Shorebirds are a lot of fun to photograph, but you need to be able to get close to these wary animals without disturbing them. And once you get in close, you need to know what to look for to get those award-winning shots. Here are five tips that will help you boost your photography to the next level.
1. Get low. Intimate photos are best at a low angle, especially at eye level with the birds. Plus, being low shrinks your profile down and makes you less intimidating. So get down on your knees, or better yet, your belly. You'll have a better angle and a better chance of getting into close proximity.
2. Let the birds come to you. Birds are easily frightened off so approaching them, even slowly, is sure to make them alert and possibly push them to take flight to get away. Watch how the shorebirds are moving as they feed in a marsh or along a beach, and get way in front of their path. Then simply be still, quiet, and patient as they approach. It may take quite a few minutes, but sitting tight will pay off in the end.
3. Predict behavior. This is key to all wildlife photography. You need to know your subject well enough to know when the bird will stretch its wings, call out to a mate, dive in for a fish or crab, and many other aspects of birdy behavior. When you can predict what your subject will do, you will be ready to click at the perfect moment for an amazing shot that captures interesting behavior.
4. Take lots of shots. Don't be afraid to take a lot of photographs, especially as birds fly in and out, flap, stretch, preen, or lunge and gulp down prey. This is especially helpful as you are learning to predict behavior. There's a difference between this and just pressing down on the shutter button and "machine gunning" your subject. Don't wildly take thousands of photos. But when a bird starts to do something, like say feed a chick or take flight, you want to predict when to take the shot and feel free to take a few in rapid succession. You may end up capturing a really interesting series, and one of them will be a stand-out for the perfect pose.
5. Respect the birds. Don't push birds so hard that you disrupt their feeding, or make them feel alarmed. When you do this, you lose out on the chance to quietly capture fascinating behavior as well as put undue stress on the birds. For instance, by positioning yourself too close to a nest to capture feeding behavior, you may make a parent too nervous to come in and feed a chick. So stay relaxed, pay attention to their behavior and any uneasiness with your proximity, and adjust accordingly. Happy birds means happy photographer!
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