This is a PHOTO WORKSHOP TOUR. Photo workshop tours are designed to include teaching elements like light, composition, perspective and camera technics.
Many know Washington State as the “evergreen state”. Its forests are vast, mountains tall, and wildlife plentiful. What most do not know, is that a normally elusive creature, the Red Fox, has taken up residence in a coastal field in recent years. These lovable little creatures allow for some great observations and endless photographic opportunities in their most active and interesting season. While the foxes will be the primary focus of this workshop, we will be on the lookout for other photographic opportunities too, as this is also the breeding time for a myriad bird species in the same region, and so bird photos are to be expected as well.
Day 1: Arrival in Seattle. After arrival in the city, you will be transferred to a local airport hotel for the night. Afternoon arrivals are recommended, in order to have some downtime before meeting with the group for dinner at the hotel on this night. Dinner will also include a short presentation on photo principles and advice for the following day. Each night the guide will review results from the day, but also advise techniques and strategies, for the planned activities on the following day.
Day 2: Seattle to San Juan Island. To start the tour off, we will focus on photographing some coastal Washington birds. Our journey will ultimately lead to San Juan island by way of ferry, but we will have time before then to photograph some coastal birds around Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island. The location of Rosario Head, on the south of the island is an especially good location for birding and photography. Coastal waterbirds at this time of the year include the gorgeous Harlequin Duck, a bit of a local specialty, as well as Surf Scoter, Black Oystercatcher, and Pigeon Guillemot. This area of Washington has a booming Bald Eagle population, and so there is always a chance of coming across one of these giants too. The coast is also home to plentiful songbirds in this breeding season, including Black-headed Grosbeak, Orange-crowned and Wilson’s Warblers, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Pine Siskin, and Pacific Wren, a bird with an impressive voice when compared with its modest body size (4 inches long)! A 90-minute ferry ride will take us across the Rosario Strait, weaving through the other San Juan Islands of Decatur, Orcas, and Shaw, in order to reach Friday Harbor on San Juan Island itself. Although a short journey, it could be an eventful one, as Orcas and alcids (i.e. birds like Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet and Marbled Murrelet) are regularly sighted from the ferry.
We will arrive at our base close to Friday Harbor in San Juan, with enough time to visit the fox den late in the afternoon, and to take advantage of the glorious light at this time for photographing our primary subject. Three nights will be spent on San Juan island, giving us multiple times of day, and lighting options in which to photograph these fascinating creatures. Behavioral shots are an objective, and this is the season to get them, when the kits are out and playful, and the adults constantly attentive to them.
Day 3: Red Foxes and Jackson Beach Birds. The morning will be spent photographing the foxes. We will get to the location early, when we hope to see the young kits out of the den playing, waiting for either of the adults to return with a meal. After several hours with the foxes we shall return to town for a meal, and a post-brunch presentation in at the hotel on composition by your Tropical Birding guide. In the afternoon, we will take time to use the great afternoon light to photograph coastal birds south of our hotel around Jackson Beach, which could include Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, Bald Eagles, Pigeon Guillemots, Glaucous-winged Gulls, and smaller songbirds like White-crowned Sparrows.
We will be staying in Friday Harbor, the main hub on San Juan Island. This is a beautiful location in its own right, dotted with boutique shops, art galleries, museums, and a scenic marina. Thus, for those who wish to spend some time away from the camera, between sessions, there are multiple walkable attractions to take advantage of.
Day 4: Red Foxes Revisited. Armed with the knowledge gained from the previous day’s session with the foxes, we will return in the morning again. This tour is all about spending lots of time with the foxes to ensure a series of neat shots in a variety of light and when the animals are engaged in a variety of interesting poses and behavior. This is something that the kits, in particular, regularly offer. On this day, we will have both morning and afternoon periods with the foxes, so as to add different lighting perspectives to our photoshoots. We will likely remain until after sunset, to take advantage of that unique period of light, and then take a later dinner. Between these sessions, we will partake in a second presentation at the hotel, with the Tropical Birding guide this time focusing on angles, light and perspective; good preparation for the coming afternoon time with the foxes.
Day 5: Field Photography with Birds. Having spent most of the tour photographing foxes, in a fixed situation, (with a den as the focus), this morning will be about teaching entirely different field photography techniques. We will visit San Juan County Park to photograph birds, “on the fly” in the field. The species of birds are not of particular importance (although the park is home to eagles, geese, woodpeckers, kingfishers, nuthatches and others), as this session is about teaching how to photograph birds in natural situations, whenever birds present themselves. In other words, not using feeders or a set-up of any kind, but photographing birds as they come along. While this can be more challenging at times, learning these techniques can greatly increase your success in the field, and rapidly expand your personal photo library. After lunch, a final classroom session will be offered, this time focusing on editing, now that you will have a substantial set of photographs from the tour to deal with! After taking the ferry back to the mainland, we shall spend a final night in Seattle.
Day 6: Departure from Seattle. With no photography sessions planned for the day, you are able to depart whenever you want, with a hotel transfer provided for this.
PACE: Easy. This is a very easy going tour. All locations are a quick drive from the hotel and there is very little walking, and nothing considered “hiking”. The mornings will typically start about 30minutes before sunrise so we can catch the very best light. Brunch will be around 10.00-10.30am and the evening shoots will finish at sunset, necessitating a late dinner. Thus, breakfast before the first shooting will only comprise of a simple snack, with only two big meals per day (brunch and dinner) to facilitate our shooting at the optimum times.
PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Easy. Walking is mostly flat. There might be some difficulty navigating the field due to rabbit holes and dens. Unstable ground is abundant. The distances here are short though. A drive of around 2 hours is required on two days. The ferry ride to and from the mainland is around 90 minutes. There are no high elevation sites on this tour.
CLIMATE: Warm but coastal winds could create a bit of a chill factor in the morning and evenings. A jacket is highly recommended.
ACCOMMODATION: Good throughout, with full-time electricity, 24-hr hot water, and en-suite facilities throughout. Wi-Fi is available at all of the hotels.
PHOTO PHILOSOPHY: This is a photography-focused workshop with the goal of learning how to better your photography skill and thinking.
GEAR: For this workshop, it is suggested that you bring a long lens (something around 400mm) as well as a midrange zoom lens (something around 100-400mm). The long lens will be useful for the birds and distant fox photos. The mid-range zoom lens will come in handy when we visit the den sites. A tripod can be used but is not necessary. The guide will not allow you to use flash on the fox dens though it should not be required anyway. If you wish to bring a flash for the bird photography (again, it will not be necessary) that is up to you.
TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: For US citizens, there are no special travel requirements. Citizens of Canada may enter the US with a valid passport, and do not need to obtain a visa. For citizens of the 38 countries on the visa waiver list (including the UK, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Japan), you can enter the US with a valid passport and a completed Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which can be applied for online. For all passports, the passport must be valid for at least six months past your intended stay. Citizens of all other countries will need to apply for a US visa. Travel requirements are subject to change; please double check with the nearest embassy or consulate, or ask our office staff if you are unsure.Those who need to apply for an ESTA or Visa should do so long in advance of the tour, as these can take days weeks to be issued.
WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Accommodations from the night of day 1 through the night of day 5; meals from the night of day 1 through to breakfast on day 6 (if you do not leave too early for that); all ferry fees; all park fees to sites stated in the itinerary; one airport transfer per person/couple (by hotel shuttle) at the start and end of the tour; Tropical Birding photo tour leader from the night of day 1 through to the night of day 5; ground transport for the group to all sites in the itinerary from day 2 to day 5 in a rented modern vehicle with the Tropical Birding guide as the driver.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Any extra nights you wish to stay in the area; any flights; optional tips to the tour leader; tips to any baggage handlers if used anywhere; international and domestic flights to get there; any passport or visa fees; excess baggage fees; snacks; any drinks other than drinkable water; alcoholic beverages; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, internet, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.