Search Nature Photography Blog

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format
SPONSORS

 

 - 

Photography Workshops by Canon Northern Explorer of Light Christopher Dodds

 

Christopher Dodds Nature Photographer | Promote Your Page Too

Entries in Testimonial (24)

Thursday
Aug172017

Sony a9 and Sony G Master 100-400mm lens ready for bird photography

Atlantic Puffin PORTRAIT OF A CLOWN (Fratercula arctica, Macareux moine, ATPU) Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada, Réserve de parc national du Canada de l'Archipel-de-Mingan, Quebec, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Camera & Sony FE100-400 F4.5-5.6 G Master OSS @ 400mm @ minimum focusing distance. Full frame image (top to bottom; left and right cropped to square aspect ratio). ISO 2,500, f/6.3 @ 1/1,600s Manual exposure mode. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

 

Sony a9 and Sony FE100-400 F4.5-5.6 G Master Lens: Ready for Bird Photography?

 

Canadian Nature and Wildlife Photographer Christopher Dodds with Sony FE 100-400 F4.5-5.6 G Master Lens


My friends over at Sony Canada sent over a Sony a9 and Sony FE100-400 F4.5-5.6 G Master Lens for me to test while leading my four consecutive Deluxe Atlantic Puffins Galore Workshops in Puffin Paradise. The workshops were a huge success, with crew after crew of wonderful participants and awesome photographers who all made boatloads of Atlantic Puffin and Razorbill images, while enjoying life on a tiny island and the ambiance of a lighthouse with gourmet meals - it was fabulous! Learn more & sign-up for my 2018 Deluxe Puffins Galore trip HERE.

The Sony a9 is the first mirrorless camera I have tested that is capable of replacing my current Canon 1DX mark II camera bodies. So, why did I consider adding, or moving away from my current Canon set-up in the first place? Like all of my workshop clients and friends who travel and constantly worry about getting camera gear in the cabin of the airplane as carry-on (or who may be tired of lugging all of the “big and better” stuff around), I am always on the lookout for smaller, lighter, better and more manageable cameras; In this case, the a9 offers some incredible specs. to the birds-in-flight photographer, as seen on the Sony website HERE.

The camera arrived moments before we left for the long drive, and because it uses Contrast and Phase detection autofocus points built into the sensor, I didn’t have to worry about delaying my departure, and taking the time to micro-calibrate the camera and lens before leaving; My Canon SLR cameras have a separate auto-focus sensor, which require micro-calibration (or, to be more specific; require me to go through the process of micro-calibration to make sure the camera and lens combination are producing sharp images, even if no calibration is required). Having undertaken the time consuming task of the micro-calibration of all of my Canon cameras and lenses, and any combination possible with tele-converters countless times …… this is huge!

The Sony a9 and G Master 100-400 feel great in the hand, and seem perfectly balanced and easy to hold; a whopping two and a half pounds lighter than my Canon 1DX with Canon 100-400!

I quickly set-up the camera for birds-in flight action photography and immediately found the autofocus to be almost a magical dream of perfection. The AF points cover 93% of the surface of the sensor; this seems to be a huge advantage for keeping really fast and erratically moving subjects in the viewfinder. Initial autofocus acquisition seems so fast with this camera, that I had absolutely no hesitation hammering away the moment I had the target in the viewfinder. The results are remarkable! I spent every moment (unfairly) trying to make the Sony a9 fail with circumstances that I know none of the other brands can keep-up with; I was on a beach at low tide in low contrast light, aiming at Puffins flying low over seaweed covered rocks. All of the Canon cameras that I own, and Nikons I have owned and used would focus on the seaweed covered rocks. I could point the camera at the Puffin while it was tiny in the frame (well before I would normally try to acquire autofocus), and the camera would pick-up, and focus on the Puffin nearly every time. It seemed like there was an algorithm in the firmware that was looking for something moving in the frame to target. It would lock-on and stay with the Puffin all the way along its flight path towards me. Autofocus systems are challenged by objects moving towards the camera at a constant rate of speed; as an object approaches a camera at a constant rate of speed, we must move the focusing ring faster to keep the object in focus (or the camera’s autofocus mechanism must accelerate its adjustment). This often proves challenging to even the best autofocus systems; the Sony a9 kept-up every time! I was blown away.

I quickly realized that there was a lag between the live view on the back of the camera, and it’s automatic switch to the EVF (electronic viewfinder) when the camera is brought up to the eye. This felt awkward and interfered with my “target acquisition”,  so I switched to EVF display only, and was surprised that there was no menu choice to use the EVF for shooting, and the rear LCD to display the menu; In other words, when the camera is set to use the EVF display, you have to use the EVF for live-view (perfect), and menu adjustments (not-so-perfect). I quickly set-up a custom menu, with it’s first option to switch back the display to the rear LCD screen for when I want to make menu changes. The EVF was remarkably good and didn’t take long to get used to. Not having to drive the rear LCD increased battery life immensely, and I regularly filled a 128GB card with 2,200 RAW images on a single charge with battery life to spare.

I installed a Black Rapid Sport strap to sling the camera (and lens) over my shoulder at my waist; I quickly adapted to partially depressing the shutter button as I lifted the camera to my eye to “wake” the sensor and EVF. Since SLR cameras don’t need to keep the sensor energized to project an image in an EVF, this is not a problem when using a traditional SLR with optical viewfinder. This seemed a pain at first, but it really didn’t take long to develop muscle memory, and it became reflex very quickly.

I set the camera to silent mode, which seemed really strange @ 20 frames per second, but I quickly grew to love the silence, and think this to be a huge bonus while photographing flighty subjects like warblers that take-off at the sound of a camera shutter.

The image files are fantastic! At first, I thought there may be a huge gain in dynamic range, but after spending time with the files, I feel it is fair to say there is about 1/3 to 1/2 stop gain in dynamic range at higher ISO, but files at lower ISO seem to compare with those from the Canon 1DX mark II. I haven’t gone to great lengths to scientifically test them, as I will leave that to others and all I am really interested in is getting the better image. Files seemed richer, sharper and more saturated than those from the Canon 1DX mark II. Although I applied the same workflow to the images from the Sony a9 as I do to images from my Canon 1DX mark II, I only needed to apply about half as much of everything to produce some extremely awesome results.

In conclusion, I fell in love with the Sony a9 and Sony FE100-400 F4.5-5.6 G Master Lens! It’s a super light and manageable combination @4.5 pounds that can be hand-held all day long. The autofocus system is second to none (that I have used), it’s silent 20 frames per second with a huge buffer will keep even the most trigger happy birds-in-flight shooters happy, and the files this camera produces are stunning. This is the perfect combination for those who don’t choose the weight or reach of a super telephoto lens (as there are none currently offered by Sony….but they would be wise to jump on a native Sony e-mount 500 or 600mm f/4 lens soon!). Paired with a second body and wider zoom, it would be the perfect kit for an African Safari!

I haven’t yet tried any of the adapters which allow you to use Canon and Nikon lenses at 10 frames per second, mostly because I don’t see an adapted lens as a long term or reliable solution. Please do take the time to make comments here if you can offer any insight from your experience with any of the adapters available; We would love to hear your thoughts.

I’ll be back shortly with more about my time with the Sony a9 soon, and will post images of birds-in-flight and some high ISO images in the coming days. I will share some of things I learned about using the camera and offer some suggestions for menu choices. I will share my thoughts on adding, or switching to Sony, and more likes and dislikes. Stay tuned!

Kudos

I’m an experienced wildlife photographer and I’ve had puffins on my bucket list for several years. Around my Colorado home, I scout my own sites and work my network of photography buddies, so I know what it takes to find good sites, get in and then have the wildlife cooperate, to get good pictures. I’ve even been a scout for a leading professional photographer, looking for superior deer and turkey subjects and locations.
 
Regarding puffins, I’d considered renting hide times, but most involved day-trips on boats. Most importantly, time in the hide is limited and you won’t necessarily be able to shoot when they’re feeding, nor will you likely shoot in ideal light. Angle of view is often not ideal from a hide.
 
I don’t know how, but I ran across Chris’ Deluxe Puffins Galore Workshop at the Mingan Archipelago National Park of Canada. It sounded too good to be true. You can shoot ALL DAY and have gourmet meals morning, noon and night. Hang on.
 
The “galore” part of the title is entirely true. I took over 13,000-shots in my three-days. It required merciless culling to get down to under 200 for sharing. I have many worthy of framing and the culls contain many shots that I might have been happy with, had I not had so many superior shots.
 
There are rules, to protect the birds, about where you can go on the islet, but that in no way excludes you from puffin activity. For example, every evening, we sat in chairs as puffin filled our frames landing, taking off, kibitzing, posing, all in ideal light. By the end of the first day, I didn’t know how I’d possibly improve my shots, but I did, indeed, add to my archive.
 
Importantly, Chris is an affable and professional guy, but he pays close attention to safety, respect of our subjects and comfort of his guests. Everyone in my group was experienced, with good equipment. In fact, I was the only newbie. All had shot with Chris before. Guess what, I’ve signed up for his Snowy Owl Adventure, next January. I suspect that won’t be my last.
 
Chris delivers a premium product, in every way. Planning information was thorough and detailed, making it crystal clear what you needed to get there, to wear, etc.. The only thing left was to take the pix.
 
This is a premium product and a photographer’s dream. This is THE way to shoot Atlantic puffin.

Dave Stephens Colorado | USA

Visit Dave's Portfolio from the trip HERE.



 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Mar282017

Bald Eagle LIGHT DANCER

American Bald Eagle LIGHT DANCER from my Bald Eagle Photographic Expedition (Hailiaeetus leucocephalus, Pygarge a tete blanche, BAEA) Kachemak Bay (near Homer), Alaska ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 IS II USM @220mm ISO 1,000 f/5.6 @ 1/4,000s shot vertical in manual mode. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

 Here's another Bald Eagle form my recent workshops in Alaska. Do consider joining me next  Eagles Galore Photo Tour from March 5-9, 2018. This is one of the most exciting workshops I offer. Based in Homer, Alaska, we will focus on making an epic portfolio of Bald Eagle images! Be sure to learn more about my March 5-9, 2018 Eagles Galore Photo Workshop HERE and be sure to read my testimonials found HERE.

  • I have more experience with the Eagles in Homer than anyone else.
  • We have unprecedented access to the Eagles.
  • We spend more time out with the Eagles than anyone else.
  • We get off the boat to photograph; no sea sickness and much better low angles of view.
  • Smaller groups (maximum 5 participants per trip).
  • I work very hard to ensure you return with an epic portfolio of Eagle images and learn a ton!

KUDOS: 

I recently returned from Chris’s Eagle Workshop in Homer Alaska. Over the years, I have traveled extensively and can say without hesitating that this was the best trip I’ve ever been on. Chris is a very cordial but no nonsense guy. Everything about the trip was organized to the max. I’ve been photographing wildlife for 35 years and thought I had a pretty good idea about how to do it so I wasn’t expecting to learn a whole lot that was new. Wrong! Over the years, other “professionals” had encouraged me to shoot in aperture priority or auto ISO. When Chris told us he was going to teach us to set our camera exposures manually, I thought that sounded like a lot of unnecessary effort. That notion turned out to be false. If you attend this workshop and don’t already shoot in manual mode, your life will be changed. The exposures of the photos I took are spot on and better than any I have ever achieved. 
In addition to the new material I learned, the “eagle shooting” was beyond anything one could ever imagine. It was both action packed and challenging. Our group was only five people and Chris bent over backward to make sure that each of us got the best photos of our lives. Even though I had substantial problems with my equipment, I now have more killer eagle photos than I could have ever hoped for. If you want an informative and fun packed trip, I encourage you to sign up for this or any of Chris’s workshops. I have signed up again for next year’s Eagle Workshop, in spite of my truck load of eagle photos, which I believe tells the whole story.

Ron Brown Colorado USA

 

Tuesday
Nov292016

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.

KUDOS:

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

Thursday
Nov102016

Great Gray Owl WINTERWINGS

Great Gray Owl WINTERWINGS (Strix Nebulosa, Chouette Lapone, GGOW) Quebec, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 500mm F4 L IS USM. ISO 2,500, F5.5 @ 1/2,500s Manual mode. CLICK HERE TO ORDER A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Kudos:

My criteria for signing up for a photo workshop are:  the opportunity to get some very strong images, to learn new things related to capture, post processing, & animal behavior and to have an enjoyable experience.
Your recent owl workshop met these criteria in spades thanks to your expertise, knowledge, & leadership. You did everything humanly possible to make the workshop as successful as possible for your clients.

I have been on many photo workshops.  Yours are now on my short "A" list which means i shall be a repeat client beyond the puffin photo workshop this July. Thank you again for the outstanding owl workshop.

Carl Zanoni Connecticut, USA

Learn more about my Snowy Winter Owl Workshops HERE.

Wednesday
Nov092016

Snowy Owl GOLDEN MOMENT

Snowy Owl GOLDEN TOTEM Bubo scandiacus (Harfang des neiges) Quebec. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 600mm F4 L IS II USM. ISO 1,250, F5 @ 1/3,200s Manual mode. CLICK HERE TO ORDER A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Kudos:

I recently attended the snowy owls workshop with Christopher Dodds and had an amazing experience.  Not only was I extremely impressed with Chris' knowledge and expertise in photography but also how he really cared about the shots we got.  He made sure that everyone in the groups had the shots they wanted and that we all experienced success. His knowledge of cameras and photography is phenomenal.  I have never met anyone who is a knowledgeable in photography as he is.  He was able to answer any and every question and always explained the reasons behind his recommendations to make sure we learned as much as possible.  The instruction didn't stop after shooting in the field.  I learned so much in the Photoshop and Nik Software post-processing session that took my photography to a whole other level.  The small group atmosphere was great as we were able to blend in with nature ensuring that the owls and other wildlife were not disturbed resulting in great shots every time.  Chris made sure each of us were able to develop our skills at our own pace.  The experience and the results were more that I could have asked for.  I would definitely recommend Christopher Dodds workshops to anyone who is looking to improve their photography skills and learn from a real pro.

Fred Lemire Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

Learn more about my Snowy Winter Owl Workshops HERE.

Saturday
Nov052016

Great Grey Owl THE HUNTRESS

Great Gray Owl THE HUNTRESS (Strix nebulosa, Chouette Lapone, GGOW) Ontario, Canada ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. ISO 640, f/2.8 @ 1/3,200s Manual mode. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

KUDOS:

I wanted to thank you for a wonderful winter owling workshop last week.  It was great to be in the field with you and I learned a great deal about the birds, environment and my camera.  Thanks so much for being such a great naturalist, photographer and trip leader.  I will go on another trip with you in the future.

Lynda Goff
(Professor Emeritus Ecology & Evolutionary Biology UC Santa Cruz) Santa Cruz, California, USA

Learn more about my Snowy Winter Owl Workshops HERE.

Friday
Nov042016

Snowy Owl BANKING ON PASTEL SKY

Snowy Owl BANKING ON PASTEL SKY  (Bubo scandiacus, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Ontario, Canada ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 600mm f/4 L IS II USM. ISO 3,200, f/5.6 @ 1/1,250s Manual. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

In my last blog post, I shared an image called Morning Glory. As the the sun continued to rise that morning, the colors in the sky against the retreating fog continued their spectacular show. For more information about my Winter Owl Workshops, CLICK HERE.

KUDOS:

Deep knowledge of animal behaviour and their habitats combined with photographic talent, knowledge and years of experience are the ingredients of trips/workshops guided by Chris Dodds! I had the privilege to join Chris on various trips and experienced unique tailor made experiences, enabling creative and artistic photography. I enjoyed every minute and highly recommend this to colleague nature photographers that like to explore and enjoy the best Nature can offer.

Jan van der Greef The Netherlands

Thursday
Nov032016

Snowy Owl MORNING GLORY

Snowy Owl MORNING GLORY  (Bubo scandiacus, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Ontario, Canada ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM. ISO 3,200, f/2.8 @ 1/2,000s Manual. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Here's the first image from the first day of one of my Owl Workshops. We were on-site and ready to start photographing, but there was heavy fog threatening our early morning light. Just as the sun was about to shine the first licks of light over the snow covered field, the fog lifted and the show was on! It was a hard morning to beat! There is still a couple of spots available for this winter. For more information about my Winter Snowy Owl Workshops please click HERE.

More Kudos:

Hi Chris, Great trip, EH!!

 Seriously, I want to thank you for a wonderful week. Great company, wonderful opportunities on the Snowy Owls during the owl workshop and lots of fun.

 I have been on quite a few photo workshops, and what sets yours apart (aside from the fun), is your knowledge of the natural history of the subjects, and your encyclopedic knowledge of nature photography and photography in general. You seemed to know what the Owls would do before they did, and thus we got great shots. 

I profited as much from the down time between shots as from the shooting time.  What was so helpful to me was that I not only learned your recommendations for settings, but the why, in detail. You have a depth of knowledge such that when I challenged assumptions (which is natural for me as a physician), there was always a firm explanation leading back to a scientific or photographic principle. As a result I understand exactly why I am using that particular technique, and am completely comfortable with it. I learned a ton!!! The focus was always on us getting the shots (after the welfare of the wildlife), on learning, and thirdly on fun. 

I would go on another workshop with you in a minute, because no matter where it was I know I would learn something.

 I really appreciate your scientific approach to photography, your having researched and tested your choices! 


I feel fortunate to have had the experience of learning from one of THE BEST.  Thanks for a great week. 

Until the next workshop.

Mike Gotthelf Fitchburg, Massachusetts, USA

Wednesday
Nov022016

Great Gray Owl INTO THE STORM

Great Gray Owl INTO THE STORM (Strix nebulosa, Chouette Lapone, GGOW) Ontario, Canada ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 500mm f/4 L IS USM. ISO 1,600, f/6.3 @ 1/2,500s Manual mode. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

It's not too late; there is still only a couple of spots available for the coming winter owl season! Learn more about my Winter Owl Workshop click HERE.

More Kudos:

Being a female on my first photo safari, I had some apprehensions before joining Chris on his acclaimed Winter Snowy Owl Safari.  I worried about safety, that I wasn't a good enough photographer for someone with Chris's acclaim, and that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the group on treks. My fears subsided on Day One, and I knew this would be a week I would never forget.  With the small group size, Chris was able to give each member the level of instruction they needed.  Beyond having great opportunities for owl pictures, I learned helpful things about owl behaviour, owl spotting techniques, operating the camera, processing images,  best clothing and gear for winter, and things like the "Dodds duffel toss" that help prevent injuries while putting my camera backpack on.
Chris has an extensive knowledge of exposure theory. He is a patient teacher, skilled in helping his participants gain a deep understanding of this critical element of photography. He demonstrated why it is important to capture as much detail as possible for the best possible print, then showed us how to accomplish it. During the week of ever changing light, he kept checking our work to make sure we were getting the best possible results.
I usually learn from books and enjoy photography as a solitary pursuit, but I enjoyed the camaraderie of this group experience and received many tips on world travel. The photo safari gave me time to immerse myself in photography and nature.  I'm already planning my next safari with Chris.

Karen Miller Pennsylvania, USA

Tuesday
Nov012016

Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl GROUND EFFECT (Surnia ulula, Chouette épervière, NHOW) Ontario ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1D Mark II, 100-400mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM @ 250mm. ISO400, f/5.6 @ 1/2,000s Manual mode. Click HERE to order a print or license image for publication.

There are still a couple of openings due to cancellation for the upcomming winter owl season. Find out more about my Snowy Winter Owl Workshop HERE.

KUDOS

Thank you so much for a memorable week during your Snowy Owl Workshop, I have enjoyed it immensely.

The week has been EPIC, Exhilarating Pictures, Instructional Colossus, what more can I say.

It has been a long held ambition of mine to photograph Snowy Owls and in choosing your trip all my expectations have been filled and some. The company has been an important and enjoyable part of the trip and I will recall with great fondness many of  the hilarious moments we have shared together.

I appreciate all the hard work that you have put in to ensure the success of our trip and I wish to thank you for that.

I hope the season continues to go well for you and I wish you happiness in your life.  

Again a heartfelt thanks.

John Sheppard Banbury | England