Michigan Photo Journey
• (2) three day offerings for up to three participants each •
May 20,21,22, 2020 (Wednesday through Friday) or
May 27,28,29, 2020 (Wednesday through Friday)
GROUP SIZE: 3 PARTICIPANTS PLUS LEADER
COST: $1350 per participant.
(HOTEL AND MEALS ARE NOT INCLUDED)
Gene grew up in Michigan and still has some family there. The location of this Photo Journey is in the upper third of the lower peninsula.
This Journey lends itself well to distinct morning and afternoon sessions. We will have access to restaurants for lunch breaks especially on days we transition to a different site. When lighting remains favorable mid-day we may want to pack a lunch for that day. Weekend days are necessarily avoided based on experience to significantly decrease our chances of encountering off road vehicles and other potential hindrances to our warbler photography goals. In northern Michigan dirt roads can be a magnet for such weekend activity.
We will spend a half day with the Kirtland’s Warbler, visiting habitat at first light and then will use the late morning and early afternoon time to transition to our location/lodging that will be the base for the rest of the Journey. The primary target at this base location will be Golden-winged Warblers. We will plan to shoot from late afternoon until we have no usable light. If the light is good mid-day (overcast skies) we will transition directly to the Golden-winged habitat from the Kirtland’s site. Such was the case in 2019.
More time in Golden-winged Warbler habitat. Depending on lighting and group consensus, we will either use mid-day to transition to a Cerulean Warbler site or stay put. We will return to our base location for the night. We will also be looking for Nashville, and Mourning Warblers in this same Golden-winged habitat, and some years we find Blue-winged Warbler(s) here. The last two years we have found Brewster’s Hybrids, and this year a Lawrence’s Hybrid. We have found Black-billed Cuckoos in this habitat the last few years. In 2019 we had several observations of them which included some close range opportunities for images of this elusive Cuckoo.
If we didn’t do the Cerulean Warbler afternoon trip on DAY 2 then we can plan on doing it today if that is the group’s desire or we shall remain all day in the Golden-winged areas.
The morning will be similar to DAY 2.
TESTIMONIAL FROM 2019:
“Just a few days ago, I returned from a two day individual workshop with Gene, the Warbler Whisperer. Based at a couple locations in the northern half of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, we targeted——well, warblers. The primary species included were Kirtland’s and Golden-winged Warblers. We got both of those in abundance. While we did not find a Blue-winged Warbler, Gene got us on both Brewster’s and Lawrence’s Warblers which was fantastic consolation. There were great photo opportunities for all of these as well as an additional seven warbler species as well as a few non-warbler species.
Gene was an excellent guide and personable host from the beginning to the end of this adventure. His advance communication about expectations, his suggestions for homework to better prepare, and his assistance with logistics were great. And once in the field, he came through with lots of help and advise about finding birds, getting on them, and getting better photographs. All in all, a great trip! I expect to return for additional trips with Gene.”
TARGET SPECIES, PRIMARY SITES
Kirtland’s Warbler VC (Very common) This is not a typo. This species can be very common in suitable stands of Jack Pine.
Golden-winged Warbler VC
Chestnut-sided Warbler C (Common)
Nashville Warbler C
American Redstart C
Cerulean Warbler C
Blue-winged Warbler U
Mourning Warbler C or U (Some years it is easier to find and I tallied 5 individuals in 2019)
Brewster’s Warbler U (I had two males in both 2019 and 2018)
Lawrence’s Warbler R (Rare. We had a female in 2019 who posed nicely for us. 2020 may indeed be the season we find our male!)
Yellow Warbler U (Uncommon but usually can be found)
Black-and-white Warbler U
Common Yellowthroat C or U
OTHER SPECIES *
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak C
Scarlet Tanager C
Yellow-throated Vireo U
Warbling Vireo U
Black-billed Cuckoo U (On two different days we got images in 2019!)
Baltimore Oriole C
Wood Thrush C or U
* There is also always the possibility of encountering and photographing migrants that breed further north than the sites. The earlier trip dates are more likely to provide such opportunities. The slide show above has a few of these encounters, including a Wilson’s, and a Orange-crowned warbler, and a Philadelphia Vireo. We also had a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher last year which was found by the participant. The later dates generally find a greater number of individuals on breeding grounds.
LEADER: GENE KOZIARA
Gene, known as Geno K on Flickr, has intimate knowledge of the above sites and species, having worked those areas each spring for a number of years. He knows the songs and where at those sites we are likely to find the target species.
He will work to find us as many of the above species as possible. He will use calls when he deems appropriate, but you may be surprised about the call techniques and how sparingly they may be used. The focus will be to provide opportunities for quality images, with an emphasis on composition and warblers in song whenever possible. We will start around sunrise and work until we don’t have usable light, taking a break at mid-day if the sun is bright. On those bright days we may use that time to go to another site, or we may just take a relaxing lunch to discuss warbler photography and perhaps Lightroom and Photoshop techniques, depending on group consensus. We will shoot again from later afternoon until we don’t have usable light. Our goal will be to have a quality shoot of two to four warbler species per day depending on the sites visited and how we are doing. The emphasis will be on quality composition, and in some cases we may shoot several birds of the same species in various settings.
I will discuss camera settings and the composition goal(s) for each individual shoot during the set-up, but please understand that this trip is for folks who already know how to use their camera and lens well but who want to experience and enjoy warbler photography. A long lens is essential for warbler work. I use a 600 mm and a crop sensor camera (Canon 7dMK2) so I am shooting 900 mm equivalent. A 500 mm lens or minimum 400 prime lens along with a crop sensor camera body is essential for best results. A teleconverter to extend reach can be used in good light situations, but it may slow image acquisition too much in more overcast or shaded situations. The faster your lens, the better for warbler photography. You should have the skill with your gear to quickly focus on a small bird, as warblers often tend to move quickly. Some birds and species will be more cooperative and forgiving than others, but the ability to quickly focus on the bird will provide far more satisfying images. It is important to follow my lead as I work to get a bird in. Warblers can be very sensitive to moving photographers and noisier gear. Knowing when to pull the trigger is important, especially when attempting singing shots. I will attempt to coach how to better anticipate warbler movement and thus minimize unproductive shooting. From the Detroit Metro Airport it is about a two and a half hour drive to West Branch, Michigan, where we will begin our Journey. It is about a two hour drive from West Branch to our base for the remainder of the Journey.
A high clearance vehicle is required some years for much of the Golden-winged habitat. This year was a wet year and that was definitely the case but in dry years passenger cars have been adequate. I will have a high clearance vehicle to accommodate one of the participants.
DISCLAIMER AND A BIG ASK FROM GENE
This Warbler Photo Journey will require little walking with most shooting occurring within a hundred feet or less of our vehicles. As with any outdoor adventure watch out for briars, possible biting insects, and be alert for uneven and slippery ground. Plan to put in a long day. Some of the species on this Photo Journey are sensitive species, and Gene is asking that all participants keep locations for this Photo Journey strictly confidential. Please do not eBird these locations, and please do not share the locations with other birders/photographers. If you don’t think you can do that, please don’t sign up, for this trip. After signing up you will receive a more detailed itinerary, including hotel suggestions and hotel locations. Due to the sensitive nature of some of the species involved on this Michigan trip, the specific shooting locations will not be divulged until we begin the actual Photo Journey. Thanks for your understanding.
The goal is to have fun and work as a team to maximize everyone’s Photo Journey. I need you to be open and honest with me as we regularly assess how we are doing. Ideally, you will not only come away from the trip with many quality images, but also with some how-to knowledge that you can apply in the future while out shooting and when doing your own post-processing.