Snoopin’ Around The Rookery – Venice, Florida

I was on my way home from visiting Clyde Butcher’s gallery in Venice, Florida awhile back. I decided to stop at the rookery since it was on my way home. The rookery that is located in Venice is famous around the world. This isn’t a big place, but very popular with bird photographers and folks that are with the Audubon Society. As I drove up to the parking lot, we had the place to ourselves. At first I didn’t see any birds, but I parked and wanted to check it out anyway. As I walked up to the island in the middle, it was then I noticed that the island was loaded with birds. After seeing this, I went back to the car and grabbed some gear.

This is one of those places where long glass rules. A 18mm-55mm really isn’t going to help you here. Not really having a plan when I set out in the morning, I packed everything. I was glad that I did, because I had my trusty 80mm-400mm lens with me as well as my heavy duty tripod. I got everything I needed together and headed off to the edge of the island to try and get a few photographs. The light was a bit harsh when we got there. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon, but I still wanted to walk away with something even if it wasn’t top shelf. I set up the tripod and affixed the camera. I also fitted the camera with an electronic release to help minimize camera shake.

I found a decent spot and after looking through the viewfinder at 400mm it was only then I realized that some of these nests already had some little ones present. As I was setting up, the photography gods were on my side. Some high level clouds moved in and the light on the island when nice and soft. Since I would be photographing fast moving wildlife, I wanted to get as fast of a shutter speed as possible. Since this lens is a variable aperture, the lowest I could go at the 400mm end is f/5.6. I used an ISO of 400 to achieve a shutter speed of 1/500. Ideally, I would have liked to double this. I could have raised my ISO to 800, but I figured I would give it a go and see what happens.

I set the camera for continuous (read machine gun) shooting. I took a few and was pleased with the outcome. I noticed while I was standing there that there was a heron that was flying to the edge of the island to get sticks and building material for their nest. I prefocused on the area that he would be landing and set up the shot. Once he came back, I laid on the release and took as many as the camera would handle. Here is one of the photographs:

 Honey, I’m Home!

After a few minutes it was time to have dinner…for the birds that is. As you can see in the following photograph, the mother is feeding her little one.

 Dinner Time

As I packed up my gear and headed out to the parking lot, I noticed a lone Heron on a dead tree. The sun was hitting him just right and I could see his yellow eyes were lit up. Not having time to set up the tripod I just pointed up and took a few photographs. Here is what the result was:

 The Eyes Have It

If you live in the southwest Florida region, this might be a great spot to check out. It’s not uncommon to see other photographers show up with lenses in Pelican Cases that cost as much as a small car. Some of these folks are more serious than others. All I can say to those that are wound a little to tight on bird photography is this, “I never met a bird that I didn’t like….deep fried.”

Until Next Time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


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