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Photography Workshops by Christopher Dodds


Nature Photography Blog Journal Index

Entries in New Mexico (5)


Wood Duck Drake

Wood Duck Drake (Aix sponsa, Canard Bronchu, WODU) Tingley Ponds Albuquerque, NM, USA. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Camera & Sony FE100-400 F4.5-5.6 G Master OSS and Sony 1.4X @560mm. Full frame image. ISO 1,600 f/8 @ 1/1,600s Manual exposure mode. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Here's a Drake (Male) Wood Duck from my recent Better Than Bosque Workshop last December. Aside from the usual suspects (Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese), the variety and number of ducks were a huge hit with everyone on the trip. I spent a lot of time with the Sony a9 and the 1.4X and 2X on the 100-400mm G Master lens and love the results with incredible detail.


Hi Chris-  I am also a friend of Rob P living in Colorado.  Switching to Sony from Canon. Had most canon lenses from 16-35 to 500mm.  Shot with 1dMk4 and 7d2 for wildlife. Just getting used to settings on the Sony. Today was shooting with the a7riii, 100-400 sony with 1.4 converter. Photographing a soaring red tail hawk in manual settings,  auto iso, 25oo sec., 6.3 in zone focus mode.  I use back button focus and locked on to Hawk but all of the images were not sharp.  With my canon 7d2 and 100-400 II every image would have been sharp.  What am I doing wrong?  Can't believe some images were sharp and some soft in a continuous burst.  Rob said you may be able to help.  I have a couple photo trips coming up in January and February and am leery on the sony setup.  Have not sold my canon gear yet...Thanks, Bob K
Hey Bob,
A careful read of your question leads me to suspect a few reasons for your soft images:
1. Crop vs. Full Frame: You were using crop sensor cameras, but have switched to a full-frame camera with the 1.4X extender. Instead of the in camera crop with the shorter focal length, you are now hand-holding a longer lens on a full-frame camera to acheive the same "reach". This requires much more care.
2.  Shutter Speed: While I don't doubt that you got a lot of keepers with your crop sensor camera and 1/2,500s, I strive to work at 1/5,000s for flight photography. In the past, most would agree that 1/focal length to be sufficient shutter speed for sharp images (1/500s when using 500mm). In my experience, the resolving power of modern lenses and sensors requires around ten times that to ensure razor sharp images.
3. Focus Mode: I seem to be using Centre Spot Lock-on most of the time for birds in flight with my Sony Cameras.
4. Back Button Focus: There are some ergonomic differences between your old and new cameras; perhaps button size, placement and the amount of pressure it needs to be kept pressed continuously. I have never been a fan of Back Button Focus, because it is simply too easy to make a mistake and release a little pressure from your thumb. Back Button Focus is also near impossible in sub-zero temperatures. Consider assigning focus back to the old fashioned shutter button.
Hope this helps!



Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta, Canard Pilet, NOPI) Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, USA ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 600mm f/4 L IS II USM & 2X III Tele-converter. ISO 640, F8 1/2,500s Manual Mode. Full Frame. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

Here's a Northern Pintail from my Better than Bosque workshop last December. I'm about to lead my sold-out workshop there and have added the dates for next year to my workshop page HERE.


Your Better than Bosque trip was a real eye-opener for me. I thought I had a handle on my photographic techniques, and thought I was at the top of my game. Wow, was I wrong! I had no idea how much I would learn from you when I decided to sign-up; I thought you would show us your secret spots and that would justify the tuition for me. I made a great friend, learned more than I could have imagined and got the best images I have ever made (thousands of them). Thank you for an EPIC trip. I will be back for another of your amazing workshops soon.

Chris Smith England


Better than Bosque and Workshop Woes

Sandhill Crane SUNSET FLIGHT  A Sanhill Crane lands against the pink, snow covered Sandia Mountains in golden fields (Grus canadenis, Grue du Canada, SACR) NOT from Bosque del Apache, New Mexico ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 600mm f/4 L IS USM II & 2X III Extender with Jobu L-Bracket and Jobu Jr. 3 Deluxe  ISO 2,000, f/8 @ 1/1,600s Manual mode. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

Better than Bosque?

Is Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge over-rated? Perhaps it's just me, but I feel the offerings there for Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes are far surpassed elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, there are still some awesome opportunities for raptors, ducks and other birds, it's just I feel the hype about Bosque is no longer justified. I'm just back from a nine day trip in the area and only visited Bosque for three sessions, the remainder of our time was spend exploring the surrounding opportunities…. and we hit the pot of gold! I'm in the process of listing a "Better than Bosque" workshop for Dec. 1-5, 2014 so please email me if interested ASAP(chris(at); there's loads of interest and this will fill very fast. Group size limited to six and we will be based in Socorro, NM. We'll be visiting Bosque when the conditions are right, but our mission is to make the very best images possible; and we'll be visiting several over-the-top spots to do it!

Workshop Leader Woes

While in Bosque, I encountered a few workshops that I just plain need to vent about. Group size varied from 8 to 18 and the lack of fieldcraft and/or knowledge was blatantly evident! Perhaps the participants wanted to go and hang-out for the lowest possible price, or perhaps they signed-up for the first workshop they saw on-line, I dunno; I was simply shocked. I saw workshop leaders prance around like they were royalty, pull-up in front of other photographers and spook fields full of Cranes without even realizing it and I overheard so much gossip and belittlement of other leaders, yet no useful photographic information about composition, exposure or anything else that the participants joined the workshop for. All of the groups went to the same locations to shoot and none of them showed any sense of doing anything different. There were workshops that advertised small groups (they were 18 people - just imagine how much time is wasted with logistics) and leaders who I overheard say "exposure and technical ability is over-rated, just follow your heart and vision" while this sounds romantic, it was clearly a new leader in way over his head when asked how to reliably make well exposed images.

If you would like to experience a small group (max. 6) workshop focused on teaching you how to make better images without the nonsense, then please do check-out my WORKSHOPS and read some TESTIMONIALS. I truly feel I haven't succeeded unless my clients make images that I would be proud to call my own, and work tirelessly to that end! Do join a workshop for the right reason; join because you like my images and want to learn how I make them - if you don't like my images (and that's alright), then email me and I will send you a list of other workshops by other people to consider (many are much cheaper, but expect what you pay for).


Snow Goose Dark Morph (Blue Goose, Chen Caerulescens, Oie des neiges) & EOS-1D Mark IV: On-Camera Tutorials

Snow Goose Dark Morph (or Blue Goose) Landing (Chen Caerulescens, Oie des neiges, SNGO) Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, New Mexico, USA. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKIII, 500mm F4 Lens with 1.4X II Teleconverter, tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 400, F5.6, 1/1600s in Manual Mode. CLICK HERE TO ORDER A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION. 

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV: On-Camera Tutorials

Canon USA has some pretty useful tutorial videos HERE that explore 13 specific features of the EOS-1D Mark IV. These instructional videos are designed to be viewed at your convenience: Watch them online, on the go, or even on your camera's rear LCD screen -- so you can follow along, every step of the way! If you only get out to shoot once in a while, and often forget how to properly use your Mark IV, then I highly recommend loading these videos onto a spare memory card for easy reference while out in the field.


Photographing the Ross's Geese of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and kudos

Ross's Goose (Chen rossii, Oie de Ross) Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, USA ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 500mm F4 IS, 2X II Tele-converter, Gitzo tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 250, F8 1/1000s Manual Exposure. Full Frame. CLICK HERE TO BUY A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Pro Tip:

I worked very hard at capturing the above full frame image of a Ross’s Goose in it’s recognizable environment while visiting Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico last fall. I worked equally hard to get the image of a Ross’s Goose against a blue sky for my stock files. Having the blue-sky flight image in my stock photography files ensures sales to regional publications outside of that recognizable habitat of high desert mountain.

Ross's Goose (Chen rossii, Oie de Ross) Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, USA ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 500mm F4 IS, 2X II Tele-converter, Gitzo tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 250, F8 1/1250s Manual Exposure. Full Frame. CLICK HERE TO BUY A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Ross’s Goose facts:

A tiny goose with black wingtips, the Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii, Oie de Ross) is about 40% smaller than the more abundant white phase Snow Goose. The Snow Goose is larger and has a larger bill without the greenish base and has a black grin patch along it’s bill edge (black “lips”). It breeds in the central Arctic and winters primarily in central California, but it is becoming more frequent farther east. It is named in honor of Bernard R. Ross, a Hudson’s Bay Company factor at Fort Resolution in Canada’s Northwest Territories.


After viewing your two excellent Nature presentations in the last year at our camera club, I have come to conclude that you are in that top echelon of truly outstanding nature photographers, creating art - rather than just photographs. When I see your presentations, I keep saying under my breath... AMAZING!
Best regards,
Frederic Hore,
Past Nature Chair,
Lakeshore Camera Club
Pointe Claire, Quebec, Canada

Thanks again for your superb presentation yesterday evening.  Your images are fantastic and you are definitively an inspiration for a lot bird photographers like myself.
Pierre Giard
Nature Chair
Lakeshore Camera Club
Pointe Claire, Quebec, Canada

Comments welcome & appreciated.