Prairie Dancer Photography Workshop

with Noppadol Paothong

A Five-Day Grassland Grouse Photography Workshop

(Monday, April 15 - Friday, April 19, 2019)


Photoshooting in a Photo Blind


As a group, we will arrive at the photo blind one hour before sunrise, to avoid spooking the birds off the mating ground. There will be a short walk to our photo blind. This will allow time to configure your photo equipment.

During this time, you want to get familiar with where your equipment is located.  You don’t want to be fumbling around for equipment once the action starts.

Birds will arrive at the lek approximately 30 minutes before sunrise. We must remain very quiet throughout the morning and during the photo shoot to avoid disturbing the birds.

You should avoid drinking excessive liquid beverages early in the morning since there are no restroom facilities in or at the photo blind and once in the blind, you should not leave.

During the morning photo shoot

I will help with suggestions to get you ready for action. Throughout the morning I will offer my expertise and shooting tips along with gentle reminders to think “outside the box.”

The goal of each morning is to try to produce three images that we can share during class time. Each day I will provide an assignment to challenge each of you to get the most from this experience.

After the morning photo shoot

Each morning a hot breakfast will be served when we arrive back from the photo shoot (around 9 a.m.).

After breakfast, work on your images and get them ready to share with class later. This is a photo “discussion” and not a critique, so we learn from each other as a group.

Instruction and group discussion

In the afternoon we will a short presentation/instruction and group photo discussion on what we can learn from the morning photo shoot.

This is the important part of this workshop where we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.

Photoshooting the Sandhill prairie


Beside grouse, you will also have opportunities to photograph the vast Sandhill prairie and many bird species.

Promptly after dinner, we will travel to an ideal location to explore wildlife and embrace the vast prairie for an evening landscape photo shoot.

This is the time that you can work as individuals to create your own unique photo perspective.

Guided tour of the Sandhill habitat

On Day 2, there will be a 2-2.5 hour guided jeep tour on the ranch highlighting the complex bio-diversity of the Sandhills and the bird species found there. 

Landscape photoshooting opportunities

Although the area is primarily known for greater prairie-chicken and sharp-tailed grouse viewing, many other bird species also abound in the area and offer excellent bird watching/photography opportunities.

The Platte River is located just two hours from Burwell and is where hundreds of Sandhill Crane gather during spring migration.

March has brought large numbers of bald eagles to Calamus Reservoir in recent years, and there are usually a number of waterfowl migrating through. April brings migrating American White Pelicans, Swainson’s Hawks and several species of sparrows.

Before/after workshop

There are many photo opportunities nearby, including hundreds of thousands Sandhill Crane (and some whooping cranes) for spring migration, bald eagles, and a number of waterfowl.

I would encourage you to take this opportunity to explore other photography opportunities before or after this workshop.

Please visit

This is the photo equipment that I personally bring when photographing in a photo blind. My advice is to keep it simple. Not only do you have to carry your photo gear, space in the blind is also tight.

  • 2 camera bodies
  • 400mm-600mm prime lens or long zoom lens such as 150-600mm
  • 70-200mm lens
  • Wide angle lens (16-35mm or 24-105mm)
  • 1.14x and 2x teleconverter
  • Tripod with gimbal head to support a long lens
  • Tripod with regular tripod head for landscape photography
  • Extra batteries for camera
  • Extra batteries for flash and other accessories
  • Extra memory cards
  • Lens cleaning tissue
  • Camera backpack to carry gear

If you can only bring two lenses with you during this trip, bring the longest lens you have and one zoom lens.

Having a fast long lens will allow you to get the most from the morning shoot at the lek.

Equipment (Canon) is available for rent. Advance notice is required. Please contact me for a list of available rental equipment.

  • Laptop computer with some photo browser and photo editing software (Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, recommended and preferred)
  • Card reader for your memory card
  • External hard drive for image storage

Spring weather on the Sandhill Nebraska prairie can be unpredictable with an average temperature from low 25°F to upper 60°F.

But it can snow and get very windy and cold, especially in the morning sitting in the photo blind. Wearing multiple layers is recommended.

Please note that the photo blinds are NOT heated. The more comfortable you are, the more productive you will be making great images. Below are clothing recommendations.

  • Insulated jacket (and optional insulated pants). I would avoid bright colors as birds can see us inside the photo blind.
  • Rain/windbreaker jacket
  • Rain/windbreaker pants
  • Long underwear
  • Hiking boots (waterproof would be an ideal)
  • Wool socks
  • Gloves
  • Winter hat
  • Ball cap (for the afternoon photo shoots)
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp and/or flashlight with fresh batteries (you will be hiking to and setting up in the blind in the dark)
  • Handwarmer packets (HotHands)