Showing posts with label sanderlings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sanderlings. Show all posts

Friday, October 4, 2019

Sanderling and reflection, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

A sanderling is reflected in wet sand while feeding in Massachusetts

I took a long walk on the beach before finally reaching a mid-sized flock of sanderlings feeding in front of the rising tide. The group was fast-moving and active, so it was a bit of a challenge to get clean shots. I spent some time pointing my lens right into the heart of the action, but I also attempted to isolate a few birds when they stepped to the edges of the main group.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Backlit sanderlings, Ogunquit Beach

A flock of sanderlings feeds on Ogunquit Beach, Maine

As I mentioned in my previous post, the conditions weren't ideal for photography on my fall trip to Southern Maine -- but when I find a flock of friendly sandpipers, it's worth making the most of it! As the rising tide continuously pushed the flock to different positions around me, I had to settle for some angles looking directly toward the morning sun. When this happened, I pulled my eye away from the viewfinder and just enjoyed the lively scene of this energetic flock of shorebirds. Thankfully, there were some high clouds passing through, so when one slipped in front of the sun, I'd go back to the camera and work what I could. At the time, I didn't have much faith that any of the images would turn out. This proved to be mostly true when I reviewed the images later, but this frame stood out to me with the pattern of the three feeding birds and enough details in the shadows. It's not my typical style of shorebird photography, but it's fun to take advantage of a new challenge when the opportunity presents itself.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sanderling stretching in evening light, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling stretching in evening light in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

I've been back to Parker River NWR a few times since this October evening with the hopes of having a chance to experience something like this again. Any time spent with a flock of friendly sandpipers is a win in my book, but this particular evening was really special with the colorful reflections of an evening sky.

View more photographs of sanderlings

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sanderling flaps it's wings, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling wing flap in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

This sanderling put on quite a show while I shared the beach with its flock in October. It was great to watch it splash and clean its feathers, and it finished by standing tall and flapping its wings. I really like this image and had a hard time leaving it out of my top ten Favorite Photographs of 2014. I consider it an honorable mention, but I personally preferred the flying water droplets and splashing action of some other images from this series.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Extra low angle shorebird photography

Sanderling low in the water at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sanderling splash, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling splashing as it takes a bath at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Late evening sanderlings, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Late evening sanderlings in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sanderling checking the wrack, Plymouth Beach

Sanderling picking through the wrack at Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts
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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sanderlings in a sandstorm, Plymouth Beach

Sanderlings brace against blowing sand on Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts
A pair of sanderlings brace against blowing sand in a stiff wind on Plymouth Beach

It took me far too long to "discover" the shorebird haven that is Plymouth Beach. I had seen promising reports on eBird since moving to the area, but during my first two years in Massachusetts, I primarily went north to Plum Island when I was looking for shorebirds to photograph. Last March though, I finally made the drive south to Plymouth, and it very quickly became a favorite location. In the offseason (from October through March) the beach is even dog-friendly, and my wife and pup joined me for this trip. It was a bit unfortunate that the wind was whipping around the whole time, as my poor terrier got more than a little sand-blasted during the 6-mile plus round trip. Like these sanderlings though, he seemed no worse for the wear, as he hunkered down and leaned into the wind and blowing sand.

View more of my photos of sanderlings.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sanderling at sundown, Plymouth Beach

Sanderling at sunset on Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts

My most recent trip to Plymouth Beach was reminiscent of a California beach trip for me. I arrived a few hours before the sun was scheduled to set under clear blue skies. Then as I walked further along the beach, the beautiful high-level clouds started to move in. By the time I had reached what should have the "golden hour" I was sitting under delightful gray skies! A minor challenge was trying to find the right white balance under these conditions, but the dramatic skies provided some unique side lighting as this sanderling cruised along the round stones of the waterline.

See more in my Sanderlings Gallery.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tip of the feather, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling preening to the tip of its feather, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

As the flock of over 100 sandpipers ran across the sand, this sanderling paused for a moment to check its feathers -- all the way out to the tips.

View more photos of sanderlings.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sanderling stands alone, Point Reyes National Seashore

Sanderling stands alone on sand reflecting an overcast sky

A sanderling in transitional breeding plumage stands in the wet sand on an overcast morning last August in Point Reyes National Seashore.

View more photos of sanderlings.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reflecting on 2011, and a Sanderling for Laura

Photo of a sanderling reflected in the tidal flats

Time is such a funny thing. Sometimes we feel that it flies by faster than we can keep up with, and sometimes it feels like it has slowed to nearly a stop. But in the end, we mark its passage at concrete intervals, which allow us to take a moment to stop and see just how much time has passed. A year often proves to be the most logical interval for reflection, as our bodies and minds seem to fall into rhythm with the predictable changing of the seasons, and the lengthened evenings spent indoors in the winter are ripe for reflection.

There have been many years in my life that have seemed to go by without much notice, simply the formation of another tree-ring in my life story, passing by and starting new. This year, 2011, was not such a year. There have been few years that I have felt more strongly and that have been more formative than this particular revolution around the sun.

I started the year in Berkeley, California, happily plugging away as a graduate student feverishly trying to wrap up my experiments and write my dissertation. As my wife and I tried to figure out what our next step would be after graduation, I started to realize that my time in California was running short, and I increased my efforts to get out and enjoy and photograph the landscape that had truly become home for me. The spring flashed by in an instant, seemingly gathering more speed as it went, and soon enough I was walking in my graduation, and collecting signatures on my dissertation. By August I had formally completed my PhD, and we began to prepare for a cross-country move to Massachusetts.

On September 1st, we put the last of our belongings in the car and started our migration east. We said goodbye to California, and spent a glorious 10 days exploring Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The wildlands of the American West have inspired me since I was a young child watching “Marty Stauffer’s Wild America”, and it was a dream come true to spend so much time exploring that particular stretch of the Rocky Mountains. During our stay, each day seemed to stretch out to twice its appropriate length, leaving us with so many full and lasting memories. We then spent the next 4 days watching the country pass by our car windows, and soon enough, we were getting settled in Massachusetts.

All of these events were so important to the story of my life, and it was incredible to sit around our kitchen table in September and think about the fortunate changes that 2011 brought to our lives -- the grand accomplishments of finishing our PhDs and starting the next phase of our lives in a new city. But 2011 wasn’t over yet, and the steady beat of the metronome propelled us forward along the unseen arrow of time.

When we celebrated the start of 2011, we did it as a much fuller family than we’ll have for the beginning of 2012. In October, we lost my step-father to cancer. He had been receiving treatment for a year and a half, and we knew that our time together had a distinct, but unknown, limit – but we didn’t realize that this stretch of time was accelerating to a rapid finish much sooner than we expected. Fortunately, our recent move to the East Coast allowed us to be there at the end.

As we tried to recover from that loss, we didn’t know that we were again accelerating towards another finite endpoint in time. In November, my wife’s sister, Laura, and her boyfriend, Kristopher, were taken from us in a random, senseless, and horrific act of violence in Seattle. My sister-in-law was only 26, and was almost ready to write her PhD dissertation at the University of Washington. She was a fun, generous, and compassionate soul who cared deeply about improving the world with her research and education. She and Kris had so much love and life yet to give, and they certainly did not have enough time.

In the wake of these tragedies, you find a way to put one foot in front of the other and to keep moving forward, because you know that as much as it feels like it should, time doesn’t stop. It just keeps flowing with a perpetual steady beat. Soon enough the last seconds of 2011 will tick by and we’ll count down to the beginning of a new year. The incredible joys and sorrows of 2011 will always be with me, but they will also be secured behind me with the turn of the calendar – encased behind the mark that separates the new tree-ring from the last.

As my reflections on 2011 naturally turn towards the prospects of 2012, I look forward to a fresh beginning of another year full of expectations and surprises. What will I have to reflect on after the next 365 days? I’m ready to turn the page and find out – to face the challenges, to experience the joys, and to continue to share what inspires me.

I want to thank each of my readers for joining me for the journey that was 2011, and I wish you only the best for the New Year. May your lives be ever fuller by the love of your family and friends, and may you continue to make progress towards getting that perfect shot!

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The image I selected for this post is dedicated to Laura. She always commented that she loved my photos of sanderlings, and she enjoyed watching their cute way of life as they cruised in and out with the waves. As I thought through the images I could dedicate to her, my mind was drawn to the recent series I took that included reflections. While Laura’s time with us was far too short, she lived an amazingly full life and impacted an incredible number of people. Her zest for life and fierce love of family, friends, and science will be forever reflected in those of us who knew her – and we will each be a better person for carrying her spirit with us as we move forward.