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Photography Workshops by Christopher Dodds


Nature Photography Blog Journal Index

Entries in Harfang des neiges (7)



Snowy Owl FLIGHT IN LAST LIGHT  (Bubo scandiacus, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Ontario, Canada ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 600mm f/4 L IS II USM with 1.4X III. ISO 4,000, f/5.6 @ 1/2,500s Manual. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.


What can I say? Your Winter Owl Photo Tour was an absolute sensory overload of owls, knowledge and fun! A smashing success! I have to say this was the very best photo trip I have ever joined (and I have joined many). It was an EPIC adventure, and it was a huge success; with your help, I managed to pull off an incredible portfolio of Owl images that was miles better than I could have imagined! Just like your stated goal; I can attest to the fact that the single most important objectives for you as the leader is for your clients to achieve an EPIC portfolio that you would have been proud to call your own, and for everyone to learn. Mission accomplished, my friend…many fold. I would have been thrilled with just one of the hundreds of EPIC images that I created under your wise guidance. You will see me again on another workshop soon. I can offer anyone considering this trip the following advice: DO IT! You won’t regret it. Chris works extremely hard for you to get the very best images; images that will impress everyone. He’s fun and eager to teach anyone, regardless of their abilities. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Peter Frost London | England

Learn more about my Snowy Winter Owl Workshops HERE.


Snowy Owl Photo Tour Update

Snowy Owl Wings-up (Bubo scandiacus, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Ontrario. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Canon EOS Canon EOS 1DX, 600mm F4 L IS II ISO 1,600, f/5.6 @ 1/3,200s Manual mode. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Here's one from one of many memorable moments during my Snowy Winter Owl Workshops last season. The outlook for this winter season is simply superb! I currently know where there are more Snowy Owls than I did this time last year. Remarkably, I have had three cancellations due to illness. Each of the three folks have asked me to try to find someone to fill their spot and have agreed to a discount. Be sure to have a look at the workshop and take advantage of $500.00 savings if you book a 2015 owl trip before midnight Dec. 24, 2014. Space is limited, so don't wait too long!

January 12-16, 2015 Snowy Winter Owl Workshop - NOW SOLD OUT

January 26-30, 2015 Snowy Winter Owl Workshop - NOW SOLD OUT

February 2-6, 2015 Snowy Winter Owl Workshop - NOW SOLD OUT


Snowy Owl from Saint Paul Island Workshop


Male Snowy Owl SAINT PAUL BLAST-OFF (Bubo scandiacus, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Saint Paul Island, The Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, Alaska. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Canon EOS Canon EOS 1DX, 600mm F4 L IS II, 2X Extender III, Tripod & Jobu Jr. 3 ISO 4,000s, f/9 @ 1/3,200s Manual mode. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

We had an awesome time photographing the beautiful male Snowy Owl one morning during my Saint Paul Island workshop. The owl was much more tolerant of our presence than I expected, and kept taking-off to hunt Least Auklets along the shore, only to return to perch near us each time it failed. Finding this, and the Lesser White-fronted Goose the next day is a testament to the diverse and rare birds of Saint Paul Island.

It's not too late to learn bird photography!

If you want to learn bird photography at the very best place in the world for me to teach it, then it's not too late. I have just announced that I'll be returning to Bonaventure Island to teach another Gannet Galore workshop from August 21-23, 2013. This is the best time to photograph the babies and all of the usual Gannet behaviour. Do take the time to read one of the many testimonials from this workshop - if I could recommend a single workshop for you to learn the most, this is it! There is something to photograph from dawn to dusk and the birds in flight opportunities will not disappoint! Click the link for more information or to sign-up: Gannets Galore August 21-23, 2013


My very first birding workshop (Gannet Galore on Bonaventure Island) with a new lens AND camera was filled with much anxiety until the thorough briefing prior to our 1st shoot. After meeting Chris for the introduction to exposing to the right, the Sunny 16 rule and its variances, and the promise of capturing some bird images HE would be proud to call his own my mind was set to rest. I have only been in photography for 3 years and still struggle with exposure, composition, and sharp focusing(especially when bobbing in a Zodiac) but there I was actually able to come away with some great images of Razorbills on the fly! Chris is one of best teachers of photography and wildlife habits I have ever had the pleasure to be around, his knowledge of the Northern Gannets Colony and Bonaventure Island is exceptional. I have already signed on for my next workshop with him, his enthusiasm for wildlife is contagious!

Mel Geer Saint Simons Island, Georgia, USA


Snowy Winter Owl Safari Workshop Kudos

Snowy Owl LEAN (Nyctea scandiaca, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Ontario, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Canon EOS 1DMKIV,  500mm F4 IS with Think-Tank Photo Hydrophobia 300-600 Tripod & Jobu Jr. 3. ISO 1,600, f/5.6 @ 1/1,600s Manual. PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Snowy Owl Irruption

A Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) takes flight from a snow covered farm field on an overcast day during the great Snowy Owl Irruption that occurred during the winter of 2011-2012. Abundant Lemmings and Voles at their nesting grounds high on the Arctic Tundra ensured large clutches of eggs and fledgling survival (The size of the clutch depends on prey availability; the more prey there is, the more eggs the female will lay). Once fledged, the now massive population of Snowy Owls ate all available food near their nests and started what has become the largest Southern Migration of Snowy Owls ever recorded.


"Hi Chris, Great trip, EH!!

Seriously, I want to thank you for a wonderful week. Great company, wonderful opportunities on the Snowy Owls 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 next outing,"

- Mike Gotthelf Fitchburg | MA | USA

2013 Winter Snowy Owl Safari Workshop announced

Be sure not to miss-out and register early for 2013 Winter Snowy Owl Safari/Workshop HERE 


Cold Weather Clothing Tips for Photographers

 Snowy Owl Stance (Bubo scandiacus, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Ontario. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKIII, 500mm F4 IS, Tripod with Tripod & Jobu Jr. 3 with Think-Tank Photo Hydrophobia 300-600. ISO 400, F6.3 1/1,600s Manual mode. CLICK HERE TO ORDER A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Winter Owl Report

Just wanted to pass on my thoughts about the coming winter owl season. There's been good movements of our favorite winter owls so far and they have already started to establish their winter feeding grounds. All of the indications are pointing to a great winter owl season. I still have some limited space available on my Snowy Winter Owl Prowl Photo Safari / Workshops.

Cold Weather Clothing Tips for Photographers

Photography in the winter often entails staying warm while staying still in the freezing cold for long periods of time and foregoing any warmth from physical exertion. In the deep cold, when you are not exerting yourself, what you want is loft and insulation; remember that loose fitting clothing offers much more insulation and warmth than tight fitting layers that are so compressed that they actually loose the ability to keep you warm. Synthetics wick chilling moisture away from your skin, are light for travel and dry much quicker than any natural fabrics (Just remember: Cotton Kills!).

Tops: I start with a base layer Double Wicked Lite T Long Sleeve Shirt (remember that cotton traps moisture next to your skin, but synthetics wick moisture away from your skin), followed by a good mid weight fleece Zip Neck Sweater .

Bottoms: Full Length Base Layer with either Nylon zip-off pants or Microchill Fleece Pant if it’s really cold.

Outer wear: Expedition weight bib Gore-tex pants and Canada Goose Parka for the woods (extremely durable and branch resistant), or Expedition weight Down Parka (Really warm and light – perfect for travel).

Feet: As I’ve already mentioned, nature photographers spend a huge amount of time waiting for the image, so it’s extremely important to understand that boot manufacturers rate their boots with the assumption of moderate activity; there is a huge difference in just how warm a boot is when walking or standing for any length of time. I start with a good pair of Warm Socks and add a loose fitting Sorel Boot (I’ve tried so many winter boots, and there’s nothing like the durability and warmth of my Sorels). MICROspikes Pocket Traction System prevent accidental (and sometimes expensive and damaging) wipeouts.

Hands: Keeping your hands warm is quite a challenge; here’s my secret: I start with a loose fitting pair of Thin Liner Gloves which never come off my hands. I place Hand Warmers into the palm of the liner gloves, and when it’s really, really cold, I slip another into the wristband which warms the blood as it travels to my fingers. My choice for outer layer is the Black Diamond Mercury Mitts; be sure to buy a size, or two, larger than normal; this allows you to move your fingers around inside the gloves. The extra room, and fine leather palm of the Mercury Mitts allows me to use most of my camera’s buttons and dials – it takes a little practice, and seems clumsy, but better a little awkward than frozen.

Head: Remember that most heat loss occurs through your head and get a warm Beanie hat (or Touque as we say in Canada) . I often use a Balaclava when it’s really cold to protect my face from the the cold and windchill.

Camera: As for your camera gear, you should pack rain protection in case you are blessed with wet snow, or rain. I am thrilled with my Think-Tank Photo Hydrophobia 70-200 Flash and my Think-Tank Photo Hydrophobia 300-600 V2.0. Unlike the old days, little precaution is required before for your newer generation digital camera bodies are exposed to arctic conditions. Today’s pro camera bodies easily handle the cold weather and recent advances in battery technology easily allow a full day of photography on one charged battery. Consumer and prosumer cameras will also work well, but you should have an extra battery, or two, tucked away in an inside pocket keeping warm. Moving between extreme cold and warm temperatures when going indoors, or out, does cause some condensation; just leave your camera in it’s bag for a couple of hours while it comes to room temperature. Although I won’t remove a lens until my camera warms to room temperature, I don’t fuss much with my professional, sealed cameras; they’ve been from warm to cold and back again thousands of times. It’s good practice to remove the memory card when you are finished shooting and put it in a safe and zippered pocket; this prevents any warm moist air from entering your camera when you get home (or to your hotel), and keeps your images safe if your camera is stolen from you vehicle if you stop for coffee, hot chocolate or to warm-up at a restaurant.

Second Annual Photo Geek Christmas Party

I have just visited to Hudson Village Theater to do a pre show audio & video test and am thrilled to be presenting at such an awesome venue! There is still limited space available, be sure not to miss this show and support such a worthy cause!

Our sponsors have dug deep and collectivly offered thousands of dollars of prizes for this great event! Jobu Designs (makers of my favorite Gimbal Head - the Jobu Jr. 3), FirstPass Image downloader & Editor, Think-Tank Photo, Cotton Carrier, DigiMarc for Images and Tiffen have all jumped on-board and offered tons of prizes to show their suppoort for my Second Annual Photo Geek Christmas Party.

It's not too late to join me, Canadian nature photographer Christopher Dodds, on November 30, 2011 at 7:30 PM at the Hudson Village Theatre (28 Wharf Road, Hudson, QC   J0P 1H0) for an hour and a half long slideshow presentation to benefit this great cause which is so close to my heart. The show is designed to be entertaining and informative to all; nature lovers and photographers alike. Stories of adventure, natural history facts and information are all on the menu and this show is designed to offer helpful tips & techniques sure to improve your photography efforts with everything from a camera phone, point & shoot camera or professional SLR camera system. Over one hundred of my images will be projected, many unseen.  Everyone is welcome!
Hurry! Only 148 seats. Tickets are only $15.00 each and are available for advance purchase only - every penny is collected by, and goes to Le Nichoir. Please call or email Le Nichoir ( 450-458-2809) to secure your tickets, or make a donation if you can't make it (be sure to tell them it's on behalf of Chris' Photo Geek Christmas Party) Major credit cards and cheques accepted. Finger food and hors d'oeuvres are included and there will be a cash bar (please drink responsibly).
There will be ample time to mingle, meet my friends and contacts and share some of your images with others, so feel free to bring prints, iPads or laptops with your favourite images to share. I hope to see you there and PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!

Read more about it HERE


Basic Exposure Theory: The Sunny F/16 Rule Explained

Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus (Harfang des neiges) Casselman, Ontario. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKII, 500mm F4 IS ISO 400, F5.6 1/1600s Manual mode. Full Frame. The chart below (in the cloudy bright column) shows the correct exposure to be ISO 400 F/11 @ 1/400s. I chose to stop the action by using a higher shutter speed, so I used the equivalent exposure of ISO 400 F/5.6 @ 1/1600 second. I also knew to expect less detail in the snow and white feathers, because there are no shadows to help define them.

What you shooting at there, Dodds?” echoed across the landscape as I set-up to photograph Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes in New Mexico about a year ago. “What exposure you at Dodds?” was the question asked by the same gifted photographer just recently. I don’t want to embarrass anyone, so I won’t mention any names here. I truly do think that he is a gifted and talented photographer. He’s widely published and is also the first person to admit that he doesn't really know all the “techie” stuff.....and he was much closer to my exposure this year, than last. 

The single most important skill a photographer should have is a basic understanding of the fundamentals of photography. The most important tool, and the least understood aspect of photography is exposure theory. I learned photography with a totally manual camera and used slide film (seems like so long ago), so a basic understanding was necessary to make successful images.

 Q: Why bother when I can just keep things simple and take a picture, check the histogram and make any adjustments necessary? 

 A: Because having an intimate knowledge of exposure theory and your cameras functions and controls helps you grow and improve as a photographer, make better decisions and better images as a result.

In it’s simplest form, the Sunny 16 rule (or Sunny F/16 rule) states: On a bright, sunny day, the correct exposure for any middle tone subject is F/16 at the shutter speed nearest to the reciprocal of the film speed. For example:

ISO 100 = 1/100 second @ F/16

ISO 200 = 1/200 second @ F/16

ISO 400 = 1/400 second @ F/16

ISO 800 = 1/800 second @ F/16

Now we have established the correct exposure, it’s time to decide if we need more depth of field or shutter speed. Each step up, or down, of one variable represents a doubling, or halving, of any other variable. If you need more shutter speed than 1/100 second @ F/16 (ISO 100), then an equivalent exposure would be ISO 100 1/1600 second @ F/4.


This chart illustrates the equivalent exposures for ISO 100 and 200. Each setting above will allow the same amount of light to fall on your digital cameras sensor, or film cameras film. The exposure is the same, with the only difference being either your shutter speed (to freeze or blur action) or the depth of field (very narrow to blur the background, or very large to capture an entire grand landscape sharp).

But wait! It got cloudy. Now what? The Sunny F/16 rule is actually the correct ambient exposure for an average subject under bright sunny conditions. If the sun goes behind a cloud, then the light falling onto your subject is decreased and you must make an adjustment to your basic exposure settings. Here are some aperture settings for some different daylight situations:

This is intended as a starting point, so there are exceptions. Backlight or sidelight both require adjustments to reach the correct exposure. It’s a good idea to expose to the right with your digital camera; 50% of the recorded data is recorded on the right fifth (or 20%) of your digital cameras histogram. With very light subjects in very bright conditions, I routinely subtract light so as not to clip the highlights. With very dark or black subjects, I tend to add light to maximize the recorded detail. Notice the technicals for the Snowy Owl in my previous post; ISO 200 F9 1/1600 second = ISO 200 F22 1/1250 second (or Sunny F/16 rule for light sand or snow) minus 1/3 stop to preserve all of the details in the whites without clipping (or loosing) any data.

Sounds complicated, but if you spend some time digesting and thinking about everything here; you'll be able to get that once in a lifetime shot accurately and consistently with confidence. Not to mention how much you will impress the boys (or girls) when you are all standing around waiting for the shot or talking shop.

If you own an iPhone or iPod touch, there's a great application available for $1.99 called Exposure Calc. I just found it while writing this blog entry and think it is a great learning aid and pocket reference.

If you don't get it, and need to take a test shot, check the histogram, make adjustments, take another test shot; that's okay too, as long as you're having fun and making the odd good image to keep you interested.

Comments welcome & appreciated.


The Business of Photography: Negotiation


Snowy Owl Blast-off Bubo scandiacus (Harfang des neiges) Quebec. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKII, 300mm F2.8 ISO 200, F9 1/1600s Manual mode. Full Frame. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE AN IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Top 10 Negotiation Tips:

To succeed in any business, particularly as a photographer, we have to compromise from time to time. The trick is to compromise without loosing what you really need to accomplish your goals.
  1. Learn to ask for what you want: We often fail to ask for a better price or better terms because we are afraid of failure. A good negotiator starts with a clear understanding of what they want, and what they don’t want. People new to negotiation feel it’s awkward to ask for a lower price or better terms. Anyone trying to buy or sell anything will be happy to consider any reasonable offer to help close the deal.
  2. Eliminate disadvantages by acting quickly and decisively. Having a plan and knowing what your goals are is the best way to react quickly to offers or counteroffers. In todays connected world, waiting to reply during negotiations allows the other party time to seek other options.
  3. Deal with the decision maker, but don’t be afraid to have someone who isn’t the decision maker negotiate for you. Use the power of your friendships with other people in the organization you are dealing with to help move the negotiations along in your favour.
  4. Learn to listen. If you are talking; then you are not listening. Good negotiators are good listeners and good communicators. Those that do all of the talking during the negotiation process are usually the ones who loose; they don’t take the time to hear the other sides needs and concerns. By learning to listen, the other side will quite often tell you everything you need to know to win.
  5. Leave your emotions out of the negotiation process and keep your cool. The moment you get angry is the moment you loose. You should not avoid discussing important issues, just avoid discussing them in a heated argument. Negotiations should not be arguments, but avoiding tough issues is not productive.
  6. Don’t make a threat unless you are ready to follow through. 
  7. Remember the power of conversation. It’s easy to misinterpret the tone of an email. Don’t be shy to pick-up the phone and make a phone call. Embrace the spoken word.
  8. Don’t negotiate away from what’s important to you. Remember rule number one.
  9. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. Better to have no deal than one you will regret with time.
  10. Get it in writing. I find the best usage licenses are the ones I’ve written myself. Using a standard form contract is a good indication that no negotiations took place.


                         Learn it all. Learn it fast. Learn it now.