighter and more manageable. They allowed us to move better in the ponds with little water. They are more beautiful and more aesthetic. Moreover, as they are lower, I could make better photos. We see the result on the computer. Bokehs are much better.
I found that I improved again compared to last year. I am more creative in my shots. I came with a new box that is much better. This year, I was able to practice the burst. In the same way my exhibitions are much better notably in the highlights.
Regarding the atmosphere during the week, it was very good. The level of the photographers was very high. I was inspired by the photographic approach of the other participants. Everyone has his style and we can draw new ideas from others. It's enriching. We help each other.
I am very satisfied with this week's organization. Last year had already been very good. That's why I came back. I think I will come back next year because it is a unique way to photograph birds. The conditions are fantastic.
If I had to keep a good time of this, it would be a morning with beautiful reflections with the landscapes and feathers on the surface of the water. But there have been so many good times that it's hard to choose.
This photo shoot in Dombes was a complete immersion. I totally forgot about my work and my daily life. I rediscovered a fabulous region with a biodiversity that I do not know anywhere else in France. The atmosphere is so great that with Nathalie we dread the departure.
I participated in this course in floating carts because it was the technique that interested me the most to photograph the birds. I was able to observe the birds without disturbing them while being as much as possible. I could observe unthinkable scenes. For example, during a morning with mist I was surrounded by 18 night herons. I did not scare them. If we use the floating blinds as you've taught us, we can go very close without disturbing anyone. We are very respectful of the environment. I had the impression never to disturb the birds even if sometimes interferes in their behavior. But it's very sweet. Which brings sometimes amusing attitudes. But we never bother. For example, we do not approach nests.
The floating look makes it easy to change your point of view to choose the right setting and the lights for the staging. The landscapes of the Dombes is a beautiful region. My only regret is that because the ponds are used for fish farming, there is such a quantity of fish in the water that the big waders have only to use. I have only seen a few pairs of frightening frogs when there should be dozens. The drought this year is not to improve the situation.
Regarding the organization everything was very good. The cottages are prodigious. I did not know that these kinds of houses existed. Your workshop has been remarkably well organized. And this is not sycophancy. You are very attentive. This is fun. Each participant is open. We all share the same values and passions. It's very nice. Your theoretical presentations are very original and very well done. I put my head in order.
The atmosphere was excellent. Everyone helped me a lot. The sharing of all information is excellent. The photographic level of the other participants was bluffing. I'm taking care of a photo club. But here the level is much higher. It's incredible. With Nathalie, we do at least 6 photo exhibitions a year. All the pictures I saw this week could be in these shows. But all in a rather surprising modesty.
If I had to keep a moment of this week, it would be the first morning on a pond with all these birds that surrounded me: egrets, a coupling of crested grebes. All in a calm atmosphere without disturbing anyone. It was an incomparable experience.
I came as a companion and wife of Jean-François. I am naturalist. La Dombes was a real discovery for me. I was pleasantly surprised by the landscapes. While accompanying Jean-François on the ponds, I could observe many birds just while waiting on the banks. As I was on vacation, I took my time to observe. In the Dombes around the ponds, there is very little human noise. We can soak up the atmosphere and the calm that reigns everywhere. The weather was excellent with warmth and beautiful mists. I had a little lost the habit of these atmospheres.
I took advantage of this week of vacation to get back to the drawing by making sketches. It allows me to better understand nature. This morning, for example, I observed a small grebe that was nesting again. It's really very nice.
Regarding the organization of the workshop, you left nothing to chance. For example, Jean-François had forgotten his pendulum joint and some equipment. You have found solutions. You had a plan B. Even for the ponds you always found solutions for those who had fewer birds. As a vacationer, I took full advantage. There is a pool which I enjoyed. In the park around the lodgings, we have been able to observe Eurasian eagle-owl. The cottages you have chosen are really hospitable to nature lovers. I never got bored either on the ponds or in the accommodation. I was surprised by the number of night herons.
The restaurants where we went for lunch are excellent. I targeted Peyrouge. The living environment in the area is very beautiful. People know how to take advantage of what they have. I want to come back because the rural aspect I like. I really disconnected from everyday life. The group was great. I never felt excluded because I was not a photographer. The atmosphere was excellent. There is a good mood with adventures. I appreciated having no expectations and being surprised by everything around us. It was great.
My impressions on this wildlife photography workshop are good. I was pleasantly surprised by the lights and scenery of the area. I had already experienced some quite short experiences in floating blinds in other regions especially in the Camargue and Brenne. But this workshop in La Dombes was a shock because of the lights and moods and the variety of birds. I was deeply impressed.
The floating blinds makes it possible to stand at the height of the birds at the water's edge and to choose perfectly the points of view to highlight it. We choose our perspectives. I was able to choose the lights, the environments. I can be in an active creation process when shooting. This is the strength of this technique.
What surprised me in La Dombes is the variety of birds but especially that in some ponds the density is important while on others it is less. You never know what you will find. But during that I learned something essential. It is not so much the quantitative criterion that is important but the qualitative criterion. For example, this morning, I saw that I could spend more than 2 hours photographing a given species. On a given bird, one can vary to infinity the shots with perspectives, points of view or by choosing the lights. It's not worth chasing after all the species.
Before this workshop, I did not formalize the fact that I like to give an artistic side to my shots. Now I have a formalism and a frame to create my photos. I understand that a good photo is the meeting between an environment, a light and an animal. In animal photography, I am very interested in behavior, attitudes and action. From now on, I will know how to highlight them. To magnify them is the foot.
I really appreciated your technical presentations. Unlike the other courses I attended, you push a lot of questions to make photos. You push us into our entrenchments. You push us to ask questions to create our photos. You force us to surpass ourselves. You force us to be creative. With your theoretical approach and your formalization, you give us the tools to refine our photographic eyes.
Regarding the organization, I found that everything was fine. It was a little tiring because you had to get up early to get the nice lights. But we have nothing without anything. The highlight of your workshop is the diversity of the ponds. The lights can change. Every pond is different. We can make photos completely different from one day to another. It is a permanent renewal.
The cottages are excellent and pleasant. The atmosphere during the week was very friendly. But your workshop can bring together different photographers and very strong. This drives humility when seeing the work of others.
If I had to remember a moment of this workshop it would be difficult. Indeed, there may be moments of sharing in the group, but it can also be on a new pond. We are always in uncertainty. It's a little scary but it allows you to always question yourself. Finally, what I will remember from this course is that we must always adapt to the conditions to get the best for a good photo.
I am delighted with this animal photography course in La Dombes. This is my second workshop with you. The first was devoted to the deer slab. This time again it was great. All my expectations have been met. But I did not take great risks because I knew you.
By participating in this workshop, I wanted to have special opportunities for birds. In addition, I do a lot of animal photography but often now I saturate because I do a lot of naturalistic photos. I wanted to be more creative and more artistic in my approach. I wanted to regain dynamism. This week with the approach of the animal digital stream, I found a real plus to improve my photos.
The floating blind was for me a discovery. Your carts are fantastic. We are at the water's edge. The carts are very manageable, light, easy to use. As they are inflated we have a great flexibility of use. It's pretty funny to wander in ponds.
The morning moods with the mist are extraordinary. I know the basin of Archon well but to be in it is incredible.
I was surprised by the variety and diversity of birds. The lack of water this year has seen many waders. I did not know the Dombes. I recognize that it's beautiful.
Regarding the organization of the course everything was good. I know you. I know you always choose beautiful places and you go out of your way for trainees. This week did not depart from your principles. The cottages are really nice and friendly. We can live easily in groups. The restaurants are excellent.
The atmosphere in the group was excellent. The photo level was very high. I appreciated that Jean-François and Nathalie are naturalists and ornithologists. Really a good atmosphere. All the photographers were open, very creative and very inspiring.
If I had to keep a good moment of this workshop, it would be the moment when I observed a couple of grebes that were resting. I did not take pictures. They were ten meters away from me. It is a great moment of calm and serenity. It was happiness.
Some pictures taken by the students
To play the video, just click the "Play" button.