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FORUMS Photo Sharing & Visual Enjoyment Birds 
Thread started 15 Sep 2017 (Friday) 19:27
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Down & Dirty, Snowy Egret

 
Nighthound
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Post edited over 1 year ago by Nighthound. (4 edits in all)
     
Sep 15, 2017 19:27 |  #1

I thought I'd post a write up with the shots below about one of my favorite methods for making photos of wading birds. This was written with a wide range of skill levels in mind so no offense to the seasoned shooters here.

I've long been a fan of ground level shooting. The Canon 500mm really shines when it comes to this technique. Many of my favorite shots were taken this way. I mount my camera and lens on my Wimberley and Skimmer ground pod, it's rock solid and allows movement with ease. Sometimes I push it along as I crawl closer to my subjects but on this morning I had a different plan. As always I got out where I needed to be at dawn to take advantage of the warm morning light. Rather than finding the birds I wanted to photograph and working my way toward them I set my sights on a nice, pleasing and well lit background and got down in the wet sand. The tide is a big factor for shooting wading birds. They feed most actively when the tide is down or on the rise since that's when the small bait fish are trapped in the tidal pools and easier to round up. The tide was right, the light was right and the angle was right but not a single bird in sight. I've done this countless times over the years and it's been productive far more times than not so I only needed to wait and be patient. It wasn't long before a group of Snowy Egret showed up and began feeding. They ran around grabbing fish and then scrambling to distance themselves from the others so not to have their catch stolen away. There's usually one aggressive bird in every group (the alpha) and is usually responsible for most of the bullying. I was busy shooting and for a while the group kept their eyes on me as my shutter clicked. Soon they worked their way closer to me. This is when it gets good and more challenging, the more they fill the frame the more challenging the compositions become, not to mention focusing on a fast moving medium-sized bird. Next came possibly the best part of ground level shooting. Five Snowy Egret were less than ten feet from where I was laying. At that point I can't attain focus with the 500mm so I switch to being in the moment and just enjoy the fact that I'm this close to these cool birds that would never allow this if I was standing on my feet. The closest encounter ever was when a young Tricolored Heron walked up next to me and I had to rotate my lens to one side to allow it to walk by, now that's close. I enjoy making photos this way, letting the birds come to me is effective most of the time, being in a prone position removes a great deal of the fear from the birds feeding, Some will stay their distance, especially if they're alone but when there are groups they almost always come close to my position eventually. Some days I walk and look for opportunities and photograph what I find, but sometimes I choose the canvas and let the birds do the painting.

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docg
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Sep 15, 2017 20:24 |  #2

Nice write up and wonderful shots! Thanks for sharing.


Doc
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Nighthound
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Sep 16, 2017 10:22 |  #3

docg wrote in post #18453250 (external link)
Nice write up and wonderful shots! Thanks for sharing.

Thanks very much Doc, my pleasure.


Steve
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Wallace ­ River
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Post edited over 1 year ago by Wallace River.
     
Sep 17, 2017 10:48 |  #4

As awesome as always Steve, and clearly your technique works very well. Do you ever use flash? That morning light is sure a game changer. And what do you wear to keep from getting covered in mud from head to toe? If I laid down on the shore here I'd sink in the muck :oops: Not a beginner here but I'm pretty sure I'm older than you and laying down in the mud doesn't appeal somehow, but good on you to be able to do that. By the way love your shots, that Snowy looks like he's practising to be a Reddish Egret :)


IAN - Living life on the shores of the Wallace River in northern Nova Scotia, Canada :
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Nighthound
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Post edited over 1 year ago by Nighthound.
     
Sep 17, 2017 12:03 |  #5

Wallace River wrote in post #18454172 (external link)
As awesome as always Steve, and clearly your technique works very well. Do you ever use flash? That morning light is sure a game changer. And what do you wear to keep from getting covered in mud from head to toe? If I laid down on the shore here I'd sink in the muck :oops: Not a beginner here but I'm pretty sure I'm older than you and laying down in the mud doesn't appeal somehow, but good on you to be able to do that. By the way love your shots, that Snowy looks like he's practising to be a Reddish Egret :)

Thanks very much Ian. I don't even own a flash, although I use one in my work photography I prefer purely natural light in my wildlife. Rarely do I shoot in the shade. I wear a thin nylon jacket and pants from Bass Pro. It has a water barrier (rubber-like) on the inside. When it's more mucky than moist sand I'll bring along a trash bag mat made by taping two bags together end-to end so that I have the length needed. I only use that if I plan to be stationary, when crawling the nylon suit is sufficient for lightly moist sand. After sooting I shoe off the sand , fold it up and put it back in my jacket pocket. The nice thing about the nylon suit material is that it dries quickly, especially in the warm months. Once dry the sand brushes right off and doesn't end up in my pants pockets and other places. :) When it's very cold staying dry is critical so I don't do much wet surface ground pod shooting in winter. I'm 60 and not about to give up ground shooting anytime soon.


Steve
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CheleA
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Sep 17, 2017 12:16 as a reply to  @ Nighthound's post |  #6

Wonderful pictures and write up! I don't really see myself participating in this kind of photography, but I have some questions for you, if you don't mind:
1) Obviously the birds know you are there. Do you bother wearing any camo?
2) I realize you try to stay still, or at the very least make very slow movements; but if you have to stand up, do you lose their "trust" and they all fly away?
3) Since you try to get there before them, if you do lose their "trust"(related to #2), is the rest of the shooting session lost?
4) On average, how long do your shooting "sessions" last?




  
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Post edited over 1 year ago by Nighthound. (3 edits in all)
     
Sep 17, 2017 20:16 |  #7

CheleA wrote in post #18454237 (external link)
Wonderful pictures and write up! I don't really see myself participating in this kind of photography, but I have some questions for you, if you don't mind:
1) Obviously the birds know you are there. Do you bother wearing any camo?
2) I realize you try to stay still, or at the very least make very slow movements; but if you have to stand up, do you lose their "trust" and they all fly away?
3) Since you try to get there before them, if you do lose their "trust"(related to #2), is the rest of the shooting session lost?
4) On average, how long do your shooting "sessions" last?


Thank you.

1) I do wear camO, but mainly because the jacket and pants I wear to stay clean are camO. Most waders are fairly tolerant, especially when I'm laying down. I doubt the camO has much to do with it out in the open like it is where I shoot.

2) I always try to exit/stand when the birds are a good distance away. At that point they've usually come and gone and I have the shots I'm after. For birds like Kingfishers I wait until they leave the area before coming out of my portable blind but they're extremely skittish and are usually return visitors to that spot so I don't want them associating me with my blind. Out on the flats of the wetlands I try to use courtesy and show respect for the birds by not standing when they're close. After all they just tolerated me being in their environment so it's the least I can do. When I crawl into flocks I retreat on the ground and get a comfortable distance away from the birds before standing. I highly doubt that birds remember me personally at my usual locations but anything I can do to help lower their fears of humans is a good thing for all.

3) I think my explanation of question #2 covered this. Once I get up I'm usually finished for that session or if it's not too late in the morning I'll walk to another area and repeat the same method.

4) I begin at sunrise and usually shoot for about 2.5 to 3 hours. By then the light is getting harsh and the tide will have reached a point of being less advantageous.


Steve
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cavuken
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Sep 22, 2017 00:31 |  #8

Great photos and great info-well done.


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Post edited over 1 year ago by Pondrader.
     
Sep 23, 2017 06:33 |  #9

Super write up Steve, I like the idea of a ....How I got the shot.... thread


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Post edited over 1 year ago by saea501.
     
Sep 23, 2017 07:01 |  #10

These are dynamite, Steve. I love the Snowys. And you're right, there's always one tough guy that muscles his way around.

I sort of use the same method as you....letting the birds come closer to me, but I don't do anything special. That is, no camo, no laying in the brush...I just go to a spot and kind of wait. I was shooting a gator eating a big catfish once and I had a Great Blue land right next to me, about 4 feet away. Scared the crap out of me. I shot a couple of him and went back to my gator. He stayed right there until I started to move away. As long as I'm relatively still and don't make a lot of noise most all of the birds seem pretty casual about me. Except the raptors, they won't come anywhere near me.


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Sep 28, 2017 18:47 |  #11

cavuken wrote in post #18457615 (external link)
Great photos and great info-well done.

Thanks very much.

Pondrader wrote in post #18458514 (external link)
Super write up Steve, I like the idea of a ....How I got the shot.... thread

Thank you Jeff.

saea501 wrote in post #18458524 (external link)
These are dynamite, Steve. I love the Snowys. And you're right, there's always one tough guy that muscles his way around.

I sort of use the same method as you....letting the birds come closer to me, but I don't do anything special. That is, no camo, no laying in the brush...I just go to a spot and kind of wait. I was shooting a gator eating a big catfish once and I had a Great Blue land right next to me, about 4 feet away. Scared the crap out of me. I shot a couple of him and went back to my gator. He stayed right there until I started to move away. As long as I'm relatively still and don't make a lot of noise most all of the birds seem pretty casual about me. Except the raptors, they won't come anywhere near me.

Thanks Bob. It always helps to sit quietly and employ any method that puts the birds at ease. I also find a difference between sitting and standing but laying down seems to give an even greater advantage. I've used 100% cover before and still got the stink eye stare from Kingfishers just before they dart off. Birds are so keen to things that are different in any way than they're used to seeing. Some just get over it easier than others.


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Oct 03, 2017 19:02 |  #12

I love snowies- these are great


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renaissance_myth
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Oct 04, 2017 09:38 |  #13

I would be proud if I could take pictures like those. Very nice!


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Oct 05, 2017 09:51 |  #14

Beautiful shots and great info. Thanks for sharing both.


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Down & Dirty, Snowy Egret
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