Why and How: Photographing Using a Floating Blind to Take Unique Pictures
UUsing a floating blind allows you to take creative and unique photos.
It enables you to get remarkably 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 my artistic approach. Over the years we have developed a real photo project based on wetland birds.
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A Tent Mounted on An Inflatable Device
A floating blind has two parts: an inflatable floating support 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 inflatable 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:
- It allows us to get awfully close to aquatic animals.
- 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. I always watch the animals to make sure that they are comfortable with where I am. If they start acting nervous, I stop moving. If I am too far away to take a photo, I wait a few minutes for the animals to get used to my presence. Once they are behaving normally again, I move forward.
Taking Pictures from a Unique Angle
A floating blind enables me 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.
I Always Respect the Animals
When I use a floating blind to observe and photograph aquatic animals in their natural environment, I always respect some important rules.
When I observe a bird sitting on a nest, I always remain at a good distance. If the bird gets up to leave the nest when I approach, I stop and gently move back.
I never get out of the floating blind when I am on a pond. Once, because of a strong wind, I had to get out of the tent. I had barely put our heads out when all the birds on the pond flew away. That day, I realized that the birds perceived us as a real danger. Since then, I have never gotten out of a floating blind while in the water for any reason.
I never chase or disturb animals, especially when adults have their young with them.
The Day I Flooded My 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.
I have flooded our waders to the armpits. Common sense warned me that I was going too far and that I would sink too deep, but each time I thought that I could find an unlikely way to go further.
I sank too far, and my 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 I know what it feels like to flood my waders, I always keep at least 8 inches between the water and the armpits of the waders.
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, I spend several weeks taking photos on a level with the water. By practicing and learning about specific regions, I have gained technical mastery of an area of photography which enables us to capture a sublimely beautiful aspect of nature.
Some Photos Taken from a Floating Blind in la Dombes in France
Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the image.