Anatomy of a photo #37: Least Sandpiper walking on Tomales Bay

Brave little birds, but you still need to keep your movements to a minimum

While kayaking one day along the shores of Tomales Bay I’m the Point Reyes National Seashore, I saw a small flock of sandpipers methodically working their way along the line between land and sea. It was easy to see where they were heading, so I paddled up the beach from them and nestled my kayak in the shallows near where they would pass.

I set my camera up for the pictures I wanted to take before settling down to wait- telephoto lens with the autofocus set so that it could focus nearby (some lenses and cameras have settings so that they can focus more quickly on nearby subjects, but this should be switched back to normal when shooting farther away, or it can actually slow your focusing down). These are very active birds with quick sudden movements, so I set my shutter speed higher as it was more of a priority than the aperture. ISO was set low to keep the image as noise free as possible, since it was a slightly older camera. I fired a few test shots.

As I settled down to wait, I was able to stay very still so that I would not spook them as they neared. Since I knew my camera was ready and my exposure properly adjusted, I studied the sandpipers as they approached, scurrying this way and that. I watched how they moved, deciding what angles I wanted to shoot them from. I hunched down lower in my kayak’s seat. They are a very small bird, so I wanted to be very small that I might be closer to eye level.

Click. A shot of several of them together as they pass around a jellyfish that’s washed up on the beach. One splits away, coming closer to me. I track it. Click. It’s reflected on the film of water that covers the sand. It bends down to feed. Click. It’s very close now, walking straight towards me. Click. And then it is too close for me to focus upon as I sit in my kayak, before going by and offering up shots only of its backside.

I glance to where the others are. Mostly they are beyond me, but there are a few that have yet to pass by. I take a few token shots, but I know I already have my best images of them on my camera, and I let out the breath I didn’t even know I was holding.

Once they were far enough from me that I knew I wouldn’t spook them, I slid my kayak back into deeper water before paddling on to my next adventure.

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, birds, kayak photography, nature photography, photography, portraits, shorebirds, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Anatomy of a photo #37: Least Sandpiper walking on Tomales Bay

  1. thebigbookofdating says:

    soooooooo cute!

  2. 300hikes says:

    I love sandpipers. The way the run to and from the water as it ebbs and flows is hilarious. Thank you for sharing!

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