Steven Blandin: Photographing Florida's Finest Bird

Steven Blandin: Photographing Florida's Finest Bird

Photographer Steven Blandin, 33, was raised in the French Caribbean and has been living in the U.S. for about 10 years. Though he has a day job, he said he’s slowly developing his nature photography business – mostly by offering bird photography tours and high-end fine art prints.

In particular, he’s known for the spoonbill photography tours he leads in Florida’s Tampa Bay. He also guides Bald Eagle photography tours in Alaska.

People are impressed by his photography, too. Recently, he earned a gold medal at the 2015 Professional Photographers of America International Photographic Competition. In total, Blandin says he’s earned 13 international-level recognitions for his photography.

PERKY-PET: How did you first get involved in bird photography?

This Roseate Spoonbill, shown in full breeding plumage, was photographed by Steven Blandin.STEVEN BLANDIN: My passion for bird photography was truly born during an African safari in Botswana. My wife had suggested we do a couple years before we got married. While I was intrigued by the idea then, the adventure turned out to be absolutely outstanding. Since then, I have worked very hard to develop my bird photography skills and now enjoy sharing my knowledge.

PP: Where are some of your favorite spots for taking pictures of birds?

SB: The Spoonbill rookery in the Tampa Bay comes first in my mind without a doubt. This rookery is only accessible by boat, which I access after a long kayak ride. I follow the Audubon society guidelines and stay at least 50 feet from the point of the highest tide, I absolutely enjoy wading in the water and capturing stunning images of birds in their breeding colors.

PP: What’s your favorite bird to photograph?

SB: Can’t you guess by now? Spoonbills of course! The pink color of those birds is stunning. Their breeding colors, with red on the upper wings and a rusty color on the tail and shoulders are breath-taking. In close second come the Bald Eagles.

PP: You sell prints of some of your photos through your website. What’s your best-selling shot? Why do you think it strikes a chord with people?

SB: My best-selling photo, and most awarded, is “Flash Of Pink” (shown at top). This image has received three international recognitions so far, which I am very proud of. It depicts the most sought after bird in the state of Florida: the Roseate Spoonbill.

This piece is very striking for the color harmony between the pink breeding colors of the bird and the bright-green background. Plus, the bird’s pose is very spectacular with an unparalleled view of its full wing span.

The scene represents what I strive to accomplish: An intimate encounter with a beautiful bird while frozen in action.

PP: The ‘Flash of Pink’ spoonbill photo is indeed absolutely gorgeous! Where were you when you shot it? Can you describe what happened during the shoot to capture such a great angle?

SB: This image was created at the Tampa Bay spoonbill rookery. It is the very best spot in that state of Florida to photograph spoonbills.

After a strong storm, the tide had brought in a lot of bright-green algae, which created a beautiful green background for a limited amount of time. I was leading a group of photographers and while we were wading waist-deep in the sea water, I spotted a striking individual bathing about 500 feet away.

Most birds flap their wings after bathing, offering great views of their wings. So, I was very pleased to arrive at photographing range when the bird started flapping its wings to dry after bathing. At the peak of each flap, one can admire its impressive wing span.

The trick was to choose the right angle to have a full, front-facing view while keeping the background completely green while retaining an intimate eye level. This image is the embodiment of the technique I call the ‘4 Angles of Success.’ I offer a free eBook on this photographic approach to each new blog follower!

PP: You also showed us a picture of a Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird. This hummingbird species is only found in South America. How challenging was it to get such a close-up photo of this little beauty? Where was this photo taken?

Steven Blandin captured this Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird while visiting Equador.SB: I photographed this bird in Mindo, close to Quito in Ecuador. My wife is from there, and I took the opportunity to visit the area during a family trip.

The lodges out there put bird feeders out every day, and the hummingbirds are very used to them. This translates into ridiculously tame birds that you can photograph at close range. The birds do not seem disturbed at all! So the challenge was to find the right angle. Once found, it felt like being in a magic land of shiny birds.

PP: Do you feed birds in your yard? What species is your favorite visitor?

SB: I do, though I have to admit that my wife is in charge of it. We see a variety of birds and my preference is for male cardinals. It’s difficult not to admire their beautiful red coat!

This Lady Gouldian Finch was photographed by Steven Blandin in the wild. The bird is commonly sold in the pet trade.The moment of admiration usually only lasts a few seconds until my yellow lab decides to join the party. Then the birds fly away for a few seconds and come right back. It makes for quite a show!

PP: Any photography tips for a person trying capture great bird photos with a smart phone or really basic camera?

SB: To attempt this, I would set up a feeder in the shade, close to a window. This way, you may stand comfortably in your house while aiming with a simple point-and-shoot camera. The best situation would be to have shade over the feeder and bright sun over a more-distant background. Then, you will need to brighten the image to have the bird properly exposed and you will have successfully created an ideal situation with a very bright background and a well-lighted bird.

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Steven Blandin captures a Short-billed Dowitcher as it splashes in the water near Fort De Soto in Florida.