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Photography Workshops by Canon Northern Explorer of Light Christopher Dodds


Christopher Dodds Nature Photographer | Promote Your Page Too

Entries in Migration (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.


The Northern Parula & Canon Professional Services (CPS) Revamped

 Northern Parula Male , Parula americana (Paruline à collier) Point Pelee National Park of Canada (Southwestern Ontario, Canada). Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS-1D MKIII, 500mm F4L IS USM and 2X II Tele-extender. ISO 400, 1/500s F9 Manual mode. Canon 580 EX II Flash in manual mode. Tripod and Wimberley Head II. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Just going through some images from last year's Point Pelee bird photography workshop while preparing for this years. Photographing migrant Warblers is probably the most challenging type of bird photography; there is no food, bird calls or water drips to attract your subject. There's no choosing nice perches, and choosing great backgrounds is a result of your ability to move faster than your speedy subject. Migrant bird photography at a place like Pelee can be quite rewarding, though, many of the tree-top dwellers forage for fuel at near eye-level while migrating. The total number of bird species recorded at Point Pelee is 372, of which at least 340 of these species have been recorded during the spring migration period. The stream of birds in the spring is not a steady flow from the south. The birds usually arrive in intermittent waves, a pattern unique to eastern North America. In some years these are well marked but, in others the fluctuations in numbers and variety is so meagre that a wave in difficult to detect. A "wave" occurs as a result of a warm weather front advancing from the south or southeast meeting a cold weather front from the north or northwest. Two situations will cause the birds to descend. One is when the two fronts meet at ground level. The other is when a warm front in which migrating birds are flying overrides a cold front. The rising warm air becomes cooler with the increasing altitude until it is finally too cold for the birds and they descend.

If these nocturnal (night-time) migrants find themselves over Lake Erie near sunrise they must continue onwards or drown. After flying perhaps hundreds of kilometres in one night, it is this extra 30 to 40 kilometres across the lake that really demands their last strength. This explains why exhausted birds are sometimes found at the tip of the Point. A similar situation, but on a larger scale, occurs when migrants cross the 800 to 1000 kilometres of the Gulf of Mexico. If the weather is good they continue inland in one continuous flight without stopping, but with a north wind and rain they descend on the coast in great numbers, often in an exhausted state.

Do consider joining me at Point Pelee National Park this May 8-12, 2010 as I still have two spots available due to last minute cancellation. More information can be found HERE.

Canon Professional Service Revamped in Canada

Canon Canada has announced their revamped paid CPS program. Choose between Gold and platinum paid levels HERE. It seems to me that we are getting more for less, when compared the the Canon USA CPS program HERE while the Canon EUROPE CPS program is currently still offered FREE HERE.

There's a rumor circulating in Canada that the current discount on professional camera bodies and L Series lenses that Canadian CPS members currently enjoy will no longer be offered; this because there is no mention of it on the new CPS web site. Well my sources at Canon Canada tell me that CPS benefits never really did include a discount, it was offered to CPS members by the Canon Canada marketing people to offset the currency exchange rate that sent many pros across the border into the USA to shop. The good new is that the discount is still offered, and that there is no forseen end to it.

Nikon professional services, or NPS, in the USA is offered FREE HERE, in Canada, it's  FREE HERE and in Europe (Nikon Professional User) it's  FREE HERE


Cerulean Dreams

Cerulean Warbler Vertical, Dendroica Cerulea, Paruline Azurée Kingston, Ontario Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKIII, 500mm F4 Lens with 2X II Tele-converter, Tripod & Wimberley Head II. ISO 800, F8, 1/125s Aperture priority (evaluative +2/3), Canon 580EXII Flash ETTL II -3. PURCHASE A PRINT OR LICENSE AN IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE

Cerulean Warbler horizontal, Dendroica Cerulea, Paruline Azurée Kingston, Ontario. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKIII, 500mm F4 Lens with 2X II Tele-converter, tripod & Wimberley Head II. ISO 800, F8, 1/320s Aperture priority (evaluative +2/3), Canon 580EXII Flash ETTL II -3 PURCHASE A PRINT OR LICENSE AN IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Environment Canada forecast heavy rain all day yesterday, with little chance of bright overcast conditions that would have been conducive to great warbler photography all day long. I decided to venture to the Kingston area of Ontario to give it a try anyway. Worst that could happen is a good birding day without images; sure beats being in the office.
My parents are visiting from Calgary, so I got them up early, loaded into the car and delivered to their friends home in Kingston before most are out of bed (did I mention it was a three hour drive?). From Kingston, I made my way to the Chaffey’s Lock area and spent a few hours in just about perfect photographic conditions. While there weren’t many birds, there certainly were great quality birds. The rain that did fall was light and misty, while it was mostly just dark and overcast. Considered a photographic nemesis bird by many, I had a blast photographing this gorgeous male Cerulean Warbler. I've photographed Cerulean Warblers many times there before, but Queen's University conducts research and most are banded - it was a dream come true to get a nearly perfect male without bands in Ontario. While using the Canon 1DsIII, I strive to keep the ISO under 400; however, there are times when I simply have to use a higher ISO. Properly exposing the image in the camera is the single best way to minimize noise.

The Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea, Paruline Azurée) gets its name from the vivid blue coloration of the male warbler's back and cheeks that makes this a difficult bird to find in the tree tops, where it lives and nests. Cerulean Warblers are forest-interior birds that require large, relatively undisturbed tracts of mature, semi-open deciduous forest. In Ontario, they are restricted to such habitats in the Carolinian Forest zone and the southern part of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Forest zone. These birds begin their long migration to wintering grounds in northeastern South America in late summer. A species of special concern both Provincially and Nationally here in Canada, and in the United States, it is considered a species at risk by many. Recent studies suggest its population is only 30% of what it was only 20 short years ago; dropping faster than any other North American Warbler. On the North American breeding grounds, the chief threat to this warbler is habitat loss resulting from forest fragmentation and degradation. On the South American wintering grounds, forested tracts in mountainous regions are preferred, and these areas are considered to be under a high degree of threat from logging. Nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) may become an increasing problem as cowbird populations increase in degraded forest habitats. The Cerulean Warbler is protected in a Schedule under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.


Point Pelee photography workshop participant, Michael Lyncheski (from Gladstone, NJ) emailed me this testimonial (thanks, Michael):

“I was impressed on how much Chris cared about making sure everyone was learning, engaged, and getting the most out of the trip. I look forward to my next workshop with Chris!”


The great spring warbler chase road trip

On Monday, April 13, I escaped the lingering cold weather and fluffy snow that fell during my walk with Julie and T-Bone (our best friend) the day before. We were up at 3:30 and Julie dropped me off at the Airport for my flight to Tampa, Florida. I arrived in Tampa, rented a car and picked up my great friend, Arthur Morris at the Toyota dealer where he left his Sequoia for the 90,000 mile tune-up (more on that in my next entry), to be ready for the great spring warbler chase road trip. We are spending the next two weeks driving from Tampa to Dauphin Island, Alabama, then on to Texas. We went straight to Fort DeSoto Beach, realized all of the other photographers were photographing the wind-surfers and that the strong wind was from the East. Not only do birds reliably takeoff and land into the wind, they also sit facing the wind. Not the best conditions for bird photography. We both agreed that the best place to go was a sheltered little mud flat to the right of the footbridge. Photography was fun with co-operative birds and still water until the clouds obscured what would surely have been a great sunset.

Tuesday morning, despite hearing the tornado warnings, we ventured back out and photographed until the dark clouds that had been on the horizon moved-in and the wind kicked-up to some of the strongest I've ever felt. The temperature must have dropped about 30 degrees and we both looked out onto the near horizon to see the most amazing storm clouds, a dark featureless sky on the right, with a diagonal, layered formation that was the closest thing to a tornado shape that I've ever seen. There we were, two seasoned professional nature photographers without a wide angle lens between us. We ran back to the car and grabbed short zoom lenses, ran back to the beach only to find a really dark, featureless sky. I'm leaving out the hail that Artie remembers, simply because I can't for the life of me remember feeling or seeing hail (It might have been the adrenaline that affected my memory). Regardless, we both agree that no photograph could do justice to the image of that sky that will always be imprinted in my memory.