Monday, September 8, 2008

Sanderlings, how to Photograph.

Sanderlings are plump little shorebirds that present some unique photography challenges. Here we have a Sanderling running across the sand. The bold black and white plumage distinguishes this as a juvenile.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Sanderlings feed along the shore lines where the wave actions stir up their food items. They will run back and forth with the waves probing the sand for little crustaceans and worms. This action gives the photographer a challenge of a rapidly moving target. I shoot primarily in aperture priority mode where I can control the depth of field. A narrow depth of field can add interest. I also target my auto-focusing bracket on the eye of the target bird. I have the ability to move my focusing bracket to the left of the view finder. I know that the birds will be running right to left, so I want to focus on the eye of the leading bird. In this case, I had the autofocuse on continuous rather than automatic or single.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I left the shooting mode in single because of the rapid running of the birds. This gave me the opportunity to shoot when at the optimum time. In this case, shooting in continuous mode would have given me a lot of bad shots that I would have to waste time sorting out.

The Sanderlings I was shooting were not hanging around preening. This feather fluff was a rare moment I was lucky to capture.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

This adult Sanderling in winter plumage has found a tasty meal. Capturing a moment like this provides additional insight into the bird’s life. The reflection of the shallow water can add interest, but in this case, there were other Sanderlings trying to steal the prize and getting the reflection shot was the secondary to capturing the food item.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Wildlife photography entails a bit of luck. You just cannot plan a shot like this. This reminds me of a 747 taking off next to a Piper Cub.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

I shoot with lenses up to 300mm. This is short for this type of work, but I can hand hold it without fear and it gives me mobility. The trick is not to pressure your birds. The pros use 500mm and 600mm and can shoot from a distance. This makes it easier as the birds don’t care and will act natural.

Every bird has its feeding habits. Sanderlings are very active running up and down with the waves. When I shoot birds, I take my time to approach the birds, slowly and test their comfort level. When the birds stop feeding, preening or resting and start to move off, that's my clue that I’m pressuring the birds and I will back off. They will usually settle down and go back to their normal activity. This gives me a feel for my working distance, how close I'm going to get. I may spend an hour or two working with a flock of birds to get photos like this. On the beach, there are no trees, no cover. I just mind my working distance so that the flock doesn’t freak out and fly off.

Birds on migration have a job to do. They need to feed and pack on the fat. It is a matter of life or death. Chasing birds off feeding areas wastes their energy. If the birds do not settle down quickly, I'm done, end of photo shoot. I won't get the shots I want so why pressure them? If it all goes well the birds will get used to me and will approach me on their own. That is when the photography really begins!

I hope you found this posting helpful. If so, let me know.


Timothy Crowninshield said...

I stumbled on your site while trying to identify some birds I shot. I'm fairly new to photography and trying to learn. Turns out I was shooting sanderlings. I appreciate your excellent photos and the advice you gave about approaching these great animals and getting quality pictures. Thank you!

Susan W. said...

I found this post very helpful! I am still at the "take 1000 shots and one will be good enough to post" stage.

Related Posts with Thumbnails