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Photography Workshops by Christopher Dodds


Nature Photography Blog Journal Index

Entries in photo tour (68)


Brown Bear Cub Portrait


Coastal Brown Bear Spring Cub PORTRAIT (Ursus arctos) Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Image Copyright ©Christopher DoddsSony Alpha a7R III Mirrorless camera & Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Lens  with Sony FE 2X Teleconverter @800mm ISO 1,000, f/8 @ 1/400s Manual exposure.

Another spring cub from my recent Coastal Brown Bear boat trip in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Getting down low below eye level makes for a much more intimate portrait. Not always easy when the subject is in long grass, so having this cub stand on the edge of it's day bed looking directly at us for a fraction of a second was a gift - smile.


Coastal Brown Bear Spring Cub 


Coastal Brown Bear Spring Cub Standing (Ursus arctos) Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Image Copyright ©Christopher DoddsSony Alpha a9 Mirrorless camera & Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Lens  with Sony FE 2X Teleconverter @800mm ISO 1,600, f/5.6 @ 1/2,000s Manual exposure.



Last week I finished editing my photos from the Alaska Bear Boat Trip, and I have lots of photos that I consider good.  After what I have learned in your workshops, I am very conservative to call a photo “good” but can report that I have many more good photos from the trip than I expected to get.

The photo opportunities in Katmai National Park were numerous, the weather was cooperative, and trips to shore resulted in excellent light.  You work hard to make your trips productive, informational, and an opportunity to improve one’s photography, and this trip was no exception.

The other participants were courteous and positive individuals with whom it was fun to share travel and photographic experiences.  As you know I have been on more than a dozen trips with you and often there are other repeat customers/photographers on the trips.  My experience is that the photographers who make multiple trips with you are always individuals with whom it is a pleasure to spend 3-7 days.  Many of these people are as interested in my photography as they are in their own, and frequently it is possible to learn from one another. These folks are friends by the end of the trip, and I look forward to seeing them again in the future.  The crew of the boat is helpful, the cook is experienced, the bear guide is knowledgeable, and the food is elegant.  It was amazing to eat so much good food on the boat considering the limited facilities and space in which to prepare the meals.

This trip is not inexpensive but is the most memorial trip which you offer.  The success of my photography from this trip is a result of the specific organization of this trip but also from the invaluable photographic expertise that I have gotten from your trips in this past.  I have and do recommend your trips to other photographers as a fun way to spend time and improve their photography.  You have helped me become a better photographer and I am happy to call you “friend”.   Best wishes to you and your wife, Julie.




Coastal Brown Bear Cubs Jousting

Coastal Brown Bear Cubs JOUSTING (Ursus arctos) Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless camera & Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Lens  with Sony FE 2X Teleconverter @800mm ISO 1,600, f/5.6 @ 1/2,000s Manual exposure.

I'm just home from my Coastal Brown Bear boat photo tour in Alaska. We had amazing weather, epic opportunities with mothers and cubs, and one fantastic group of repeat clients who have all become great friends over the years!

We spent about an hour with these two siblings jousting in the golden last light at about 10:30PM. Shooting at 20FPS when the action was hot and heavy left us with more images than some knew what to do with. To quickly cull the images down to a manageable portfolio, I always look for captivating expressions, at least one eye visible on each bear & preferably a catch-light in both visible eyes.


2019 Point Pelee Migration Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca, Paruline à gorge orangée, BLWA) on the beach at the tip of Point Pelee National Park of Canada during my Songbirds of Pelee Workshop. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless camera & Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Lens  with Sony FE 2X Teleconverter @800mm ISO 2,500, f/7.1 @ 1/2,000s Manual exposure.


The spring migration during my Songbirds of Pelee workshop was off the charts! It was the best migration I have ever seen. All of the birds were low and slow, with day after day of warbler bliss for photographers.

May 9th started like most at The Tip, relatively quiet at first, then a slow trickle of warblers that seemed to appear out of the leaf litter started to build and become a mega reverse migration. There were 9 species of warblers on the sand on the beach alone, and 26 species of warblers at the tip! It was, without doubt, the biggest and best spring migration that I have witnessed at Point Pelee; warblers were dripping off the trees!

Bird photography during spring migration is usually quite challenging in a National Park without using water drips, food or bird song playback to attract the birds. It can be quite frustrating to get the high-quality images that we all dream of with nice poses, clean backgrounds and nice perches. The results are well earned and some of the most rewarding photography that I have in my collection.

Technology certainly has made it easier to keep track of rare bird sightings with Twitter and WhatsApp providing a constant stream of messages with bird reports. As a photographer, it is important to "qualify the lead" before charging past a dozen species of warblers posing down low in nice light while trying to track down a rare warbler seen with a scope at 80 feet. Always ask when it was seen, how close, how high and if it seems to hang around. Try to determine the pedigree of the person who reported it to ensure it is an accurate identification, and always be sure that you want to give up the photo opportunities in front of you before chasing "phantoms".

This Blackburnian Warbler was photographed while foraging for insects with my Sony a9, 400mm GM lens and Sony 2X extender which was the set-up I carried around for the whole trip. I stopped-down to f/7.1 to increase the very shallow depth of field while working so close.




Black-legged kittiwake Love Nest

Black-legged Kittiwake LOVE NEST (Rissa tridactyla,  Mouette tridactyle, BLKI) Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, Bonaventure Island, Quebec Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless camera & Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Lens  with Sony FE 1.4X Teleconverter @560mm ISO 6,400, f/8 @ 1/5,000s Manual exposure.


Here's a simple enough composition of a Black-legged Kittiwake in its nest on the cliffs of Bonaventure Island on the Gaspe Penninsula in Quebec. I photographed this from one of the Zodiac cruises during my Gannets Galore workshop last June. I love studying the rocks and looking for patterns and shapes - If you look long enough, you will see the heart shape in the upper right-hand corner :)

It's not too late to join me at one of my favourite places on earth! No one has spent as much time photographing on Bonaventure Island as I have. I have hosted many hundreds of photographers there of all levels of photographers from pros like Arthur Morris who wanted expert logistics and local knowledge to complete amateurs who want to learn the basics; many of whom have won photography competitions with the images made there with me. I know where to be in any given weather or light to get you the very best images possible.

Gannets Galore: A recent trip to the gannet colony on the Gaspe’s Ile Bonaventure with Chris Dodds proved to be all that I could have hoped for.  The colony is large, active and readily accessible, Chris’ familiarity with the birds and how they would react to the frequent changes in weather and wind direction gave us access to some pretty unique shooting opportunities, and his knowledge of the area and personal connections within the local community allowed us to get to the island when construction on the town’s only pier could easily have prevented us from getting there.  This, combined with Chris’ almost unique ability to teach the principles of photography at the simplest and most complex levels, making this a trip that should not be missed. 
Steve Goodman Denver, Colorado, USA



Bald Eagle Shadow Huntress

American Bald Eagle SHADOW HUNTRESS (Hailiaeetus leucocephalus, Pygarge a tete blanche, BAEA) from my BALD EAGLE WORKSHOP in Kachemak Bay (near Homer), Alaska ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless camera & Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 G Master OSS Lens  ISO 4,000, f/4 @ 1/5,000s Manual exposure.

On the third day of my first group of Bald Eagle photo tours the conditions were perfect for my friend and our captain Dave to navigate into one of my favorite back coves in Kachemak Bay. Thanks to Dave for being a loyal friend and a professional mariner who works tirelessly to keep us in the heart of the action while keeping us all safe!

It was dark and overcast with still water and the action was non-stop! I have tried this sort of "backlit in the shadow" fishing shot before, but the other camera brand I used always let me down. Now armed with the Sony 400mm f/2.8 G Master prime lens with the Sony a9 I had so many razor sharp images that it was hard to choose what to keep! Learn more about why it can focus so quickly with its linear movement HERE.

Join me in Alaska Eagle Heaven next March for my annual Eagle extraviganza. Get more information and sign-up HERE.


Happy New Year

American Bald Eagle SNOWDRIFT (Hailiaeetus leucocephalus, Pygarge a tete blanche, BAEA) from my BALD EAGLE WORKSHOP in Kachemak Bay (near Homer), Alaska ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless camera & Sony FE100-400mm F4.5-5.6 G Master OSS Lens @ 400mm Full Frame image. ISO2,500, f/5.6 @ 1/4,000s Manual mode.

Happy New Year!

This image of a Bald Eagle from my Bald Eagle workshop in Homer, Alaska might be my favorite image from 2018. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year ahead to all! 


Great Grey Owl LAUNCH

Great Grey Owl LAUNCH (Strix nebulosa, Chouette Lapone, GGOW) ©Christopher Dodds  Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Camera & Sony FE 400 f/2.8 GM OSS ISO 5,000, F5.6 @ 1/5,000s Manual Exposure mode and Sony's eye AF. Join me for my winter owl workshops this January/February to learn More CLICK HERE.

Another example of how well the Sony Eye AF works! I am loving the new Sony FE 400 f/2.8 GM OSS, early start to winter (did I really say that) and having this beauty all to myself :)

In case you missed it, I wrote a mini-review of the new Sony FE 400 f/2.8 GM OSS in a recent blog post HERE

Join me for my winter owl workshops this January/February to learn More CLICK HERE.


Sony 400mm f/2.8 GM Mini Review

Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa, Chouette Lapone, GGOW) ©Christopher Dodds  Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Camera & Sony FE 400 f/2.8 GM OSS  ISO 1,250, F2.8 @ 1/5,000s Manual Exposure mode. Join me for my winter owl workshops this January/February to learn More CLICK HERE.

Sony FE 400 f/2.8 GM OSS Mini Review

I am just back from a cross Canada road trip that took just over six weeks and covered more than 17,500km. I was honoured to stop and present at various camera stores across the country, then ended the trip with presentations at ProFusion (Canada's largest camera show); all sponsored by Sony of Canada. Thank you Sony. I got to meet so many great photographers along the way; it was a blast!

I have received a lot of email asking about my thoughts on the new Sony FE 400 f/2.8 GM OSS lens; if I had one, and if I thought it was worth the price tag. Yes, I do own one and YES, it is worth the price! When paired with the Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Camera, the Sony FE 400 f/2.8 GM OSS is the fastest, most reactive with the most accurate auto focus lens that I have ever used. It is light and very well balanced (there was a lot of engineering involved to carefully design the lens with most of it's optics toward the back to make it really easy to hand-hold; a real win for birds-in-flight photographers). Add the Sony 2X Tele-extender, and you end up with a prime killing 800mm f/5.6 that is sharper and more capable than the Canon or Nikon prime lenses that I have used.

Sony took a huge step when thy developed the hybrid AF system that the Sony a9 uses; they have leapt forward with the XD Linear focus. There is no camera and lens that can focus as fast!

From the Sony website: "The XD Linear Motors have been newly developed to deliver higher thrust and efficiency than conventional types in order to make the most of the rapidly evolving speed performance of current and future camera bodies. Linear motor design and component layout have been thoroughly revised to achieve significantly higher thrust. Two of these new motors are used in the SEL400F28GM, achieving up to a 5x improvement* in moving-subject tracking performance. This means that the full speed performance of advanced camera bodies can be applied to capturing perfect images of the most dynamic sports or wildlife subjects. The XD Linear motors are further supported by new algorithms developed specifically for them, notably improving the motors’ response to control signals and minimizing lag and instability that can occur when driving a large aperture focus lens group for quiet, low-vibration operation. "

In summary, XD Linear focus is so much faster than the conventional rotational focus because it quickly and efficiently "thrusts" forward and backward to achieve tack sharp focus. Since conventional lens elements rotate like a nut on a bolt, they have to travel about five times further (think how little a nut moves in relation to how many times it must be turned). There is a limit as to how fast a lens (or lens group) can safely move in a rotational manner. 


Bald Eagle Photography Workshop

American Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Pygargue à tête blanche, BAEA) from my Bald Eagle Workshop in Kachemak Bay, Alaska ©Christopher Dodds  Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Camera & Sony FE100-400 F4.5-5.6 G Master OSS @ 271mm ISO 2,500, F5.6 1/5,000s Manual mode.

Here's another one from my Bald Eagle Photo Tour in Alaska last March. Both workshops in March 2019 were sold out, but I have just had a couple cancel, leaving two spots open. Learn more about my March 10-14 Bald Eagle Photo Tour HERE.