Stories & Photos from the Floating Blind (Floating Hide): Sparky’s Article in e-zine Wildlife Photographic
I subscribe to very few photo magazines, but the one that inspires my photography the most is WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHIC.
It is an e-zine that comes out every two months. I ordered it through the Apple app store/iTunes and view it on my iPhone or iPad. The photos look AMAZING on the Apple screens!
If you are at all interested in wildlife photography (and have an iPhone, iPad, iPod), you should invest in this
Here is a LINK TO WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHICS in the app store
SPARKY’S FLOATING BLIND ARTICLE
In the July/August edition I have an article on using and building a floating blind; tips and tricks for getting unique photos of birds (and other critters!) from eye level.
…AN EXCERPT FROM MY ARTICLE IN THE JULY/AUG WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHICS
GET INVISIBLE! USING A FLOATING BLIND/HIDE
by Sparky Stensaas
It was a gorgeous June afternoon in northern Minnesota…Absolutely clear, sunny, and about 70 degrees. I knew I had to get out in my floating blind (“floating hide” in Britain and Europe). So Bridget and I picked up the kids at daycare and grabbed a take-out pizza on the way home. This greatly expedited the usually lengthy dinner circus so I could get out in the blind before sunset.
ALL DRESSED UP AND SOMEWHERE TO GO
Fortunately for me, we live only five miles from one of the best and most expansive cattail marshes for many miles around. Ironically it is manmade, a string of wetland mitigation ponds created by the state. I stepped into my new neoprene waders that Bridget got me for Father’s Day—luxurious compared to the last few pairs of leaky hand-me downs—and pulled on my camouflage mask and eased the PVC floating blind into the water.
There’s a few things you seem to conveniently forget between your floating blind trips…
1. Swamp gas really stinks!
2. Leeches thrive in these ponds
3. Muck and aquatic weeds are not easy to crawl through
4. Cold water ALWAYS spills over the top of your waders just as you’re leaning over to take an award-winning shot.
5. Every object your leg bumps into under water MUST be a feisty Snapping Turtle (or so your mind thinks!)
6. …and Wood Ducks are notoriously spooky!
[READ MORE (and see MORE PHOTOS) IN THE E-ZINE WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHIC]
Shooting this pair of Ring-necked Ducks at eye-level from the floating blind creates a pleasingly shallow depth of field.
[Canon XTi with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and 1.4x tele-extender, 1/640 at f8, ISO 200]
Yes, it takes a lot of gumption to get up before dawn and slip the blind into the cold water. But the rewards can be amazing. Common Loon (Great Northern Diver) pair silhouetted in the morning mists of sunrise.
[Canon XTi with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and 1.4x tele-extender, 1/4000 at f8, ISO 200, -1.0 ev]
When a male Bufflehead (or any bird) bursts into flight and is winging past the blind, it is good to have a camera with a high burst rate. The Canon 7D can do 8 frames per second and I used all of them as I held down the shutter button. In situations where I know action might be occurring any second, I turn the camera to Shutter Priority 1/1000 of a second (or faster), Auto ISO, and choose Continuous Focus option (AI Servo in Canon and AF-C in Nikon) to ensure a sharp flight shot.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and 1.4x tele-extender, 1/1000 at f8, ISO 400, -0.5 ev]
A juvenile Virginia Rail feeds along the cattails of a Wisconsin cattail marsh. A floating blind is one of the only ways to get an eye-level shot of this rarely seen species.
[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, 1/250 at f5.6, ISO 400, -0.67 ev]
Birds aren’t the only critters in the pond. It took a stealthy approach and a change of lenses to get this unique perspective of a Rio Grande Leopard Frog in south Texas. Bring a couple shorter lenses (maybe a 70-200mm and a macro lens) in a waterproof container for these type of unexpected opportunities.
[Canon 10D with Canon 70-200mm f4 lens and Canon 500D close up lens attachment, 1/200 at f16, ISO 400]
Can you really ever have enough Common Loon photos? Their blood red eyes and striking plumage make them a favorite subject. Plus, they are very curious creatures and will often approach a floating blind. Minnesota’s very appropriate State Bird!
[Canon XTi with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and 1.4x tele-extender, 1/800 at f8, ISO 200, -0.33 ev]
Least Bittern in a resaca near Texas’s Rio Grande River nabbing a minnow with a lightning-fast strike. More than half the fun of a floating blind is getting access to a private world that most folks never witness.
[Canon 10D with Canon 500mm f4 lens, 1/1000 at f4, ISO 400, -0.5 ev, flash]
HERE IS A LINK TO MY OTHER FLOATING BLIND POST (WITH VIDEO)
HIDE & SEEK WITH THE FLOATING BLIND: RAIL-A-PALOOZA