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Bird Photography, South Texas Photo Shoot

      South Texas Photo Shoot - May 1st – May 7th, 2014

                               It’s for the birds!!!

Phil Echo and Martin Joffe would like to invite you to photograph the resident and migratory birds of South Texas. Travel to private ranches along the Rio Grande with us in pursuit of frame filling images of multiple species. At this time of the year the feathers of most birds are in their best condition. They also are in their colorful breeding plumage. Many ranchers in this region have been attracting birds to their property for photographic purposes. All photography will be done at ranches from blinds overlooking natural setups adjacent to bird feeders. Some of the setups include natural looking ponds. Most of the setups are within easy range of a 400mm lens with a 1.4 or 2x extender. If you own a 500 or 600mm lens feel free to use it to bring you even closer. For the digital shooters, a sensor magnification of 1.5 will help you to fill the frame.

As most of you know we, Phil Echo and Martin Joffe, have had many years of experience in attracting and photographing birds from blinds. We will be working with the ranchers in order to help create pleasing and natural looking perches and backgrounds. We will offer technical advice on this type of photography. Examples include: camera settings (ISO, aperture, shutter speed, mode), depth of field issues, exposure, focus and action. Since multiple camera systems will probably be brought on this trip, participants are strongly urged to bring along the manuals for their cameras and flash units. This can help us to trouble shoot any problems that might be encountered. We also recommend that prior to this trip; you familiarize yourself with how to set your flash at less than full power. We can then easily explain what settings to use to help you capture more stunning images.

We’ll be shooting at the following four ranches:

Cozad Ranch, Laguna Seca Ranch, Martin Ranch and the Santa Clara Ranch

The tour price includes:

Pick up at airport on arrival day and drop off at airport on day of departure

Participants should make their travel arrangements through All Ways Travel in Paramus, NJ. Their phone number is [masked]-7447. (Ask for Jeff Kail.) We are holding a group contract with United Air. The flights that we will be using are:

May 1st: Newark (EWR) to McAllen, Texas (MFE): UA Flight 1711 departing EWR at 8:40 a.m. and connecting in Houston (IAH) to UA Flight 3825 departing IAH at 12:50 p.m. and arriving in MFE at 2:00 p.m.

May 7th: MFE to EWR: UA Flight 3851 departing MFE at 4:51 p.m. and connecting in IAH to UA Flight 1246 departing IAH at 7:00 p.m. and arriving in EWR at 11:10 p.m.

If you wish to make your own travel arrangements, you are free to do so. However, you must arrive in MFE on May 1st by 2:00 p.m. Your departure from MFE may not be earlier than 4:51 p.m. on May 7th.

Round trip air from EWR to MFE is relatively cheap this year running around $325.00 for a round trip ticket. May not pay to use miles to get a free ticket. However, it’s your choice.

Prior to departure, participants will be given cell phone numbers so they can contact tour leaders while in transit.

Accommodations: The group will be staying at the La Media Lodge. The tour price includes shared accommodations. (We will assign you a roommate or, if you wish, you can request to be paired with any other tour participant.) Single accommodations may or may not be available. If they are available, there will be an additional fee for single accommodations.

La Media is a hunting lodge and accommodations are basic and adequate. We will have to share bathrooms in some instances. Some rooms will have bunk beds but no one will be expected to take an upper berth.

We will eat all our meals at the lodge.

The main advantage to our staying at LaMedia Lodge is that it’s close to the ranches that we’ll be shooting at. We will be able to return to the lodge for a lunch and a nap in an air-conditioned environment before heading back out for our afternoon shoot.

Transportation during the 7 days while on tour Included in tour price

All ranch fees included in tour price

Local professional guides: Since our group will be divided each day and shooting at two different ranches, Phil Echo and Martin Joffe will split up and one of us will be at each ranch. In addition we have secured the services of two local professional guides who will also be split up between the two ranches. Our guides will be Ruth Hoyt and John Pickles. Both are intimately familiar with the each ranch as well as the local flora and fauna and bird life.

Meals: Three meals, per day, are included in the tour price. These are continental breakfast, lunch and dinner. We will try to have a happy hour every day before dinner and participants will have to supply their own alcoholic drinks. We will make a stop at a liquor store on the way to the ranch from the airport to give everyone a chance to pick up their favorites. We will ask whoever is interested to chip in and we’ll buy 2 cases of wine (one case of red and one cast of white).

You will not go away hungry.

The tour price does not include:


Any items of a personal nature

Anything not specifically listed under “The Tour Price Includes” above

Suggestions of what to bring:
Your camera body (if you own a backup, it’s always a good idea to bring it).

Your longest lens

An all purpose lens (i.e., 28 -70)

Tele-converters and extension tubes

A sturdy tripod

A macro lens for flowers (if any are present in the current arid conditions) we are in cactus country and me be fortunate enough to find them in bloom.

Flash and flash bracket to extend the flash forward towards the front of the lens. (You might also
need an off shoe cord to do this).

Two small towels. One to clean dust off your equipment and the other to wet down and help you stay cool should the temperature get uncomfortable. Since we’ll be there in the spring, the weather should be relatively pleasant, however, we have no control over the weather and should prepare for any possibility.

Insect repellant to protect yourself from biting insects and critters should be a consideration. While there’s always a good chance of insects being present, they usually are not too bothersome at the time of year we are there.

Suggestions as what to wear: McAllen, Texas is informal ranch country. Jeans are always in place.

Sneakers and/or hiking boots are appropriate. We will not be doing any hiking nor will we be walking over very rough terrain.

Tee shirts and/or short sleeve shirts are very appropriate.

A cap for the sun.

Long pants are recommended for protection. The grasses can have sharp spines, small cactus are abundant and it is always possible to encounter chiggers.

A cautionary note:
Snakes can be encountered just about anywhere and must be anticipated. Some of them are poisonous (such as rattlesnakes). You must always be aware of where you are walking and should get into the habit of looking down rather than around. Your tour leaders will check each blind for snakes before you get into the blinds at the beginning of the day but you should also be aware of your surroundings and check your blinds thoroughly before entering them. Poisonous snakes are usually not very bothersome but are a fact of life in southern Texas. Remember, most snakes are not aggressive and are more afraid of you then you are of them. Use common sense at all times.

Snakes can make for interesting photography if they come to the water in front of our blinds for a drink.

Liability Release:
Tour participants will be required to sign a “Liability Release” at the time that final payment is made. In addition, the ranch owners will also require participants to sign a “Liability Release”.

Cost to participate in tour
The total cost to be paid for participating in the tour is $2,895.00. Included in the tour are all the items specifically mentioned above in “The Tour Price Includes”. All checks should be made out to Echo Philmworks, LLC. Also, include your completed application to join the tour. In addition, both Liability Releases need to be signed and included with your payment and the tour application. All four should be sent to Echo Philmworks at 20 Long Acres Road, Fairfield, NJ 07004.

Since most of the ranches that we’ll be staying at require a non-refundable deposit, we require a non-refundable deposit of $500.00 upon signing up to join the tour.

We also urge you to purchase travel insurance to protect your investment should circumstances change before departure time.

Final payment will be required 30 days prior to departure.

If you book your air through All Ways Travel, you will be able to charge your air to your credit card.

One final note:
In order for this trip to be financially viable, we must have 14 participants signed with deposits paid by Dec. 31st. If we do not have the required number of participants, we will have to release all space and cancel the trip for this year.

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