Monday, September 6, 2010

Semi-palmated Sandpipers Re-Visited

Semi-palmated Sandpipers feeding on mud shrimp.
Canon 5D MkII, 24-105mm lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer

I hadn’t forgotten, but I knew it was getting late. That’s when our 15-year old son asked: “Are we going to Evangeline Beach to see the birds this year?”

The book deadline could wait, the job quote I was working on could wait, the fact that we were going through an oppressive heat wave didn’t matter. When a teenager asks to do something that doesn’t involve body gyrations that seem to be connected to thumb-induced instructions that somehow tie into a television screen, all else can wait.

This year I was going to do something different. I had a pair of pocket wizards that had been laying around for about a year-and-a-half, and as I recall I had difficulty getting them working on command. Experience had shown, however, that the difficulty usually related to the operator and not the equipment. Sounded like a good opportunity to have my son engaged during the one-hour trip to the beach. Much to my chagrin, and not surprisingly, it took him about 5-minutes to have all working well.

Earlier he had this great idea that we should put on a wide angle lens and try to get some intimate, in-your-face, type portraits of the sandpipers by shooting the camera remote. All worked well, except we hadn’t calculated that the birds follow the ebb tide as they feed on mud shrimp, a Bay of Fundy tide that recedes at about 8 miles per hour. In short, we would just get the camera planted and by the time we got back outside the birds comfort zone, the tide would be too far out.

A flock dips-and-dives their way in to a landing right in front of a remote triggered camera. 
Canon 5D MkII, 24-105mm lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer

We played “chase the tide” two or three times and decided we were simply stressing the birds too much with all our movement to the shoreline to advance the camera. So we just sat on the beach and silently marvelled at this incredible migration while the sandpipers feasted in peace.

The pictures attached to this post were all made by our son. Sometimes our best moments as photographers are not in the gratification of getting that perfect shot, but in the satisfaction of enjoying quality time with family while enjoying the pure pleasure of each other’s company in a common interest.

On the drive home he looks at me and says: You know, I think if we got a small Remote Controlled pick-up truck and mounted the camera on the back we could then just drive it through the birds without distracting them and get some really good pictures. Mmm, I thought ... “I suppose you should have a couple of boom arms on either side to attach flashes as well?” His response was very succinct and matter of factly: “That would work.”

I have a funny feeling I know what our winter project will be.

A small flock of sandpipers take flight over Fundy waters.
Canon 5D MkII, 100-400mm lens