What makes that spectacular shorebird image? Well, getting low is the starting point. Shorebirds are very small, usually no higher than a tennis ball. This means you can’t photograph them standing up, or even kneeling down! You have to get flat on your belly! What fun! You use your elbows and feet to propel yourself through the sand, all the while keeping your hands clean to handle your gear. Make sure you wear waterproof pants, as its not always dry sand you are going to crawl through to make the shot. The photo below demonstrates my tracks through the sand, dry sand to be exact (only because I got lucky!)
The second key to great images is exposure. I usually set the camera to -2/3 Exposure Compensation. This will help balance the whites and blacks. It also brings out more of the colors in the birds plumage, which always adds to the photograph.
The final key to success is the pose! I took over 200 shots of the same bird, while all were “technically” correct, some stood out to me. Why? well the bird struck a good pose. Whether its a stretch, yawn, or just eye contact, it always makes the photograph have soul.
This guy was actually leaning into the strong gusts of wind!
This Piping Plover was demonstrating a common behavior native to all shorebirds. When a predator passes overhead, they will cock their head and watch it fly by.
This guy was doing some preening.
Open beaks are always great!
Sometimes you’ll just get creative and come out with something not half bad.