Revisted: Venice Rookery – Venice, Florida – March 2014

The months between February and May are quite busy at the Venice Rookery in Venice, Florida. I have visited this world-renowned place many times for classes and just for fun. I have written about this place before, you might also like the posts: Revisited: Venice Bird Rookery – Venice, Florida and Snoopin’ Around The Rookery – Venice, Florida to see additional material. This particular place is associated with the Venice Audubon Society. There are a variety of birds that nest here such as egrets, blue herons and anhingas.

There are as many photographers as birds this time of year. Photographers flock (like the pun?) to the area to catch these amazing animals doing their thing. It’s not uncommon to see lenses that cost in excess of $10,000, not to mention the tripods and special heads to hold these monstrous lenses. Do you need such an expensive lens to capture “professional” photos? It all depends on your checkbook. If you are able to buy one of these lenses than great go for it. While you’re at it, get the Nikon 800mm lens for $18,000 so you can get the eyelashes! If that is slightly out of the price range, (that would be five years salary for me) this is what I would do. Get a camera body that is around 24 megapixel, and then slap a 70mm-300mm lens on the front of it. This does a couple of things for the photographer. First, if you get a cropped sensor such as a Nikon D3300, D5300 or D7100; or Canon Rebel t5i, this will make the lens appear longer. Some say that when they put a telephoto lens on that it makes the lens longer. Unless you have supernatural powers, the lens isn’t magically getting longer. What is happening is that the camera is only using the center part of the lens and it appears that you are getting the longer lens effect. For example, if I were to put on a 70mm-300mm lens on one of the above-mentioned cameras, it would appear as if it was a 105mm-450mm. A 70mm-300mm runs about $600, this is more affordable than the 600mm or 800mm lenses by a long shot (again, another pun!) With the higher megapixel count, this gives the photographer cropping power in post. If anyone likes to print their photos on actual paper, this really comes into play.

I have a 80mm-400mm, when I remember to take it. On this day, I had my 70mm-300mm on the camera. This lens is light, fast and sharp, it’s a great all around lens that is affordable. My current camera body is a Nikon D300. This camera has a 12.5 mp sensor. She’s getting a little long in the tooth these days, however it still works and gives me great results. Since I really don’t do much printing and most of my stuff ends up here on the blog, I can get away the lower megapixel count. If I had to blow these up to 16”x20” after cropping, this may not end well. A tripod is recommended with longer lenses to help steady the camera. I have a ball head on my camera to make it easy to swing the camera around when the birds are in flight. However, on this day….the tripod was at home…DUH! So hand holding was going to be the way to go.

Here's an cattle egret rotating her eggs at the Venice Rookery in Venice, Florida. Photo by Spencer Pullen. Egret Rotating Eggs – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

As you can see from the above photo there is an egret rotating the eggs. I really liked this shot, as it can be difficult to see inside the nests. It might help if one took a tall ladder to shoot from to get inside the nests.

 A Blue Heron flying to get a stick for the nest. Photo taken at the Venice Rookery in Venice, Florida. Photo by Spencer Pullen.Blue Heron Flying – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

It seems as if you can only get so many photos of birds sitting on the nest before boredom sets in. This is where most folks like to get some action shots. Since I know I’m going to be tracking birds in flight, I like to stick with 1/1000 – 1/2000 for my shutter speed. This fast shutter speed will ensure that any flight shots won’t be blurry due to a slow shutter. I also shoot “wide open” on my lenses, meaning the biggest aperture that the lens will allow, in this case, f/5.6.

 A cattle egret bring a stick back to the nest. Taken at the Venice Rookery in Venice, Florida. Photography by Spencer Pullen.Egret Coming In For Landing – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

I thought this one was interesting as the egret stopped in a vertical position. He’s coming back after retrieving a stick for the nest. Since these little guys are a little erratic, I shoot in burst or continuous mode to help my chances of getting a good one. It’s digital, I don’t care if I shoot 4,000 photos while I’m there. I know that I should have a few keepers and I can throw the other 3,990 frames away.

A Blue Heron bringing a stick back to the nest. Photographed at the Venice Rookery in Venice, Florida. Photography by Spencer Pullen. Great Heron Adding To The Nest – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

Again, with a fast shutter speed mixed with burst mode, I was able to capture the Blue Heron as he approached to land.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this Little Green Night Heron at the Venice Rookery at Venice, Florida.Little Green Night Heron – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

A shout out to my friend Linda O’Neill for helping with bird identification. She is a great friend and is “one with the birds”. Without her, some of these would be called, white bird, blue and gray bird…what can I say. The rookery is where all the action is at, however around the backside of the parking lot, there is another pond. I have seen many different types of birds that are not in the main section of the rookery such as this Little Green Night Heron. It was clouded over and put a white glare on the water. At first I was kind of bummed by this, but it acted as a mirror and I liked all of the lines that the tree limbs made. Since there wasn’t any wind to be had, there was a perfect reflection. This little guy didn’t mind me and let me take a portrait of him.

If you are into bird photography, this is a great place to explore. Don’t get caught up in all the fancy equipment, if you have good technique you can produce something pretty close as someone with $15,000 worth of equipment. If you really want to get fancy, you can try shooting at a slower shutter speed such as 1/30 when the bird is in flight and this will really blur the background. Be prepared to take multiple shots as this technique takes some practice to get a good photo. Most important, go out and have fun. Some folks get more wrapped up in the gear aspect (I do as well) but that shouldn’t over take enjoying the hobby. Go out, shoot, have fun…no matter what.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Thank you Spencer. Your photos are great.

  2. Super photos. I especially like the Little Green Night Heron and his reflection!

  3. Love the little green heron reflection. Very cool pic

  4. Your ” little green night heron ” is actually called just a Green Heron…. not a night heron. There are two kinds of night herons, yellow crowned and black crowned.
    Just an fyi but really nice pic and reflection!

    • Spencer

      Thanks for correcting this. I’m kind of bird name stupid! Thanks!!!


  5. Gorgeous shots spencer!

  6. Spencer, I love your posts. The Little Green Night Heron Reflection and the Egret Coming in for a Landing are beautiful.

  7. I really look forward to your nature photography posts and pictures, Spencer. I have a Nikon D5000 and D7000 and an 18-200mm and and 80-400 lens. Your photography is wonderful and thank you for all the descriptions and also camera settings.

  8. That’s cool you captured the eggs. Nice job!

  9. WOW…..YOUR BIRD PICTURES ARE VERY NICE! But you are so much more experienced in photography….some day I will master this hobby!

  10. These show why you are the teacher! So nice.

  11. Spencer,
    Without question it is always a delight to find your blog post in my inbox. The Venice Rookery is a favorite spot not only for photos but just to sit, relax and watch the birds as well as the early morning photographers with their cammies and lenses as long as Casey Key! Your shots in this post exemplify the variety of bird activity at the Rookery. What I appreciate is your showing and telling. I can now go back and improve on my own shooting following your guidelines. Thanks for helping us all be better photographers.

  12. Spencer

    I appreciate everyone’s kinds comments. I feel as anyone can do this, all it takes is practice and working with the gear that you have. Also, being at the right place at the right time also helps!



  13. Great job, Spencer, as always. I also loved the picture of the bird with the eggs. Very nice, but more impressive is the growth in comments and followers. That’s very gratifying to you, I’m sure. It’s obvious that you share your knowledge of a skill you love and we appreciate you for sharing it. Thank You.

    • Spencer

      Good to hear from you Curry, hope all is well. The readership has steadily been growing and I hope that other can find some value in this info and if anything else….entertaining! Thanks…


  14. Spencer,

    These pictures look great! I hope that I can learn how to take pictures like this. Thanks for sharing these wonderful shots!

    -David Dumont


  1. Revisited: Venice Rookery – Venice, Florida – January 2015 | Spencer Pullen Photography and Training - […] lenses such as a 70mm-300mm lens. I did a post on this venue a while back, here’s the links:…

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