Anatomy of a photo #57: Marbled Godwit in the sun’s first light

The low angle of the rising sun can give beautiful natural lighting

The Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa) is one of my favorite shorebirds, for the simple reason that it was one of the first ones that I learned to identify. Its mottled cinnamon coloration coupled with its long slightly, upturned beak that that becomes black towards the tip, made it distinctive to me, especially as I mostly saw it in the company of willets, where it was a striking contrast. This godwit is one of the largest sandpipers we have in our area, and can often be seen in mudflats or running up and down the line of breaking waves, plunging its bill, deep into the ground as it probes for invertebrates and other tidbits.

This particular Marbled Godwit I came across early one morning while on a kayak photography outing. The early morning sun kissed it so nicely as it walked along its own narrow stretch of beach, modeling so perfectly for me with the natural lighting, just a hint of shadow at its back that I couldn’t resist taking a few photos as I drifted gently by, staying still so as not to spook it.

To complement the sandpipers long legs and neck, I turned my camera on its side to give the photograph a vertical orientation (that, and it’s so tall at this range that it wouldn’t have fit in the frame in landscape orientation). I kept the subject on the left side of the image so that it was facing toward the open space of the photograph (not so good if the birds face is up against the border of the image with, with lots of empty space behind. Poor flow.)

I used a long lens. I had a wide open aperture and low ISO so that I could get the most out of my shutter speed without having to worry about noise or blur from the quick movements of these lively birds. The shallow aperture also gave me a very shallow depth of speed.

And then a little action, as simple as walking can change the image rather quickly

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-
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