Thursday, December 11, 2014
Recently, I've adjusted my shorebird photography style to get even lower to compress the depth of field further. Beginning with some of my earliest attempts at photographing shorebirds, I've found it to be the most satisfying experience to lay prone in the sand throughout my approach and time with the birds. For me, it's absolutely critical to put myself on an even plane with my subjects, allowing for a direct connection with their eyes. However, up until this spring, I had almost always done so with my camera mounted on the ballhead atop my tripod with the legs spread out flat. This meant that I had good stability for my camera as well as a reasonably low angle, but the center of the lens was still 4 or 5 inches above the ground by the time you add up the height of the flat tripod, ballhead, and lens foot. I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with my images from this setup, feeling like my depth of field was too great and my contact angle with a sandpiper's eye was from a bit too high.
Starting with some trips to Plymouth Beach in the spring, I decided to alter my standard technique. Now, instead of leaving the camera on the tripod, after I've made my approach, I'll hold the camera with the bottom of the lens hood resting on an outstretched tripod leg. This allows me to keep the body of the camera just above the sand, meaning that I'm truly reaching an eye-level elevation for my shorebird subjects. The real benefit is that now I'm able to place my plane of focus directly perpendicular to my subject, effectively narrowing my depth of field. Granted, I'm still shooting at f/8 on my trusty Tamron lens so my actual depth of field hasn't changed, but by altering the angle relative to my subject I've been able to generate what I find to be much more pleasing foregrounds and backgrounds.
Because I'm still resting my lens hood on a stable surface (my tripod leg), I haven't noticed a decrease in the number of sharp images with my adjusted style. I have noticed a bit more sand on to my equipment, which is certainly a negative, but my Storm Jacket camera sleeve is a great way to keep things relatively clean. In the end, I feel like I've taken my shorebird photography to a new level, and I just wish I had made this simple change to my approach years ago!
View more sanderling photography
Monday, December 8, 2014
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
Friday, November 14, 2014
A sanderling ruffles its feathers and splashes water as it bathes in the shallows at Parker River NWR
When I photographed this flock of sanderlings at the Lot 6 Beach in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge last month, I set up in my ground level position fairly near to the edge of the receding tide. I barely had to move over the next 45 minutes as the flock surrounded me and the birds went about their collective evening routines. It was a delight to share space with them in the fading light, but especially to watch the birds wade and bathe in the shallow water of the ebbing tide. I had never been quite this close to a splashing shorebird before, but I'd love to have the chance to repeat the experience again!
View more photographs of sanderlings
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Friday, November 7, 2014
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
A sanderling reflected in still water as it feeds in late evening light at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
Monday, November 3, 2014
A semipalmated sandpiper searches the exposed sands for a late afternoon meal in Parker River NWR
On my most recent trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the only sandpipers I saw and photographed were sanderlings. The exception was this lone semipalmated sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) mixed in with the flock, which gave me a few chances to diversify my photographs from the outing.
View more of my photographs of sandpipers.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
A sanderling pauses a moment to preen its feathers in the fading light of sunset on Plum Island
I really enjoy watching sandpipers preen. It's just an ordinary part of their existence, but it's a special moment to share with them. It's sometimes challenging to capture an effective photograph of those moments though, as their mid-preen poses often don't look that elegant in a still frame. If I lay on the shutter release long-enough, occasionally I come away with a rewarding pose -- one that has enough of the eye visible and the bird with reasonable posture. Even better when you get to see it all come together in nice light too!
Browse more of my photographs of sanderlings.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
A sanderling splashes water droplets as it feeds in the pastel colors of dusk in Parker River NWR
From my evening last weekend with a friendly flock of sanderlings in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. I spent over 45 minutes with this flock as they went through their evening routine of feeding, preening, and splashing through the calm waters of an ebbing tide at sunset.
Browse more photographs of sanderlings (Calidris alba).
Friday, October 31, 2014
Sanderlings feed and preen in the final light of day at the Lot #6 Beach in Parker River NWR
On my first trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge after moving to Massachusetts a few years ago, I encountered a huge flock of shorebirds along the beach at Lot #6. Since that time, I've walked the boardwalk out to the beach a number of times without much success. The Lot #7 beach is my regular sandpiper hotspot, but last weekend it was quiet. As the light was turning for the best, I decided to take a chance and head for Lot #6. My gamble really paid off -- a flock of 40 or so sanderlings were hanging out right at the end of the boardwalk, and they stayed with me until it was too dark to keep shooting.
View more photographs of sanderlings.
Friday, October 17, 2014
A dunlin probes the sand for a meal in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
It was mostly sanderlings feeding in front of the receding tide on my last trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, but this lone dunlin looked stately among the smaller sandpipers.
View more of my dunlin photography.
Friday, October 10, 2014
A sanderling looks for a meal as the late light drops to the horizon in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
On the last weekend in September I finally made it out to the coast for a fall trip to look for shorebirds. The Sandy Point State Reservation and Lot 7 area of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge did not disappoint, as there were plenty of sandpipers around. I spent the early evening with a group of resting peeps in the dunes, then got thoroughly soaked while working with a flock of sandpipers in the exposed flats of the ebbing tide. Pleasantly, the temperatures were unseasonably warm, so it was actually quite refreshing to be soaked to the bone in the wet sand. Regardless, it's always worth a wet drive home when you have a chance to share space with some friendly shorebirds!
View more of my sanderling photography.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
A sanderling cruising over rounded stones along Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts
Another image from my late spring shorebirding trips to Plymouth Beach. I really need to get back there soon!
View more of my sanderling photographs.
Friday, September 19, 2014
A dunlin preens its feathers while bathed in the golden light of sunset on Plymouth Beach
On this early May trip to Plymouth Beach, I spent most of the late afternoon walking up and down the beach looking for cooperative shorebirds. They seemed to be opposed to staying in even smallish flocks for any substantial amount of time that day, and instead were feeding individually across the extensive exposed sediments. It was hard to find a place to set up to let the birds approach me, since predicting the path of an individual shorebird is nearly impossible. As the sun started getting low to the horizon, I thought I might have to head home without much on my memory cards. But then, a large flock of dunlin landed nearby -- and instead of feeding, they were preening and resting on a raised bar of sand. This bird stood alone on the edge of the flock as it preened its feathers before tucking in its bill for a nap.
View more photographs of dunlin.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
A dunlin in late-spring plumage runs in front of a breaking wave on Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts
I had a really great series of spring trips to Plymouth Beach with plentiful spring shorebirds.This particular photo is from late-April, when the dunlin were just beginning to show signs of their summer colors.
View more of my photographs of dunlin.
Friday, September 12, 2014
A common tern watching the sky at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts
In early August I took my first and only trip to Plum Island for the summer. I was hoping to catch the front end of the fall shorebird migration, and while I saw a fair number of sandpipers, the breeding colony of terns was the real highlight. In general, I find terns to be a tough bird to approach, even with my standard slow-motion belly crawl. On this day, however, I was lucky to find a small group of common terns that were rather indifferent to me and let me crawl close. Unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy a few short minutes of photographic excitement before a beach runner came jogging by and ended my fun.
A common tern follows the flight path of an overhead flock at Sandy Point State Reservation
View more of my photographs of terns.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
A dunlin prepares to eat a worm it just pulled from the sand along Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts
On a late spring trip to Plymouth Beach, I had the good fortune of watching a flock of dunlin feeding in front of the rising tide. While I've previously photographed dunlin catching clams on Plum Island, it was a new experience to see this one pull out a worm from the exposed sediments.
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Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday - follow the link for this weeks posts!
Monday, July 21, 2014
A sanderling checks the wrack for a snack along Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts.
In late April, I took an evening trip to Plymouth Beach to look for shorebirds to photograph. On the west coast, I had seen sandpipers already in their summer plumage by this time of year, so I was hopeful that I could find the same here in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the birds were only just starting to show some color, but I was treated to some very nice light as the setting sun cut through a break in the overcast clouds. The tide was rapidly rising at the same time, and this sanderling (Calidris alba) was frantically checking the wrack for something edible before the beach was covered again.
Browse more of my photos of sanderlings.