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Join me on the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac from February 7 to February 12, 2018 for our first-ever, land-based photo tour of this rugged tropical paradise, at a special introductory price.

Our home base for this photo tour will be at the Carib Sands Condominiums.

 

Carib Sands Condominiums, Cayman Brac

 

During my previous trip to Cayman Brac in 2017 many memorable bird images were captured right on the beach at Carib Sands.

Participants are expected to have a good understanding of their camera system and should be prepared for walking distances at some locations of 1-2 kilometres. Some of the terrain we will be walking over is uneven due to Cayman Brac’s iron shore.

The main objective of this photo tour will be to photograph epic sunrise and sunset scenes looking out over the Caribbean Sea, rugged ocean scenics at the base of the 140 foot bluff, The Bat Cave, Brown Booby, Cayman Brac Parrot, Herons, Egrets, and many more. Depending on local knowledge of accessible roosting Barn Owls we may have the opportunity to explore a cave to photograph these as well. We will also include two night sessions (dates to be selected depending on current weather conditions at the time) to photograph starry nightscapes and to seek nocturnal wildlife such as Cuban Tree Frogs and Hurricane Crabs.

During the mid-day hours when conditions are not particularly suitable for land based photography participants can explore the island on their own, grab some rest and relaxation, or accompany me on snorkeling excursions at the numerous shore diving sites. These snorkel excursions are a great way to try your hand at underwater photography. I can provide advice on how best to get your gear into the water for those that are interested.

 

Please note that the fee for Cayman Brac 2018 is broken down into two segments. One part is the condominium rental and second is for the photo tour. Please select the condominium rental that will work best for you and your travel companion, if applicable.

Please note that the fees for this photo tour are in US dollars.

 

Condominium Rental:

  • One bedroom condominium (ideal for one participant /one couple) = US$1,555 (Ocean View Condo = $1,830)
  • Two bedroom condominium (ideal for two participants / two couples) = US$2,010 (Ocean View Condo = $2,140)

Photo Tour Rate

  • US$1695.00
  • Non-participating spouses are welcome for additional US$350 (non-participating spouses are welcome to join the photo sessions if space permits)

Itinerary:

February 7:

6:00 p.m. meet and greet at the Carib Sands Pool

February 8 to 12:

6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. morning session for sunrise and bird life (various locations depending on weather conditions)

4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. evening session for sunset and bird life (various locations depending on weather conditions)

February 12

Farewell Beach BBQ at 7:00 p.m.

 

What’s Included:

  • In-the-field photographic instruction during each session
  • Transportation for photo tour participants during excursions
  • Image review sessions
  • Beach BBQ on the last day of the photo tour
  • Complimentary snorkel excursions for those interested
  • Free WiFi at Condominium

 

What’s Not Included:

  • Flights to and from Grand Cayman
  • Island hopper flights to and from Cayman Brac
  • Meals
  • Drinks
  • Transportation outside of the photo tour excursions (folks attending daily snorkel excursions will be provided transportation)
  • Masks, Fins, and Snorkels

Cayman Brac 2018 is open to a maximum of 6 participants. To reserve your spot a non-refundable retainer of US$1200.00 is due now to secure the condominium rental and a spot in the photo tour. At the time of booking a signed waiver form will be required. These will be emailed to interested participants so that they can return the signed forms with their cheque made payable to: Andrew McLachlan. The second instalment of US$1200.00 will be due by no later than September 1, 2017 with the final balance owing no later than December 1, 2017. Please contact me via email by clicking here to reserve your spot today.

To view a slide show presentation of imagery that was created during my trip to Cayman Brac in February of 2017 please clicl on the below photo.

 

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Sister Islands Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis)
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm Lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/500 sec.

 

On previous travels throughout the Caribbean I have had the opportunity to photograph Rock Iguanas in Cuba. I have also photographed them on the island of Little Cayman within the Cayman Islands. On my recent trip to Cayman Brac I encountered a large male Rock Iguana sunning in an open area far off from the main road on the island. I would estimate his length at roughly 3 feet from nose to tail. This was a special moment for me as the Rock Iguanas found on both Little Cayman and Cayman Brac are a unique subspecies known as the Sister Islands Rock Iguanas and they are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Please do take a moment to read about this subspecies of the Rock Iguana on the IUCN Red List. When reading the report make note that on Little Cayman these iguanas occupy a range of 18 square kilometres while on Cayman Brac their range of habitat is 20 square kilometres. Several factors are to blame for their decline including; habitat destruction, feral cats, domestic cats and dogs, invasion species such as the Green Iguana and Norway Rat, and road mortality. While the Sister Islands Rock Iguana is a protected species there is little in the way of protected habitat for them.

When photographing wildlife, whether it is a critically endangered species or one of least concern, it is important that the welfare of the animal transcends the photographic opportunity.

Please remeber to click on each of the photos to see the larger, sharper version of this impressive reptile.

 

Sister Islands Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis)
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm Lens @ 420mm (630mm equivalent focal length)
ISO 800
f8 @ 1/250 sec.

 

Sister Islands Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis)
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm Lens @ 310mm (465mm equivalent focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/640 sec.

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Tri-colored Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm lens
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/640 sec

High-Key lighting in portraiture has a very classic look and feel in the resulting imagery, with bright white, distraction free backgrounds and minimal shadows on the intended subject. While on my recent trip to Cayman Brac I had a few opportunities to explore using this high key technique on some very co-operative birdlife that I encountered. Each of these high key images were created using the Nikkor 200-500mm lens on a Nikon D500. Each of the birds were photographed in a backlit situation whereby I simply dialed in additional exposure to open up the shadows, allowing the background to fall where it may, ignoring any blinkies (highlight warnings) on the background, but ensuring there were no blinkies on the subject. While making my initial edits to each of the images in Adobe Camera Raw I varied the amount of brightness in the backgrounds, allowing the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck portrait to be the brightest as I felt it complimented the lighter tone of the ducks feathers.

Please do remember to click on each of the photos to view the larger, sharper version.

 

West Indian Whistling Duck, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm Lens
ISO 800
f8 @ 1/125 sec

 

Green Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm Lens
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/200 sec

 

Tri-colored Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm Lens
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/640 sec

 

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Tri-colored Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 410mm (650mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/100 sec

 

Aside from Cayman Brac being a premier location for photographing Brown Booby there are also a number of other bird species that are often easily photographed. One of my preferred locations on the island for bird photography is at the Westerly Ponds. As evening approaches many species of herons and ducks arrive at the ponds to seek shelter among the mangrove trees at night. Many heron and shorebird species can often be seen foraging along the sandy sections of shoreline as they search for fish, crabs, and mollusks. The threatened Cayman Brac Parrot is best discovered while slowly driving along the bluff road towards the lighthouse. Each time I have had success photographing these beautiful parrots I have found them among almond trees and most often I was alerted to their presence by noise as they are not the quietest of birds and will often be very vocal.

This post features some of my favorite bird images that I created during my two week trip to Cayman Brac. Please do remember to click on each photo to view the larger, sharper version.

 

Black-necked Stilt, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/1250 sec

 

Royal Tern, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm effective focal length)
ISO 100
f8 @ 1/640 sec

 

Great Egret, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500 (1.3 sensor crop activated)
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (1000mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/160 sec

 

Cayman Brac Parrot, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 330mm (495mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f8 @ 1/250 sec

 

Willet, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/320 sec

 

Green Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 330mm (495mm effective focal length)
ISO 800
f5.6 @ 1/500 sec

 

Ruddy Turnstone, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/1000 sec

 

Brown Booby with Chick, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 210mm
ISO 400
f11 @ 1/500 sec

 

Cayman Brac Parrot, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 360mm (540mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/400 sec

 

Green Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 260mm (390mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/320 sec

 

Tri-colored Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 250mm (375mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/3200 sec

 

Tri-colored Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 330mm (495mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/800 sec

 

Tri-colored Heron, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 320mm (480mm effective focal length)
ISO 800
f10 @ 1/640 sec

 

Black-necked Stilt, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm effective focal length)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/1000 sec

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Ewa Marine U-B100 Underwater Housing

During previous trips to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac, in the Cayman Islands I used a Sony RX100 in a dedicated underwater housing with very good success. On my most recent trip I decided that it was time to take my Nikon D800 & Nikon D500 into the ocean, however, I could not really justify the expense of a dedicated housing for these cameras at this point in time. Since I would only be using the cameras while snorkeling, I was planning to rely solely on ambient light for underwater photography. After a bit of research I decided that an Ewa Marine underwater housing would be my choice of housing for the recently concluded trip to Cayman Brac. I purchased the Ewa Marine U-B100 housing which is designed for use with professional cameras and for lenses with a filter diameter of 77mm or 82mm. The housing comes with the 77mm adapter (the 82mm adpater is optional) that allows you to firmly position the lens inside the lens port and flush against the optical glass element. The Ewa Marine housing is made from special, multi-layered, laminated PVC to ensure safety and durability and all seams are double welded. Two rails are fastened together by means of three thumb screws to securely close the opening to the housing. There is a sepcailly designed pocket molded into the design for your finger to reach the shutter release button on the camera. All other functions are accessed through the thick laminated PVC – a difficult but not impossible task.

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 32mm (48mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/125 sec

On my first snorkel trip with the Ewa Marine housing I quickly discovered that I had left too much air in the housing and was subsequently very hard to dive down with the housing. I opened the housing and using a straw sucked out as much air as I could and then re-sealed the housing, which worked perfectly.Ewa Marine does sell an optional lead weight that goes inside this housing and after using the housing for a couple of weeks I believe that the weight would be an added benefit to using this housing.

Southern Stingray, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 23mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1250 sec

As I researched this particular housing via blogs and You Tube videos there was a common theme. One was that the lens adapter was very difficult to fit against the optical glass port and the other being virtually impossible to operate camera controls and zoom lenses. I had no difficulty whatsoever fitting the lens into the lens port and while camera functions are more difficult to adjust I was able to make exposure adjustments and zoom the lens as required while underwater.

Peacock Flounder, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 32mm (48mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/200 sec

I used both my Nikon D800 and Nikon D500 cameras with no issues at all. My lens of choice for use in the housing was the Nikkor AF-S 18-35mm lens which did vignette slightly, at 18mm, on the Nikon D800. When the lens was zoomed to about 20mm the vignetting disappeared. I chose to use the 18-35mm lens as it focuses down to 12 inches throughout it’s focal range. In underwater photography the closer you can get to your subjects the better the image quality will be. You must minimize the amount of water between you and your subject for better clarity.

Octopus, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/160 sec

I am looking forward to using the housing on Horseshoe Lake this summer where I will use it for frog photography and freshwater fish imagery too. If you are curious about trying your hand at underwater photography I would highly recommend an Ewa Marine housing to get you started. I purchased my Ewa Marine U-B100 housing from B&H Photo. Please note that I am in no way affiliated with Ewa Marine or B&H Photo. I simply wanted to provide you with an honest, real-world review after my experience with this housing.

I am often amazed by the ability of ocean fish to superbly camouflage themselves. This is especially evident in the highly venomous Spotted Stonefish, a member of the scorpionfish family. Fortunately Stonefish only use their venom as a means of self-defence, however, accidentally stepping on one does mean a trip to the nearest hospital!

Please do remember to click on each photo to see the larger, sharper version. Which one is your favorite?

Barracuda, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 28mm
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/320 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/200 sec

 

Southern Stingray, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm (51mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/320 sec

 

Octopus Inking, Cayman Brac
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 24mm
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/400 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/400 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 24mm ( 36mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/160 sec

 

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Silver Thatch Palm at Sunset, Cayman Brac, Cayman Island, BWI
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm Lens
ISO 200
f11 @ 1/50

 

I have been hard at work editing the many thousands of images created during my two week trip to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac within Cayman Islands. Each morning I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to be on location roughly one hour prior to sunrise. One of the key elements to successful landscape imagery is to arrive for work on time! For me that means being on site long before sunrise and staying well past sunset. Often I find my favorite photos are created in the brief window of opportunity prior to sunrise or they are created after the sun has dipped below the horizon. The opening photo for this blog post, the Cayman Islands national tree, is the Silver Thatch Palm Trees was created one evening while I was up on the bluff photographing Brown Booby birds in soft light and decided to take advantage of my Nikkor 200-55mm lens to isolate these trees against the beautiful glowing sky.

 

Below are some early morning scenes from Pollard Bay on the island’s south east side. Here the Caribbean Sea rolls into the rugged iron shore that surrounds much of island. This area is by far my favorite sunrise location on the island and when the seas get rough tide pools are created on the rugged shoreline rock creating lots of foreground interest. For each of the Pollard Bay images I used my never-leave-home-without-it Singh-Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter. And furthermore, since each image was created in pre-dawn light I was able to use long shutter speeds to smooth out the ocean waves so that they would not become a distracting element within each scene.

Pollard Bay, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 15 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

Pollard Bay, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 8 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

Pollard Bay, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 15 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

Pollard Bay, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 5 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

On the morning of February 26th when I headed out there was a persistent drizzle in the air, but that did not deter me from making the 20 minute drive up to the bluff to photograph an inclement weather sunrise looking out across the Caribbean Sea – I was certain there would be a little bit of color peaking through as the sun rose.

 

Sunrise From The Bluff, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 2 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

Sunrise on Caribbean Sea, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 1.3 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

On February 28th I was in the mood for a sandy beach sunrise, which brought me to the public beach area which has several large rocks scattered about that make for nice foreground elements. Again in pre-dawn light a long shutter speed allowed for the blurring of the incoming waves which were starting to get much larger as the winds were getting much stronger at this point in the trip.

 

Public Beach, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 50
f16 @ 4 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

One part of this recently concluded trip that I was looking most forward to was the underwater photography I had planned to do with both the Nikon D800 and Nikon D500. I purchased an Ewa Marine Housing for this part of the trip but that will be reviewed here on the blog shortly. I did, however, take a few underwater sea-scapes with that set-up of which two of my favorites can be seen below. I only wish a shark could have been swimming through these sea-scape scenes 🙂

 

Sea-Scape, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/200 sec

 

Sea-Scape, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/320 sec

 

Please do remember to click on each image to view the larger, sharper version.

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Sunrise at Pollard Bay on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 250
f16 @ 30 seconds
Singh-Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

I returned from a two week stay on Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands on March 8th and have been busy processing the image files this week. I will share many more images here in the coming days, including a selection of underwater photos captured using my Nikon cameras in an Ewa Marine Housing. First I thought I would share my gear bag for this trip. My go-to pack for traveling light is the Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack which is distributed in Canada by Gentec International. I am always amazed at how much gear I can fit into this well designed pack that meets the current carry-on luggage requirements of airlines. Here is what I packed into this gear bag for the trip:

  • Nikon D800
  • Nikon D500
  • Nikkor 18-35mm Lens
  • Nikkor 105mm Micro Lens
  • Nikkor 200-500mm Lens
  • Nikon SB400 Spedlight
  • Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket
  • 77mm Polarizing Filter
  • 95mm Polarizing Filter
  • Singh-Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter
  • Cable Release
  • Gepe Card Holder
  • 2 extra batteries for the camera bodies and lithium AA batteries for for the SB400

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack

The total weight of the gear bag fully packed was 19lbs, which was a tad over the weight requirement for the Twin Otter flight from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac but the good folks from Cayman Air were fine with me carrying my camera gear with me on the flight. Packed in my checked luggage was my MeFoto Travel Tripod, which was carried in the tripod pocket of the Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack once I arrived on Cayman Brac. The water repellent fabric of the pack and the included rain cover came in particularly useful towards the end of my trip as the winds became very strong with 8-10 foot waves crashing into the island’s iron shore causing significant salt spray. It was comforting to know that my gear was safe in the pack when not is use. To read my earlier, in-depth review of this great gear bag please click here.

Stay tuned for much more form this beautiful Caribbean island getaway. To view a larger and sharper version of today’s featured image from Pollard Bay on the island’s south easterly side please do click on the image.

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