This Spring 2018 Tangier Island Photo Workshop features photography of a unique waterman community and local wildlife. Just south of the Maryland line, in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, lays Tangier Island, VA. Covering approximately 1.2 square miles, Tangier Island is actually a series of small islands connected by narrow wooden bridges spanning marshes and tidal creeks. Tangier is a charming community of waterman and shop owners. Many inhabitants make their living, as did their ancestors for more than 400 years, by crabbing, fishing, and oystering. Each day we will rise before dawn, hoping to capture sunrise images and photos of the waterman as they man their skiffs and works boats, heading out to their offshore crab shanties to gather up their crab pots, scrapes, floats, and other gear for the day. For photos from the water, Saturday morning I chartered a boat for a trip around the island with the hopes of photographing the docks, waterman at work, and local birdlife.
During our stay, we will explore the beach, tidal creeks, and wetlands in search of wildlife. Ducks, geese, herons, rails, shorebirds, skimmers, terns, and pelicans take advantage of the rich food supply that the island and its surroundings afford. There is also a healthy population of ospreys nesting on nearby platforms and jetties. It is not uncommon to see one fly overhead with a fish in its talons.
Situated along the Rio Grande River, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 57,000 acres and is a major wintering ground for cranes and waterfowl. Refuge personnel manage the water levels of its wetlands and impoundments to simulate what was once the seasonal flow of water from the Rio Grande before the river was damned and the flow altered. To feed the huge number of birds visiting the refuge each year, nearby fields are planted with corn, winter wheat, millet, and other grains. Loop roads transect the refuge marshes and fields and provide prime sites for wildlife viewing and photography. Species that may be seen include shovelers, buffleheads, pintails, teal and other ducks; bald and golden eagles; kestrels and other hawks; turkey; meadowlarks; quail; roadrunners; coyotes; mule deer; and more. In November, large flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes will be present. At night to escape predators, the birds flock to the marshes and shallow pools. With dawn, the snow geese and other waterfowl rise in mass from the wetlands and sweep overhead on their way to nearby fields to feed. Each day we will spend the early morning and late afternoon hours at the refuge photographing birds and many other species of wildlife which are present at the sanctuary.
As Melissa Groo explains in her Outdoor Photographer article Finding the Right Track back in March- “Now, more than ever, we need an open discussion on the ethics of wildlife photography. This is the best time in history to be a wildlife photographer, and this is the worst time in history to be a wild animal. That statement might sound extreme, but consider the facts. It has never been easier to find a wild subject. Online databases, photography forums, texting and social media yield instant information on the location of a bird or other animal—often with GPS coordinates. Workshops that promise spectacular shots of wildlife in thrilling destinations abound. Thermal-imaging devices locate dens and nests; camera traps, drones and buggies find and track elusive animals. It also has never been easier to actually photograph a wild subject. Current lens technology, AF systems, and gear lightness and maneuverability make stunning images easily within reach of both amateurs and professionals. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us when we’re out in the field. If we work within the bounds of patience, respect and an understanding of the challenges wild animals face, we’ll be on the right track.” Continue reading →