The first frosts have hit my part of the world, Cambridgeshire, in the last couple of nights, so winter is well on its way. Our latest guest blog from Tom Mason has inspired me to wrap up and get to the coast to see some of our many arriving winter visitors. I know I won't be getting shots that can rival any of his amazing ones below, but with Tom's top tips, you'll be well on your way. Do let us know how you get on! Here's Tom...
Head for the coast
With the nights drawing in. Days breaking with a chill in the air, now is the perfect time to head to the coast for a day on the beach. Not for sitting in deck-chairs of course, but instead to focus on photographing waders!
In the UK we are extremely lucky, with 19,491 miles of coast. We are spoiled for choice with many locations where we can get up close and personal with some of the sexiest (in my opinion) of UK birdlife.
During the autumn many species of waders are migrating to their wintering grounds. Whilst some will stay around the UK coastline (species such as dunlin, sanderling, turnstone) many will continue heading south to Africa, for the winter. During November the numbers of shorebirds around our coasts provide excellent opportunities for photography, the low winter light in conjunction with the shorter days, mean the conditions are favourable for working down by the tideline.
The winter [provides great light conditions for catching sanderlings in action on the shore.
Where to go
Location, as with most wildlife photography, is key. Norfolk is an obvious choice, the beaches of Titchwell, Cley and Horsey are great places to find numerous species and of course Snettisham for the high tide spectaculars. If you don’t live in the South East don’t despair as the entire coast of the UK is wader-rich: the Hayle estuary, Cornwall, Lindisfarne island,Northumbria, the Ythan Estuary in Scotland, The Shetland Isles and many others offer wonderful locations photographing waders.
Packing it in - knot mass in the high tide roost at Snettisham
When photographing waders, in most cases you are going to want to grab your longest focal length lens. Generally an DSLR with a 300mm lens can produce great results when used in conjunction with some good field craft. To isolate your subjects try working with a shallow depth of field, setting your camera to a wide aperture, f4 or 5.6 is a great place to start. This in addition to a fast shutter speed, will help freeze the action of the birds running along the shore. When shooting, try working with a bean bag to give some additional support and make sure you use a waterproof cover to protect your camera from both salt spray and sand!
Freeze the action to catch an oystercatcher in full flow
With birds, the most important problem to address is the outline of your body. Birds can very easily recognise a human figure so changing your shape is a sure fire way to let you gain those extra few feet. Get down low, crawling or even lying on the floor will help you appear less of a threat to your subjects. Give up any thoughts of looking cool when photographing waders...If you want the best images you will need to get dirty.
Fieldcraft will get you up close and personal with turnstones
A long day on the shoreline can be tiring and leave you soaked through. Make sure to take a change of clothes and a hot drink/ soup to warm you up after a long session lying in the wet sand! Or of course if you work on the beach at Titchwell they have an excellent Cafe… ;-)
Get in touch
I would love to hear how you get on out in the field, so why not Tweet me @TomMasonPhoto? To see more of my work you can always visit my website at www.tommasonphoto.com