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Winter Birds of Vancouver Raptors, waterfowl & More . . .

Dates

Feb 17th - 21st, 2019 & Feb 24th - 28th, 2019

Instructors

Jess Findlay & Connor Stefanison

Price

$2250 CAD + 5% GST | Deposit: $600 CAD

About the Area

Situated between the Salish Sea, the North Shore Mountains and the Fraser River Delta, Vancouver is often touted as one of the world's most beautiful cities. Surrounded by nature, it's no wonder why it's also one of the best major cities in the world for wildlife photography.

Throughout the winter months, the relatively mild climate of southwestern British Columbia hosts a higher diversity of birds than anywhere else in Canada. South of the city's core, where the Fraser River meets the Salish Sea, the bulk of the region's migratory birdlife seek refuge from the chill of winter that consumes the rest of the country. Thousands upon thousands of birds rely heavily upon this area - much of which has been set aside as an international Important Bird Area.

Accommodations

For those travelling from outside the Vancouver area, our recommendation is to stay at the Best Western Plus Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre, where you will have access to a group rate. This is central to many of our photography locations and will be our meeting point each morning.

Transportation

As transportation is not provided during this workshop, we will be convoying together to our shooting locations. Prior to the start date, you will receive an email with directions and Google Map links to all of our sites. Participants are encouraged to organize carpooling and car rental sharing, which we can help facilitate.

Dense coniferous forests covering the endless mountain slopes.

Daily Schedule & Meals

Our workshop will begin with an introductory dinner and meeting, where participants will be acquainted with plans for the following days and be given a presentation on bird photography tips and techniques.

The next four days will be spent in the field, photographing an assortment of exciting birds throughout the Vancouver area. Taking a scenic ferry ride, we'll make a day trip to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, where more fantastic photo opportunities await.

To take advantage of the best light and bird activity, we'll begin each day at around 7:00am - with the exception of our Vancouver Island day, which will require an earlier start. After breaking for lunch around midday, we'll continue shooting until sunset, at around 5:30pm.

One of the many dramatic Coast Mountain peaks seen from the Vancouver area.

Breakfast

The breakfast buffet at our recommended hotel opens at 6:30am. On three of our four mornings, you will be able to dine here. For our trip to Vancouver Island, we will dine together at a restaurant during the ferry ride.

Lunch

As we'll be travelling to and from shooting locations throughout the day, making the most of our light, we'll usually grab a quick lunch on the go. Time can be allotted for sit down meals, should the group prefer that option.

Dinner

A variety of restaurants serving dinner are within walking distance from our recommended hotel.

Instruction

One particular aspect of our workshops that we take great pride in and that sets us apart from many other outfits, is the high level and amount of photographic instruction that we provide. You are not here to pay for our photo holiday. You are here to learn and experience tremendous wildlife encounters. As such, our time belongs to you for the duration of the workshop. In fact, it is rare that we take our own images, other than to demonstrate angles or check exposure settings.

Naturally, level of experience and learning objectives differ from person to person. Through email dialogue prior to the workshop, and in-field discussions, we aim to establish areas where each participant may hope to improve. Our low participant to instructor ratio allows us ample time for one-on-one teaching.

Topics discussed in detail and exercised in the field include the following: Selecting the proper shooting perspective, assessing light angle, approaching/stalking birds, obtaining a proper exposure, achieving pleasing backgrounds, eliminating distracting elements, capturing sharp detail, photographing birds in flight, low light techniques, etc.

Lush temperate rainforest on Vancouver Island.

Physical Requirements

This workshop does not involve any strenuous hiking and the majority of our shooting locations are a short distance from the vehicles. The ability to comfortably carry your gear on flat trails for 1 - 2 km (0.6 - 1.2 miles) will be beneficial, though not imperative.

Equipment Recommendations

Camera Gear

  • One or more DSLR camera bodies
  • Telephoto lens of at least 400mm
  • Mid-range telephoto lens (ex: 70-200mm, 100-400mm)
  • Wide-angle lens (with circular polarizing filter)
  • Lens plates and the tools for installation
  • Tripod and head
  • Rain covers for cameras and lenses
  • Flash
  • Microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Giottos Rocket Air Blower
  • Spare batteries and ample memory cards
  • Laptop and external hard drive for storing images

Clothing

Vancouver's weather is often very changeable, so being prepared with the proper clothing is important. We schedule this workshop to coincide with the driest period of Vancouver's winter, though it is likely that we will experience some sort of precipitation during the workshop, whether rain or snow. Forecasts are very regional and often change quickly. The average daytime high should be approximately 8°c (46°f) and the nighttime low 2°c (36°f). With that said, it is not uncommon for Vancouver to experience temperatures well below freezing.

You'll stay comfortable by dressing in layers. Here is what we recommend...

Top

  • Long sleeve base layer (moisture wicking, merino wool or polyester)
  • Mid layer (fleece or polyester)
  • Warm outer layer (insulated, down or synthetic)
  • Waterproof shell jacket

Bottom

  • Long underwear (moisture wicking, merino wool or polyester)
  • Quick dry soft shell pants
  • Rain pants

Other Articles

  • Outer layer of clothing you don't mind getting dirty, for shooting on the beach, edges of ponds, etc.
  • Thin gloves (good dexterity for operating camera controls)
  • Thick gloves
  • Warm hat
  • Warm socks
  • Buff
  • Rubber boots
  • Knee pads
  • Chest waders (optional* - you may have the opportunity to enter the water to achieve eye-level images of water birds)

Subjects

Waterfowl

Approximately 30 species of waterfowl are possible in the Vancouver area during the winter. While we focus on quality encounters over quantity, our trip is designed with diversity in mind, with participants coming away with a large portfolio of waterfowl, including several tough to photograph species. Highlights include...

A Wood Duck drake calls out to a potential mate.
A Green-winged Teal drake "peeping".
The incredible rainbow iridescence of a Bufflehead drake.
An elegant Northern Pintail drake on ice.
A male Hooded Merganser displaying his full crest.
A Common Goldeneye drake bathed in the last few minutes of evening light.

Raptors

As waterfowl, shorebirds and passerines inundate the region, with them comes a host of predatory birds. Exploring the agricultural areas throughout the Fraser River Delta, it isn't uncommon to encounter dozens of hawks and harriers, hundreds of eagles, and if you know where to look, owls! Eight species of owls can be expected in the Vancouver area during the winter months. A few other atypical species may wander into the region as well.

Each year brings different opportunities and we work hard to maximize your success; scouting for many weeks to find off the beaten track, unique locations.

Surrounded by the bark of a western red cedar, a Barred Owl emerges from the rainforest just before dusk.
A pair of Barred Owls in their mossy temperate rainforest domain.
A Northern Saw-whet Owl perched in a snowy deciduous forest.
A roosting Long-eared Owl photographed after a rain squall.
A Short-eared Owl floats over a coastal salt marsh during its evening hunt.
A Short-eared Owl at rest atop a drift log.
A Northern Pygmy-Owl with a freshly captured vole.
A Northern Pygmy-Owl perched on the edge of its temperate rainforest domain.
A pair of Barn Owls roost in the rafters of a 100 year-old barn.
A Barn Owl hunts for rodents before dusk.

Perching Birds & Others

A nice variety of songbirds, woodpeckers, and other families call our forests home during the winter months. Shooting from blinds in a friend's yard provides incredible opportunities to photograph over 20 different species! Here are a few of our favourites...

Chestnut-backed Chickadee perched on a Douglas fir branch.
A Spotted Towhee perched on a moss covered branch.
Steller's Jay - British Columbia's Provincial Bird.
A male Northern Flicker excavates a mossy stump.
A male California Quail poised atop a mossy log.

West Coast Specialities

A handful of species seen during this workshop are unique to the West Coast.

A male Anna's Hummingbird stretching his wings, revealing amazing iridescent colours.
A Black Oystercatcher cruises the rocky shoreline with a freshly captured whelk.
A Black Turnstone at rest along the coast of the Salish Sea.

What participants are saying...

Below you'll find a small sampling of the incredible images taken during this workshop by some of our participants.

"I just returned from the Winter Birds of Vancouver Photo Workshop. Jess and Connor are so extraordinary in their ability to find the birds we wanted to photograph and to help us improve our photography skills hour after hour. Can't wait for my next trip with them!"

"It was an amazing 4 days. I am so happy to have been part of this workshop with all of you. This was a first for me and it will not be my last."

"Jess and Connor, you both have incredible skills and knowledge of the wildlife in the Vancouver area. I was really impressed with how much you knew of our photo subjects and your ability to call them into range. The workshop was a fantastic experience that exceeded my expectations. You both were very patient and did not rush us, the workshop was well paced and packed with opportunities from sun rise to set. I also particularly enjoyed the suggestions on composition and your artistic abilities to turn wildlife into works of art. I definitely would take another of your workshops and I really had a good time and enjoyed myself."

"Thanks so much for everything you guys did to make the workshop so memorable. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, learned a great deal and came away with some new friends."

Get To Know Your Guides

Jess Findlay and Connor Stefanison grew up together in the city of Burnaby, just outside Vancouver, British Columbia. Having both struck up an interest in photography during their mid teen years, they began exploring locally with cameras in hand; eventually joining a photography club. As this hobby started to bring them further afield, their focus gravitated towards exploring and documenting the area's diversity of wildlife as well as their adventures in the British Columbia backcountry. This was only natural, having grown up in families passionate about the outdoors - with childhoods spent birdwatching, hiking, fishing, skiing and mountain biking.

Gaining notoriety in local competitions, Jess and Connor began taking this hobby more seriously and it soon consumed the bulk of their time. It wasn't long until a demand for sharing their skills and local knowledge spurred on a career guiding workshops and photo tours.

Since 2008, their travels have taken them across the globe. Several successes in the prestigious NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition and the Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice Awards have garnered them international commendation. Their work has hung in the London Natural History Museum, Royal British Columbia Museum and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

Connor has photographed several editorial assignments for Audubon Magazine and has assisted on several film projects with both National Geographic and BBC, including Planet Earth.

For the past several years, Jess has been guiding photography workshops in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Peru. Working as a naturalist, bird guide and photographer aboard a charter vessel, his travels have also taken him to remote regions of Alaska's Aleutian Islands and Katmai Coast.

With backgrounds in biology, Jess and Connor bring a unique perspective to their teaching; emphasizing the importance of understanding animal behaviour, their connection to habitats and prey, in efforts to find, photograph and better respect their subjects.

A collective passion for their native province of British Columbia drives both their own photographic pursuits and their enthusiasm of sharing it with those who visit.

How To Register

If you'd like to register for this workshop, please click here to navigate to the workshop webpage, scroll down and fill out the form.

Hope you can join us!

© Jess Findlay & Connor Stefanison 2018

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