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Photography Workshops by Canon Northern Explorer of Light Christopher Dodds


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Entries in Mammal (4)


Zambian Dawn

Straw-coloured Fruit Bat ZAMBIAN DAWN (Eidolon helvum) Kasanka National Park, Zambia. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Canon 1DX, 500mm F4 L IS, Tripod & Jobu Jr. 3 (with Deluxe Swing-arm upgrade) ISO 400 f/5 @ 1/2,000s Manual Mode. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.


I suppose I should call this post Zambian Dreams....

Seeing 7 million Straw Colored Fruit Bats return to their roost in Zambia was something I have wanted to do since I was about 8 or 9 years old after reading about it in one of the first National Geographic Magazines that I ever saw in the elementary school library. It was when I first imagined what it would be like to see the world as a nature photographer! Said to be the largest mamal migration on earth, this was the single most impressive natural history sight I have ever seen.

This is pretty much the image I have had in my head all those years; I always try to pre-visualize the images that I would most like to capture; sometimes they work, other times mother nature throws a curve-ball and they don't. I knew the money shot would be a wide shot with the treeline and the sunrise, but I didn't know I would use my 500mm lens to get it. It's always a good idea to bring a selection of equipment, even when you don't expect to use it.

Now back to the dreams; they can come true - wink.


About the Straw-coloured Fruit Bat

During November and December each year five to seven million straw-coloured fruit bats take up residence in one hectare of Kasanka National Park’s mushitu swamp forest.  Enticed by the abundance of such delicacies as musuku, mufinsa and the other wild fruits in the area, colonies of bats start arriving in late October. Straw-coloured fruit bats are identifiable by their pale, tawny fur and bright orange neck.  As with all fruit bats (alias flying foxes) they have dog-like facial features with small ears, large eyes and a long snout.  The wingspan of a straw-coloured fruit bat reaches 85-95cm making them the largest bat in Southern Africa. By day the bat colony roosts in the trees of the mushitu forest, packing themselves around branches and trunks which often break under the sheer weight of bats!  Daily life is not easy for the bats as many predators including raptors turn to a diet of bats for the two months that the colony is in residence. Fish eagles, martial eagles, vultures and numerous other raptors have been seen to take the bats in flight and from the roost.


Photo Competition: Buyer Beware!

Coyote Autumn pup  (Canis latrans) Quebec, Canada (C) ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMark III, 500mm F4 IS, Gitzo Tripod & Wimberley Head II. ISO 500, 1/160s F4 Manual Mode. Full Frame. Click HERE to purchase a print or license image for publication.

So, you work for a magazine and your publisher is trying to squeeze a profit out of your magazine during these difficult economic times. Earning kudos from the boss may be easier than you would think: Just announce a photo competition where all entrants assign all publication rights (editorial, commercial & educational) AND they send a $20.00 bill with each submission. Just 1,000 entrants produces an image bank of at least that many images AND $20,000.00 for the magazine. The grand prize: get you picture published in the magazine. The most shocking part is how hard it was to find the fine print and I'm sure most people who sent off a cheque never read it. Oh, I almost forgot: the magazine does not have to pay publication rights to photographers anymore. Just something to think about next time you think about entering a competition…

Entries become the property of (insert magazine name here), a division of (insert company name here) Inc., which reserves the right, without further consideration, to use all photos and text in any publication, media, and related prodcts or promotions. The company cannot confirm receipt or return entries. By submitting your materials, you agree that your contact information may be given to the contest sponsor, which may use the information for marketing purposes. You further agree that your photo, text, name, and city and state may be posted on (insert company name here)-owned websites and, on sponsor websites, as well. If you are younger than 13 years of age, you will need to provide signed permission from a parent or guardian allowing you to enter the contest. - REAL FINE PRINT FROM A REAL PHOTO COMPETITION 

The Coyote , Canis latrans, runs with it's tail down, unlike domestic dogs with their tail up or wolves with their tail straight. Known as the best runner among the canids, the Coyote cruises at 25-30 mph (40-50km/h), with a top speed of 40 mph (65 km/h). Always an opportunist, Coyotes eat small mammals like mice, squirrels and rabbits, as well as birds, frogs, toads snakes, insects and fruit.

Comments welcome & appreciated.



Photographing the Common Raccoon with wide-open & fast lenses.

Common Raccoon  (Procyon Iotor, raton laveur) Quebec, Canada ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200mm @ 195mm. ISO 400, F2.8 1/1000s Manual Mode.

Pro Tip: I'm amazed at the number of photographers out in the field today, and even more amazed at the inventory of professional camera gear they cart around with them. Many pay the hefty price, and carry the extra weight of fast lenses, rarely using them at their intended extremes. Try using your F2.8 lenses at F2.8, then try them at F16; while it is true that they are not quite as sharp at F2.8 than, say F4.5, or F5.6, I would bet money that you can't tell the difference with a full frame Canon 1DsIII and all of the pixels it has to offer. Try using your depth of field (or lack of one) to hide or accentuate different features, or areas, of your subject. A shallow depth of field is especially useful when photographing captive animals: I can't tell you how sick I am of looking at "snapshot" style captive images from "serious" photographers - mostly the result of too much depth of field with cluttered backgrounds.

Common Raccoon  (Procyon Iotor, raton laveur) Quebec, Canada ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMark III, 500mm F4 IS. ISO 800, 1/160s F4 Manual Mode.

The black mask across their eyes and ringed tails are the keys to identifying the "backyard bandit" of Southern Canada and much of the United States. Raccoons, Procyon Iotor, are amazing climbers and swimmers that den in hollow trees and spend the night foraging for food. When these masked marauders move into the suburbs, they become experts at opening garbage cans (waste bins).
Not true hibernators, Raccoons do sleep through much of the winter. By February, the mating urge sends the males on a quest regardless of the weather. Nine weeks later most females have three to six kits.

Comments welcome & appreciated.



The Many Moose of Baxter State Park. Trip Report Part III

Bull Moose Vertical (Alces, Elan, Orignal) Baxter State Park, Maine ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKIII, 500mm F4 and 1.4XII tele-converter Gitzo 1325 Tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 500, F5.6 1/200s Manual.

As mentioned in earlier posts, this years trip to Baxter State Park in Maine was one of my most productive. Here's just a few of the 13 Moose we spent time photographing. It's always a thrill to get close, and close we got on a few occasions; It's best to let Moose come to you, rather than go off chasing them around the forest & remember that Bull Moose that are about two and a half years old (like the Moose in the photo above) are the most unpredictable and therefore the most dangerous; If you find yourself feeling a little uncomfortable, then slowly move away. Moose of this age are starting to "feel their oats" for the first time, and unsure of how to behave during this time of hormonal change.

Bull Moose Giant of the Northwoods (Alces, Elan, Orignal) Baxter State Park, Maine ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKIII, 500mm F4 and 2XII tele-converter Gitzo 1325 Tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 400, F8 1/160s Manual.

Named from the Algonquin term meaning "twig-eater", Moose rely most on their strongest senses: Hearing and smell. Their vision isn't the best, but with the placement of their eyes they can see almost 360°. Inhabiting dense forests throughout Canada, Maine and Alaska, Moose (Alces alces) are the giants of the deer family. They may lack the grace of other deer, but they are among North America's most magnificent mammals. A bull moose crashing through the underbrush in a northern bog is a sight not soon forgotten.
Alaska boasts the largest males: they weigh some 1,800 pounds, stand seven feet tall at the shoulder, and have antlers with a spread of over six feet. In addition to a massive body and a big, overhanging muzzle, the moose is characterized by a fold of skin on the throat (its function unknown) called the "bell" or "Dewlap". You may be able to distinguish particular moose by their distinctive dewlaps. Though long and spindly-looking, its legs are well suited for moving swiftly across snow, wading in water, and swimming.
During the fall rutting season, when their low, mooing calls echo through the forest, bulls battle over cows in savage antler-to-antler confrontations. By December the contests end and the bulls shed their hefty headgear.
In summer, moose wade into ponds and streams to eat aquatic plants, and in winter they browse on twigs and bark. Once exterminated in parts of their range- they were used as food by native peoples and early settlers, and their antlers have always been prized as trophies- moose have lately made quite a comeback.

Bull Moose Vertical Portrait (Alces, Elan, Orignal) Baxter State Park, Maine ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKIII, 500mm F4 and 2XII tele-converter Gitzo 1325 Tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 400, F8 1/125s Manual.

Do consider joining me for the Moose and fall colors of Maine Workshop next year.

Comments welcome & appreciated.