Many of my favorite spots for hiking and photographing have become mud bogs. The rain this winter has been unrelenting. When conditions are like this you can suck it up and it slop along the muddy trails, stay home and daydream of an outdoor adventure, or do what I did, head for the beach. Unless the wind is roaring you can almost always find some kind of subject matter at the beach. Sanderlings, Sea Gulls, Brown Pelicans… something’s probably going to be there to photograph. Our beaches, however, can be a bit challenging. You need to know the area a bit to improve your odds of getting acceptable shots.
One important issues to consider when your goal is to take photos is the direction of the sun. Ideally the sun should be directly behind you for avian photography. If not directly behind you, mostly behind. Finding the right time of day and location can be challenging unless you’re familar with the local beaches. The next issue is knowing where to find the birds. You’re not necessarily going to encounter birds along just any stretch of the beach. The movement of birds… where they congregate… is largely dependent upon feeding opportunities. The birds are going to be where the food is. Knowledge of shoaling, water depths and tide schedules all play a big role in locating birds. By combining local knowledge of the beaches and some solid technique your chance of getting a few good images is greatly enhanced.
A while back I posted about the importance of being willing to get down and dirty to get interesting, compelling images. Sometimes that can lead to a bit of discomfort. To capture these images of Sanderlings I was laying and sitting in very, very wet sand. My pants and shirt were soaked, the wind was blowing hard and the temperature was dropping quickly. Simply put, it wasn’t particularly comfortable. But the choice really comes down to whether you want to make interesting photos, or stay comfy. Honestly, depending upon my mood and how ambitious I am on a particular day, sometimes comfy wins the battle. But in most cases getting the shot will be worth the effort.
I’ve written about Sanderlings before so I’ll spare you a rewrite of information about the species. These images were taken near sunset, along the Crystal Coast as the birds were feeding and the tide was receding. In the first image the sun is coming over my right shoulder, resulting in more of a slide-lit image. I’m sitting with my elbows resting on my knees to brace the camera. I needed a slightly higher point of view in order to capture the reflection. In the second image I’m closer to eye-level with the bird and the sun is closer to being directly behind me. I also fired a flash to fill shadows and get a catchlight in the eye.