The Bird Photography Workshop in British Columba was by all measures, awesome! Well the weather was a bit dodgy to get things started, but we were well rewarded by a bevy of birds and some superb interaction between Bald Eagles as the week went on. We photographed Bald Eagles everyday of the workshop and filled in nicely with other cool birds like Rough-legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, cute songbirds and countless waterfowl.
This workshop takes place along the Vancouver BC coast and the Fraser River Valley. Why you ask? Here is the thing a lot of people don’t know, Bald Eagles migrate! In November and December the Bald Eagles migrate from Alaska and Northern Canada to feast on the abundant food supplied by the salmon runs. As many as 8000 Bald Eagles take advantage of the salmon and the perfect conditions to find their mate and start a new family. The interactions over food and finding a mate were awesome.
Birds Galore is more than just eagles!
Until you have joined this workshop, it is probably hard to imagine getting tired of photographing Bald Eagles. Trust me when you have photographed hundreds of Bald Eagles flying past your camera at point blank range, it’s refreshing to have more birds to photograph. There is not a lot of standing around on this workshop!
In past years we photographed these bird species on the Bird Photography Workshop in British Columbia.
Red-tailed Hawk, Pacific Loon, Red-throated Loon, Pied Grebe, Common Goldeneye, Wood Duck, Sandhill Crane, Northern Pintail, Belted Kingfisher, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Barred Owl, Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Hooded Merganser, Snow Goose, Mute Swan, Rough-legged Hawk, Canvasback, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Virginia Rail, Common Snipe, Great Horned Owl, Northwestern Crow, Pileated Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee, Pacific Wren, Red-winged Blackbird, Mountain Chickadee and multiple species Herons and Egrets.
How Close Are to the Birds?
People always want to know how close we get to the birds on the Best Bird Photography Workshop in British Columbia. The answer is complicated because it is rarely the same, so I always say bring your longest lens, and we’ll go from there. Occasionally though we do have close encounters of the bird kind!
My thoughts about the bird photography workshop in British Columbia
One of the many cool things about my job as a workshop instructor is nothing is ever the same. As many times I run a workshop in the same locations and the same time of the year they are just never the same. One time, I was on one of my Kenya Safaris and was on two of them back to back. The second one, just 6 days later, was so entirely different that I was stunned and I am rarely taken off guard like that! The moral of that story is this workshop was different than any of its previous versions. It was not better or worse just different. When you look at the itinerary, just keep in mind, we never change up a workshop unless we have to make changes. I am sure the times that I have had to change the itinerary it was to everyone’s benefit, mostly the clients!
W.C. Fields famous quote about working with children and animals should also have included the weather! On this year’s workshop, it was rainy and pretty cold when the wind was whipping off the bay. At dinner time the forecast called for heavy rain and wind, and so we made the call to cancel the morning photography session and have a classroom session. Nobody cried out loud, but nobody wanted to get soaked either. I am going to guess it was not more than 2 hours into our classroom session when the “sky is falling” forecast failed to materialize. We adapted and stopped the class and got dressed grabbed a fast food lunch and found the birds.
On this years workshop, there were not as many individual Bald Eagles as in previous years, but the quality of photography was higher. There was a lot more interaction between the eagle which made the images more dynamic. We needed to work harder and spend more time traveling find the birds, but when we did, wow! For example, this eagle shot at the top of the page was not available in previous years because there is not usually water there!
This is the first time that we have done the workshop in January, and I imagine it will stay there forever now. The weather was warmer, the 20s to mid-40s. We still get up at the crack of dawn, but that means 7AM and not 3AM! The day ends early too, about 4:30pm, so no long lunches, grab and go and eat in the car was the best situation.
We had great overcast skies. I hear you saying, “Wait what?” I love overcast skies as long as it is bright and alive and not dark and gloomy. When it is overcast, we can photograph in any direction, and we can shoot all day thanks to the giant “softbox in the sky. Don’t worry there were pleasant breaks so get your bright light shots too!
Clients worry about food on these trips, and if you know me, then you know worrying about food is silly. I have a knack of finding the place in town that has the best food, and that isn’t always the most expensive. We ate breakfast at the hotel or at the nearby Starbucks. We took our dinners together at night (not included), and the lively conversations were fun and sometimes educational. I expect several new friendships were made on the workshop between the clients and me as well.
About The Gear
I always say there is never enough glass for bird photography and that is true here. If you don’t have at least a 400mm with a high pixel camera, then we should talk before you join. As I mentioned earlier with fewer birds, they were often farther away, and folks that had 600s were much happier than those that did not. Don’t get me wrong there were times an eagle posed within a few feet or right over your head. You will get images, but the longer your glass, the happier you will be. The Sigma 150-600mm is perhaps the perfect lens for this trip. For about $1000 it’s a heck of a deal for a heck of a lens!
Conclusions from The Bird Photography Workshop in British Columbia
Come well armed with a variety of clothes for wet, dry and snowy conditions. The weather people are never right.
It’s not the number of images that you take, but the number of images that you keep. You may not burn through cards like crazy, but I think you will be happy with the photos that you create.
We always try to meet the schedule, we don’t always succeed, but sometimes the workshop is better for the change!
What do the Clients Say?
Best Bird Photography Workshop Photo Gallery
If you would like to see some of the images I have made on the BC Birds workshop please visit my gallery.
What else can I tell you about the bird photography in BC? Hit me up in the comments!