Most of you know that I work for the Marketing Department at B&H Photo and travel all over the country representing B&H at the various tradeshows and seminars. I try to take advantage of my free time by taking pictures and testing out the latest gear, but nothing prepared me for what I was going to experience at St. Augustine.
The show was at Florida’s First Coast Birding & Nature Festival and my objective was to promote B&H and hopefully sell a few binoculars and spotting scopes. I knew the basics of binoculars but had never really used a spotting scope before. A whole new world opened up to me, a world of viewing subjects hundreds of yards away! Instead of using the large lenses that you see on the sidelines of a sports game – a 500mm lens that costs at least $5000 – you can use a spotting scope that will get 2-10x closer! You also cut your cost at least in 1/2, but most importantly you cut the weight. A 500mm lens usually weighs about 8lbs and a large 85mm spotting scope usually weighs less than 4lbs.
There were plenty of bird watching opportunities as the festival took place outdoors at the St. Augustine Amphitheater which was right on the border of the Anastasia State Park. While setting up our table, a hawk flew about 20 feet above me with a flying fish in his claws. Cool! Of course I didn’t bring a 5oomm lens with me. In fact, the longest focal length I had was a Tamron 90mm Macro lens!
That did not deter me from going to the Alligator Farm & Zoological Park to check out their amazing rookery where hundreds of birds were yards away. I spoke with an avid nature photographer from Australia and he said this was the best rookery he had every been too. About 85 alligators lay below the colony of birds and actually protect the birds from other natural predators that would invade the nest. I had never seen so many alligators before in my life, from fast moving baby gators, white ones, and MAXIMO, a 15′ gator that is as old as me but weighs in at 1250lbs!
I do not think of myself as a nature photographer, however, I do consider myself an environmental photographer – shooting what’s around me – and for those 4 days in St Augustine I definitely saw birds everywhere…