South Texas Birds: Session 2

Limited to 8 people: SOLD OUT

Location: McAllen & Rio Grande City

Dates: February 25-March 1, 2020  Tuesday evening 7 pm – Sunday morning                                                                    Cost: $2499

Details: Our first Texas Birds workshop filled so quickly that we set up a second set of dates for 2020. If you are looking to take your wildlife photography to the next level, we have the trip for you.  Come join us for warm weather bird and wildlife photography from the amazing ranch blinds of South Texas.  

Photographing birds from a blind may change the way you plan your future photography trips. By setting up perches and using bird food to lure them in, the birds will come to you. South Texas is a mecca for bird photography blinds. On this trip we will spend several days learning to photography exotic South Texas species from some of the best bird photography ranches in the country.  On our last trip there we shot thousands of images in only a few days.  We will have exclusive use of the ranches and multiple blinds each day.

We will start our bird photography adventures at the Laguna Seca Ranch. We have planned our trip for this time of year because of the abundance of winter raptors. We may see from 20-25 crested caracaras at one time from our blinds. In the afternoon we will photograph songbirds like the Green Jay, Black Crested Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Long Billed Thrasher and Lesser Goldfinch. On day two we will photograph numerous species of herons, Vermillion Flycatchers, Buff Bellied Hummingbirds and the elusive Paraque at a local wildlife refuge.

For the remaining two days we will move to the renowned Santa Clara Ranch to spend two full days in their bird blinds. Common bird species at their ranch include Harris Hawks, Road Runners, Black Throated Sparrow, Golden Fronted Woodpeckers and Audubon’s Orioles. If we are lucky we may have the chance to photograph animals like Collared Peccary (otherwise known as javelinas), white tailed deer, armadillos and an occasional bobcat. We will end the workshop on Sunday with a session for image sharing and critiques.

Come join us for this fantastic trip.  We love photographing birds, and can’t wait to return!  We promise you will have a lot of fun, improve your photography, and create images worthy of hanging in your home.  We have arranged to have an authentic Texas barbecue on our final night at the ranch.

What you will learn:

  • Blind photography techniques
  • How to photograph birds
  • Advanced metering and autofocus strategies for wildlife photography
  • Fill flash using a tele-flash extender
  • Exposure
  • Composition
  • Editing in Lightroom and Photoshop



A typical day: Our days  will be all about photographing birds. Our goal is to help you learn how to take compelling bird photos with hands on instruction. We will cover camera settings, anticipating behavior, and specialty topics like stylizing perches, site prep and using food to lure birds.

Hotel:  We have reserved a block of rooms at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Pharr, Texas for the first two nights at a rate of $89 per room. They also offer spacious suites if you would like to pay just a bit more.  For the final 3 nights, February 27-29, we will be in the Holiday Inn Express in Rio Grande City at a rate of $115 per room. Be sure to ask for the Tom Bol Photo Workshop block of rooms when booking.

Closest Airport: McAllen, Texas – Our hotel in Pharr is located just 15 minutes from the airport in McAllen. Pharr and McAllen are only ten minutes from each other. Rio Grande City is 45 minutes from the McAllen airport.

Recommended camera gear:

  • 1-2 camera bodies (back up body recommended)
  • Lenses ranging from wide angle 24mm to 70-200mm
  • Wildlife telephoto lens – 300mm or more (200-500mm or similar works great)
  • Tripod
  • Polarizing filter
  • Speedlight/Better Beamer flash extender; (both optional; bring a flash if you have one.)

Included in the fee:

  • All meals while photographing at the Santa Clara Ranch
  • Lunch while shooting at the Laguna Seca Ranch
  • All fees for private blinds and guides; exclusive use of the ranch blinds
  • All instruction
  • Entrance fees for wildlife refuge
  • Copy of Tom’s ebook Create Better Photographs

Participants will provide their own:

  • Hotel accommodation
  • Transportation while in Texas (we recommend a SUV or vehicle with high clearance because of the dirt roads on the ranches.
  • Round trip transportation to McAllen, Texas
  • All meals except when at the Santa Clara Ranch and lunch at Laguna Seca Ranch



Tuesday, February 25: Meet in the lobby of the Hampton Inn & Suites in Pharr, Texas at 7 pm.

Wednesday, February 26: Breakfast at the hotel, then drive to Laguna Seca Ranch for a full day of photographing from blinds. For the morning session we will photograph raptors including an abundance of Crested Caracara. In the afternoon we will move to the songbird blinds with colorful perches.

Thursday, February 27: For our morning session we will be at a local birding hotspot to photograph both types of night heron, the elusive paraque and buff-bellied hummingbirds. In the afternoon we will drive to Rio Grande City and check into our second hotel. Our afternoon class will cover post process techniques for birds.

Friday, February 28: We will drive to the Santa Clara Ranch for breakfast at their guest house. During a full day at the ranch we will look for javelina, roadrunners and the resident Harris Hawks in their blinds. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served at the ranch at no cost to participants.

Saturday, February 29: We will spend a second full day at the Santa Clara Ranch photographing new species and perfecting our techniques. We will end the day with a final outdoor Texas BBQ if the weather permits.

Sunday, March 1: Final image review – show us your best images from the trip. The workshop ends at 10:00 am

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