Pectoral Sandpiper Photo

Ron Niebrugge Alaska, Chugach, Photos, Travel 12 Comments

Lessor Yellowlegs near Seward, Alaska.

Pectoral Sandpiper near Seward, Alaska.

I think this is the last of the shorebird photos – the birds have now move on.  This will give me the chance to get caught up on the Ask Ron questions.  

All the shorebird close ups I have posted recently have been captured with a 600 and 2x converter.  I usually have used a wide open aperture in aperture priority mode.  I have the exposure compensation to 0, and add flash in ETTL mode with the flash set at -1 stop.  I may adjust a bit from there after checking the histogram on the back of the camera, but for the most part, those settings worked well.

There are two tools I find very valuable for photographing shorebirds.  I really like the look you get by being at the birds level, even though it means laying in the mud and water.  Not only do I like the look, but I find the birds feel unthreatened and will often approach very close if I’m lying down and holding still.  The tool that makes this easier for shooting down low is the skimmer.  I mount my tripod head and camera to this and then will find a spot to lay and wait.

The other tool that I find valuable is the Better Beamer Flash Extender.  This thing basically adds two to three stops of light power to your flash.  This can greatly increase the range of your flash.  In the photos I have posted recently, the birds were will within the range of my flash, but I used the extender as it still reduced the amount of flash output needed.  This has a couple of benefits, it allows my rechargeable batteries last longer, and helps flash recharge  quicker.

Comments 12

  1. I find I often get eye-shine problems with the Beamer. Often enough that I’ve become somewhat scared of using it. Do you have your mounted somewhere other than on top of the camera?

  2. Post

    Great question John,

    I was using a Wimberley head, and did have a bracket attached to it which elevated the flash. I was doing this so that I didn’t have to worry about the position of the flash as I moved from horizontal to vertical, but it would have had an additional benefit of avoiding the eye shine problem. Having the flash a few extra inches above the flash does make a big difference when it comes to those glowing eyes. Thanks for the follow up.

  3. Top of the Evening Ron,

    Comparing photos in your shorebird series verifies, for me at least, a benefit from using flash for wildlife photography even in broad, bright daylight. You read about this benefit in the photography books and magazines.

    Catch light in the bird’s eyes, from the flash, is the benefit verified in the series for me. Compare the “eyes” in any of the flash enhanced photos shot in Seward against the May 11th photo of the Western Sandpiper on the Copper River Delta.



  4. Thanks for the link to the Skimmer, Ron. It’s exactly what I need for a couple of upcoming trips and nothing else fits the bill.

  5. Post

    Hi Warren,

    I agree, it really helps. Some of those photos were captured in the middle of the day in very harsh light, the flash really saves the day. The catch light is an additional benefit – that is a perfect example, the May 11th bird was in nice soft light, but a bit of flash, mainly for catch light would have helped that photo. Good example!

    Thanks Kathleen, using the skimmer can be fun!

  6. note the how the barring on the neck abrubtly ends on the breast. These are spectacular birds on their breeding grounds. They are able to partially inflate their necks and fly around making low hoting sounds. Very unlike most other shorebirds, although in migration, they blend in with the rest.

  7. Post

    Hi Milo,

    Of course! Now that I look at them both in the book, it is obvious. I originally posted this as a Lesser Yellowlegs, that is until Milo set me straight – thanks Milo for the ID and the interesting comment! This one was hanging with some Least Sandpipers.


  8. Post

    Thanks Warren – I remember seeing that offer, but had forgotten about it – that is a great price!

  9. Post

    Hi Carl,

    That is funny. Maybe Milo is only familiar with one bird – the Pectoral Sandpiper. 🙂

    I’m kidding. Milo did a great job and teaching me the difference between some of the sandpipers, I really appreciate it, but have a long ways to go!

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