|"Bringing Home The (Aquatic) Bacon"- A common tern returns to the colony site from the open ocean with prey. Photographed from the edge of the beach with a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO lens, handheld, Canon 7D, f/5.6, 1/3200 sec., ISO 400.
On my recent trip to Nickerson Beach Park, I made two important observations about my fellow nature photographers. First, even though there were a fair amount of photographers there that day, the vast majority arrived well after the best light, and many were arriving as I was leaving for the day. Second, and more importantly, the majority of the photographers stood upright the entire time and moved pretty rapidly up and down the beach, chasing the areas of perceived action or new subjects.
|"Cruising The Shoreline"- A black skimmer flies along the shoreline in front of the crashing surf after a feeding sortie near sunrise. Canon 7D, Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO lens, handheld, f/5.6, 1/2500 sec., ISO 1600.
|"Skimming The Waves"- A black skimmer demonstrates their distinctive feeding style in the trough between waves at Nickerson Beach Park. Canon 7D, Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO lens, handheld, f/5.6, 1/2500 sec., ISO 1600.
|"Skimmer And The Strip"- A black skimmer comes in for a landing on Nickerson Beach with the Lido Beach strip in the background. Canon 7D, Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO lens, handheld, f/5.6, 1/3200 sec., ISO 400.
|"Twistin'"- A black skimmer shakes itself off in mid-air as it flies over Nickerson Beach on the way back to the colony site. Canon 7D, Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO lens, handheld, f/5.6, 1/3200 sec., ISO 400
Most of my fellow photographers on the beach that morning spent their time fully upright with their tripods fully extended. Most walked right up and stood at the rope marking the boundaries of the nesting colony. They moved frequently, chasing the areas of most intense activity. Most were wearing modest khaki or green field clothing, but some hadn't even bothered with that much. In many cases, it was clear that the birds were reacting to their presence. For some with the really long lenses, this strategy may have resulted in some good images. I don't know. But I wonder what images they missed and how much of an impact they had on the birds they (at least should) love.
Sure, the activity would occasionally dip at my stationary spot. Flight patterns and intense activity would shift out of reach. But by being patient, good action would eventually come back to me and I managed to get some really great shots with only a 70-300mm zoom (admittedly 300mm being equivalent to a 480mm lens with the 1.6 crop factor on a Canon 7D). By letting the wildlife come to me, I had less impact and more keepers with a relatively short lens, and frankly enjoyed myself and observed more behavior as well.
|"Strolling"- This image of an American oystercatcher gives just enough detail to get a sense of habitat while still isolating the bird. Canon 7D, Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO lens, handheld, f/5.6, 1/3200 sec., ISO 400
Next time you're out photographing wildlife. Particularly if you don't have a super-telephoto lens. Think about staying low, staying still, and waiting for the action to come to you.