The Saltwater Estuaries of the Everglades

The saltwater estuaries at the end of the Florida Everglades are home to an ecosystem that supports remarkable wildlife, from large fish to small birds. Outdoor wildlife photographer Doug Gardner journeys there to explore this tremendous diversity of wildlife. He paddles the area in a kayak, keeping the wind to his back, allowing him to drift toward the feeding birds. The goal is to take your time until the feeding birds get used to your presence. You will learn to carefully balance your tripod, camera, and telephoto lens in the kayak. This method can result in amazing close-ups of pelicans. Since these birds are often white, Doug exposes for the bright spots to avoid blown-out highlights.

Doug meters wild birds at a 1/3rd stop under exposure to enrich the colors and capture all the data. Along a sandbar, he shoots avocet wading birds with a 500mm lens and a 1.4 converter. He also shoots oystercatchers, royal terns, and marbled gotwits. To isolate a bird for a single portrait, he recommends working the edges of the flock, waiting for one to move away. Another way to isolate a subject is to use a telephoto lens at a low f-stop, blurring the background. A sleeping bird also makes a good subject because it rarely moves. You will learn to keep the background in the distance, making it easier to blur out all elements except your subject.

To capture a flock of birds in flight, you should keep your shutter speed high and focus on a single bird as it flies. To capture a flying bird within a group, autofocus on one at the edge of the flock to avoid motion blur. Later, Doug will show you how to photograph dolphins with a motor drive. Come along with Doug Gardner and experience photographing wildlife in the amazing saltwater estuaries.

See all of the videos in our Shooting the Ten Thousand Islands Course: