Wildlife Photography Workshop In The Danube Delta - Romania, The 26th Of May, 2018

Five photographers passionate about wildlife animal photography participated in a photography workshop located within the Danube Delta in Romania the week of the 26th of May 2018.

The goal was to photograph the birds present through the reed beds: Waders, passerines and pelicans.

This workshop was filed under creative photography while including not only fresh and original framing techniques, but also technical exposes related to Photoshop and how it could be used in the pursuit of higher quality photographs.

This workshop happened under the best of circumstances and occurred within a fine ambience of good humor, openness and especially lots of sharing and interpersonal exchange.

The participants of the wildlife photography workshop in the Danube Delta in May 2018: Amar Guillen, Annik, Patricia, Josiane, Jean-Philippe and our guides (Agnes is absent from the photo).
The participants of the wildlife photography workshop in the Danube Delta in May 2018: Amar Guillen, Annik, Patricia, Josiane, Jean-Philippe and our guides (Agnes is absent from the photo).

The Danube Delta: A Unique Biodiversity

The Danube Delta is the second largest in Europe following that of the Volga.

It covers an area of 3446 kilometers squared, or approximately 2141 miles squared. It is an extraordinary universe that is also a protected natural region and classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, or United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Committee.

The waters of the delta are poisonous. They attract numerous species of migratory birds such as pelicans (white or Dalmatian), night herons, pond herons, little bitterns, Eurasian hobbies, red-footed falcons, western marsh harriers, white-tailed eagles, bearded reedlings, Eurasian penduline tits, Caspian terns, great reed warblers, little crakes, white-winged terns, Eurasian curlews, Kentish lovers, etc.

The mouths of the Danube Delta count more than 1200 varieties of plants, 300 species of birds and 45 species of fresh water fish. During the periods of migration, the swamps and numerous lakes welcome millions of birds of different biomes of the Earth in provenance of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean.

The Danube Delta is a very rural region and poorly populated with around 40000 people living in small villages and towns. The region is therefore barely touched by the urbanism of large metropolitan cities. The birds have found in this region the tranquility to breed and abundant food to sustain themselves throughout the mating season.

An Original Method for Photographing Avian Fauna

The Danube Delta with its innumerable waterways is an immense territory. The best way to discover it is by boat. For this workshop, we opted for motorized power boats with flat hulls. Each vessel can house 3 photographers.

Without boats, it would be impossible to find and photograph the birds. In reality, the area of the Danube Delta is so large that the birds have but the paradox of choice to hide themselves within the reeds or choose a pond so as to feed.

The majority of bird species are not scared by boats with human passengers. On one end, the Danube Delta is a protected nature and wildlife preserve where hunting is forbidden. On the other, many boats navigate the 3 main waterways of the Danube River. The animals are accustomed to observing humans on these boats.

Capricious Meteorological Weather Conditions

Much like the first workshop, the weather conditions were very strange and included copious amounts of wind. It’s a boon that the Danube Delta is so large as our guides were able to locate areas perfectly sheltered from these issues and which allowed us to make our photographs. The fact is that, when taking pictures from a boat, the most minuscule of waves or tides can render photography extremely difficult due to the boat’s undesirable rocking.

Paradoxically, however, the lights were magnificent. The reed beds stretched rather high with some magnificent greens monochromes. This dream worthy decors permitted the interns to realize some interesting images. We have the habit of expelling the surrounding environment’s decor as the background which shines the spotlight upon the actual animal’s value and importance.

Varied & Thematic Days

In this year of 2018 we decided to add some greater variety to our landscape choices. We organized a day in the humid zones of Leta in order to photograph the waders whom were present in vast numbers this year. The interns had the opportunity to photograph numerous collared pratincoles and also pied avocets that were literally the stars of the show.

During our trip towards Leta, we had the good luck of witnessing hundreds of birds flying into the arms of the delta. We’d never before seen such an amazing sight. Dozens of purple herons stood hidden amongst the reed beds. When we passed by, all of them took off into the air simultaneously. It was an extraordinary display.

This year, everything was different throughout the delta as the overall water level was quite high as a result of the overabundant springtime rains. The birds had therefore decided to nest much further into the reed beds. Normally, they tend to rest far closer to the canal banks where food and shelter is nothing but a beak away.

However, 2018 will most likely remain as the year of the passerine. The interns photographed numerous families of bearded reedlings and Eurasian penduline tits building nests. A silver lining.

As another memorable moment, we’d organized some floating blinds with camouflaged nets atop the boats we’d rented.

This new technique enables our photographers to capture up close images of common kingfishers and a nest of grey-headed woodpeckers. The participants were therefore able to live and experience instances more powerful and memorable than previously before. The emotions followed everyone to the rendezvous.

Testimonies of the Workshop – May 2018

Annik Annik.

Following the Dombes and the Deer’s Cry, I’ve just spent a magnificent week throughout this workshop within the Danube Delta. Everything was perfect.

I’d already been to the Danube Delta; it’s been a few years now and I’d only ever used a boat once. I went on this workshop as I wanted to relive this experience once more.

My goal was to photograph birds in flight and to observe new species I hadn’t before already been aware about.

This week I experienced three memorable moments. The first was when we arrived at Letea during the part of our journey dedicated to waders. In order to protect her nest, she pretended to have a broken wing and a sprained leg. It was amazing.

The second instance was while I was photographing bearded reedlings. It was really cute.

The third time was actually this morning before sunrise while upon the Danube river itself. It was truly memorable.

I’d then like to add a fourth. It was on our way to Leta. There were hundreds of birds whom flew away from the passage of our boat. It was the first time that I’d ever seen so many.

Nature within the Danube Delta is magnificent. I arrived still a little bit stressed from the everyday Parisian life. As the days went by, I gradually became more and more relaxed. I felt better the longer I stayed in contact with nature. It’s beautiful and relaxing. Everything is pure. There is no noise.

This year, I worked on flight and altitude dynamics. Your technical advice really helped me. On the ground, your advice pertaining to camera settings and image framing were important to helping us.

I appreciated your council on matters pertaining to the usage of photoshop. Your technical exposes really opened some interesting perspectives from my point of view. Everything was clear. I took notes. I understood the philosophy behind the program.

The organization was perfect. You know how to handle yourself. There was never any lost time. We were never stressed, never tired. Everything was well prepared. We get up early but we’re ready for it.

The ambiance was really great. You cause everyone to have an enjoyable time. There’s a lot of exchange of ideas and sharing to go around. I had a beautiful week of vacation.

Patricia Patricia.

This makes for the second time that I have accompanied you to a workshop in the Danube Delta. It was completely different from last year’s. There were fewer large birds such as the grey and purple herons, yet the decors and environments were far more beautiful. I was therefore better able to capture snapshots of these birds whilst they were in flight. I also made many photographs of the surrounding countryside’s as they were magnificent.

In addition, this year I spent more time taking panoramic pictures so as to better put into value the birds themselves. Last year the images I’d realized were far more compact. This year I took it upon myself to become completely immersed within the surrounding nature.

I was more contemplative. I spent more time analyzing the composition of my backgrounds so as to better put them into value within my images. I put a lot of work in relation to my various uses of shade of greens and contrasts. I took the time to focus my attention upon the birds so that they would mesh well with their surrounding decors.

This year were photographed far more passerines than last year, with some notable examples including the Eurasian penduline tit, bearded reedling and common kingfisher. I adopted an approach quite different than that to the regular fashion in which I used to take my photos. I focused on their positioning. I found that there was a very human quality in the manner in which they interacted with one another. For example, in a very anthropomorphic fashion, the chicks of Eurasian penduline tits would often give each other little kisses and hugs. However, I took great care in placing them to the forefront and making use of the environment. I made good use of the reed beds as a background yet this year, I also made use of the reflective properties of the surrounding waters and the various attributes of nature’s colors.

This year, I extracted the full use of the Danube Delta’s full natural color palette whilst creating my snapshots. You must be able to learn to wait and have patience, yet the resulting photographs are truly stunning.

This year, I decided to take my time when realizing my images. I sometimes waited over an hour for something to happen, but the results speak for themselves. It’s a such moments in time that things really becoming magic.

This morning, I realized an extraordinary series on grebes. We stayed half an hour observing and photographing them. Everything had come together so as to make for beautiful images. The wind was blowing amongst their feathers. The chicks were moving from one parent to another. We had some magnificent panoramas.

This year, I really went and tried to make the most out of positioning and framing. I no longer content myself of imaging a bird simply because it is a bird. I’ve become more demanding in my sessions. That’s the advantage of coming here for the second time. I knew what to expect and what was waiting for me.

This year’s memorable moment would frankly be the special feelings that I experienced whilst within the Danube Delta. The best of example of this would be whence we left for Leta in order to photograph waders. I’d equipped my camera with a 24 to 70-millimeter lens. I captured some background photos of reed beds with all of the birds taking off. These photographs permitted me to present what exactly the Danube Delta looked like. I was able to recreate the ambiance which reigned here. Last year, seeing as how I’d focused far more on more compact and restricted snapshots, I was not able to pay proper respect to the beauty of the surrounding countryside’s and ambient feeling of the region itself. Now I have with me photos of birds of the Danube Delta whilst last year I’d made images of birds I could have just as easily taken back in France. The style of approach was completely different. It was awesome.

This year, I appreciated the fact of seeing the use of photoshop along with its implementation of layers and blending tools. It’s not a tool that we make use of all that often simply because of the sheer amounts of time that can be lost within them. I’ve participated in many competitions where the images presented have had little to no editing or retouching. Yet for an exposition, it is in my belief that the advice which you presented us with could be of possible interest when the time comes. You demonstrated to us several astonishing techniques such as the high key.

The group ambiance was open and accepting. Everything went well. I was pleased by your skills at organization. Thank you for the experienced guides. It really made for an amazing week of vacation.

Josiane Josiane.

What a shame that this workshop has already ended. It really went by too quickly. I had an amazing week. It was a really wonderful experience as a workshop. Every session was excellent.

I’d never been to the Danube Delta. I’d originally heard about your workshop by word of mouth from Patricia when she’d gone last year. She had such high praise for it that I could only tell myself that it had to be great.

I was especially touched by the kind of ambiance which reigned throughout the Danube Delta. I was surprised as to how easy it was to approach the local birds. I’d already been to the Dombes with you but here you could get even closer. For example, one morning I was able to photograph some grebes and their chicks for amazingly up close. I’d never once been able to realize such astonishing captures from these birds usually so easily frightened. The dual system of boat and tour guide enabled us to capture some excellent photographs. I find it more practical than whenever it was that we used floating blinds.

I was surprised by the sheer variety and number of birds. I photographed quite a few numbers of passerines. The guide was excellent at his job.

This past week I experienced quite the profound moment. Yesterday afternoon whilst none of us were expecting it, a grey heron came to fish from right off the front bow of our boat. We were all on the tip of our toes in order to get some nice snapshots out of him.

This week’s ambiance was excellent. The photographers were always in good spirits and eager to share their individual techniques and expertise. The workshop’s overall organization was very well planned out.

You gave us a lot of advice as to how to probably make the most out of photoshop. I hope to be able to make us of such information within the near future. You’ve given me a taste of the potential which lays behind such a program. Up until now, it really hadn’t crossed my mind as all that useful for what I was doing. I’m hoping that my notes won’t have too many errors.

Throughout this workshop I got some rest, had some fun but also and especially, realized some great images.

Jean-Philippe Jean-Philippe.

It was my first workshop with you. This trip into the Danube Delta was a neat discovery. The organization was well thought out. The ambiance was welcoming. However, I especially enjoyed the amazing photography.

I’d already been to the Danube Delta but only for images based from solid ground. The idea of using boats makes for a great advantage as not only can we get much close to the birds themselves up also right at their eye level.

The other advantage of using boats comes also in the ability to rapidly cover large distances. We’re able to search for birds throughout the whole of this immense region. Once they’ve been found, we can easily position ourselves in such a fashion as to photograph said birds whilst in midair. We also have the added luxury of choosing our desired lighting and background decor.

Those birds which had held my attention the most throughout this journey were the whiskered terns and the pelicans whilst in mid-flight. It’s a rare thing to be able to photograph these animals while in midair. Here, within the heart of the Danube Delta, the conditions are excellent for trying out such techniques.

Yesterday, I had a stroke of luck by being able to photograph a little bitten. It’s a rather rare species. I was pleasantly surprised.

The ambiance throughout the workshop’s duration was exceptional. There was a lot of goodwill between the interns and we shared a lot.

I appreciated all the technical talking points concerning the camera setting adjustments. Now I know the best possible setting choices whenever wildlife photography is concerned.

I appreciated the courses pertaining to photoshop. I have some experience with the program. I use it for some minor polishing work when working on my snapshots. I’d never gone so far as to using multiple layers, masking fusions and highlighted sections. I’ve just learned every technique there is to know. Now, it’s up to me to do the rest.

The trip’s organization was excellent. Wakeup call was at 4:45 in the morning and, while difficult, was the best time to take advantage of the excellent early day’s weather conditions. I ended up getting used to it. The lightings within your images are always beautiful given how you organize your photo sessions.

Every day, we spent around 10 hours doing nothing but photography. It was the full package. I’ll come back next time.

Agnés Agnés.

It’s the second time that I’ve come along with you to the Danube Delta. It was a completely unique experience from last year’s as there were far less waders as the overall water level was quite high. The springtime rains were quite heavy.

However, we also had the chance to picture numerous passerines, most notably the Eurasian penduline tit and bearded reedlings. The waders at Leta were far more numerous as well. Finally, things were very different from last time.

In terms of a creative standpoint, I was able to create images that were more interesting than last year’s due to my previously accumulated knowledge of the terrain. I was able to capture birds in mid-flight. The surrounding environmental decors and lighting were more beautiful than last year’s. I was able to use them to better put into focus the birds themselves.

Your advice in reference to framing a shot taught me much. I was able to create a scene with the birds that made for more interesting photos. Your classes on photoshop were a real bonus, most importantly in reference to the layer fusion and editing tools. I will make use of these techniques to create more impactful photos. I really enjoy this artistic approach you use throughout your workshops. It’s a real plus.

Once again, I appreciated the fact that each of us were granted the right to our own individual rooms and personal comfort. The group ambiance was excellent. There was a lot of exchange. Your workshops are chockfull of rich experiences.

Some photos taken by the participants

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