I was fortunate enough to be guided in front of some very cooperative Piping Plovers last week and pulled away some excellent shots. The key to shorebirds is getting low. Often times, budding photographers find themselves in-front of shorebirds and just begin shooting from the human’s viewpoint. As always, try to resist the urge to let your excitement of the subject take over and quickly think about how best to shoot the opportunity in front of you.
For a feeding shorebird, this means getting as low as possible to show the subject from their point of view instead. For the photographs in this blog post, all were taken using my telephoto camera rig but instead of hand holding or using a tripod, I used a homemade pan set up that when placed on the sand, holds my camera rig about 12″ off the sand (away from any sand/rocks/water). I then lay behind that on my belly and use the camera to hide as much of me as possible. I will use my elbows to drag myself along slowly, closer and closer to the subject. Because I’m not standing and in such a low position, I’m not so ‘human’ to the birds anymore.
At one point, the Sanderling pictured above was feeding no more than 3 feet from me as I just enjoyed watching its behaviors. The birds were completely calm, comfortable, and at times even walked towards me. This technique is more advanced and requires some special gear but works very well. It’s also important to realize you are going to get wet and dirty but the photographs make it all worthwhile.